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Marrowbones
(Laws Q2; Roud 183)
Pat MacNamara
Kilshanny, near Ennistymon
Recorded in Considine’s Bar, Kilshanny, August 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Pat McNamara

Now there was a woman in this town, the truth to you I’ll tell,
She loved her husband dearly and another twice as well.

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee.
With me right ta lara laddy
And the blind man he could see.

Now she went into a doctor’s shop some medicine for to find,
Sure, doctor, lovely doctor, what would run my husband blind?

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

Now get for him some marrowbones, mix them one and all,
And before he has the last one took he will not see you ’tall.

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

She got for him some marrowbones, she mixed them one and all,
Before he had the last one took he would not see the wall.

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

She got for him a sack bag; she let it on the floor,
And she lay him there for three long months till his beard grew out the door,

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

Saying, 'Nancy, lovely Nancy, now that I am blind and here I will not stay,
I’d rather go and drown myself if I only knew the way.'

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

'Sure, Patsy lovely Patsy, now that you are blind and here you will not stay,
I’ll take you by the hand and I’ll show you the way.'

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

She took him by the hand, she brought him away,
She brought him to the river side for to throw him away.

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.

'Sure Patsy, lovely Patsy, now your standing at the brink.'
'Sure, the divil a way I’ll drown myself until you shove me in.'

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And the blind man he could see.

Now she moved back a step or two for to shove him in,
Oh, he moved aside so cunningly and sure she tumbled in!

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And the blind man he could see.

'Sure, Patsy, lovely Patsy, are you leaving me behind?'
'Sure, Nancy, lovely Nancy, don’t you know that I am blind?'

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And the blind man he could see.

She was paddling over and hither, she was dipping up and down,
He put his stick up to her back and he shoved her farther out.

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And the blind man he could see.

Here’s pleasure to my company, likewise my comic song,
But hadn’t he the luck of God his stick it was so long!

With me right ta lara laddy,
With my right ta lara lee,
With me right ta lara laddy
And that blind man he could see.


“Also known as ‘The Blind Man He Could See’ or ‘Johnny Sands and Betsy Haig’, this has been around since at least 1818, when an eleven stanza version appeared in a ‘Garland’ (small songbook) in Edinburgh. It has been set in various locations including: Yorkshire, Kelso, Wexford, Dover, or sometimes just Ireland though more often than not it just takes place in ‘our town’. It was popular both in Ireland and throughout Britain. A beautiful American version from North Carolina begins:

There was a rich old Lady,
In Dover town did dwell,
She loved her husband dearly,
But another man twice as well,
Love my darling oh oh.
Love my darling oh”

Versions of the song fall into two distinct forms with two different Laws' numbers: Pat’s version, where the wife feeds her husband a potion in order to facilitate his murder; the second, usually entitled ‘Johnny Sands’ where the husband offers to commit suicide by drowning himself as long as she agrees to assist him by tying his hands behind his back. When she falls in instead, he protests that he can’t save her because ‘you have tied my hands’ (Roud 184, Laws Q3).

In the 1970s in England, when this song was introduced to schoolchildren, there was an outcry among the parents of pupils in a Midlands school who objected strongly to their children being taught songs explaining how women should go about murdering their husbands! Pat’s version has an interesting addition – an error. He sings the verse

She got for him a sack bag; she let it on the floor,
And she lay him there for three long months till his beard grew out the door.

This in fact comes from the song ‘The Barley Grain’ (See Austin Flanagan’s version). Pat must have known the song and put it in by mistake; we didn’t notice it at the time so we missed another of his songs.”

Reference:
Irish Country Songs Vol 4 Herbert Hughes, Boosey and Hawkes, 1934.

Jim Carroll


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