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The Black Velvet Band
(Roud 2146)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


Martin Howley

As I went down to Broadway, intended not to stay very long,
When I spied a ticklesome cailín as she kept tripping along.
She took a watch out of her pocket and slipped it right into my hand,
And I cursed the first day that I met her, bad luck to her black velvet band.

Chorus:
Her eyes they sparkled like diamonds, you’d think she was queen of the land,
With her hair hung over her shoulders, tied up with a black ribbon band.

It was early then next morning, to the court we had to appear.
The jeweller he swore to the jury and the case against us was clear;
For seven long year’s transportation, into Van Diemen’s Land,
Far away from my friends and relations, to follow her black velvet band.

Chorus:
Oh , sure her eyes they shone like diamonds, you’d think she was queen of the land.
With her hair hung over her shoulders, tied up with a black velvet band.

And come all ye young fellows take warning, whenever you go on the spree;
Beware of those ticklesome cailíns, that’s knocking around Tralee.
They’ll treat you to whiskey and porter, until you won’t be able to stand.
And you’ll get seven year’s transportation for following the black velvet band.


"The earliest printed forms of this are 19th century English Broadsides such as the following;

To go in a smack down at Barking, where a boy as apprentice was bound,
Where I spent many hours in comfort and pleasure in that little town;
At length future prospects were blighted, as soon you may all understand;
So by my downfall take a warning — beware of a black velvet band.

One day being out on the ramble, alone by myself I did stray,
I met with a young gay deceiver, while cruising in Ratcliffe Highway,
Her eyes were as black as a raven: I thought her the pride of the land;
Her hair, that would hang o'er her shoulders, was tied with a black velvet band.

She towed me in port, and we anchored, from virtue she did me decoy,
When it was proposed and agreed to, that I should become a flash boy,
And drinking and gaming to plunder to keep up the game was soon planned;
But since, I've had cause to remember the girl with a black velvet band.

Flash girl, if you wish to turn modest, and strive a connexion to gain,
Do not wear a band o'er the forehead, as if to tie in your brain;
Some do prefer Victoria fashion, and some their hair braided so grand
Myself I do think it much better than a girl with a black velvet band

Young men, by my fate take a warning, from all those gay [ladies] refrain,
And seek for a neat little woman that wears her hair parted quite plain,
The subject that I now do mention, tho' innocent, soon me trapanned;
In sorrow my days will be ended, far from the black velvet band;

For she towed in a bold man-of wars man her ogle she winked on the sly,
But little did I know her meaning, when I twigged her a faking his cly,
He said, I'm bound for the ocean, and shortly the ship will be made,
[B]ut still I've a strong inclination for the girl with a black velvet band.

A snare was invented to slight and banish me out of her sight,
A fogle she brought of no value, saying, more I will bring this night
She slipped it sly into my pocket, false girl! and took me by the hand;
They gave me in charge for the sneezer — bad luck to the black velvet band!

[I?] Forkly was [j]ailed and committed, and cast in the jug for a lag,
A wipe that she pinched and bunged to me, and valued no more than a flag,
The judge said to me, you are s[e]ntenced to a free passage to Van Diemen's Land
[last line missing: My curse to the black velvet band?].

It was said to have been highly popular in the Australian Outback in the 1880s. Its first appearance in the oral tradition in England was at the beginning of the 20th century, taken down by collectors such as George Gardiner, George Butterworth and the Rev Sabine Baring Gould. During the BBC’s collecting project in the first half of the 1950s, it proved to be popular among English country singers. Its first printing in Ireland was in Herbert Hughes’ ‘Irish Country Songs' (1936). It seldom turned up from Irish traditional singers, one of the few occasions being from Elizabeth Cronin of Cork, who sang: 'In the neat little town of Dunmanway.' The popularity it finally received in Ireland was during the Irish ‘Ballad Boom'; this was largely due to its being performed by The Clancy Brothers and The Dubliners."
Jim Carroll


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