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The Trees They Grew High
(Laws O35; Roud 31)
Pat MacNamara
Kilshanny, near Ennistymon
Recorded in Kilshanny, August 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Pat McNamara

The trees they grew high and the leaves they grew green,
The day has past and gone my love, that I and you have seen.
It’s a cold and bitter night love; sure, I must lie alone,
You’re my bonny boy, you’re young, but you’re growing.

Now then father, dear father, you have done to me what’s wrong,
When you married me to my bonny boy, his age it is too young.
For his age is scarce thirteen and I am twenty-one,
He’s my bonny boy, he’s young, but he’s growing.

Oh then, daughter, dear daughter, I did not do what’s wrong,
When I married you to your bonny boy, his age it is not young.
For when I am dead and gone, oh, to you he’ll prove a man,
He’s your bonny boy, he’s young, but he’s growing.

Oh then, father, dear father, now I’ll tell you what I’ll do,
I’ll send my love to college for another year or two,
And around his college cap, sure, I’ll place a ribbon blue,
For to let the girls know that he’s mine.

At the age of sixteen, sure, he being a married man,
At the age of seventeen, being the father of a son,
At the age of sweet eighteen, o’er his grave the grass grew green;
It’s a cruel death put an end to his growing.

And I’ll buy my love a shroud of that ornamental brown,
And whilst I will be making it the tears they will roll down.
For I'll weep and I will mourn until that day I will die,
But I’ll mind his bonny son whilst he’s growing.


"The events described here have been attributed to a marriage in the first half of the seventeenth century when the juvenile Laird of Craigton was betrothed to a young woman several years his senior. However, it has been suggested that the ballad may be far older than this event. It first appeared in print in 'The Scots Musical Museum', having been contributed by Robert Burns who had re-written it as 'Lady Mary Anne' 'from a fragment of an ancient ballad entitled Craigton’s Growing, still preserved in a manuscript collection of Ancient Scottish Ballads, in the possession of The Rev. Robert Scott, minister of the parish of Glenbuckett.' It has also been suggested that the ballad may not even be of Scots origin, having also been found extensively in both England and Ireland. One English version from Surrey has it that the boy was twelve and the girl 'scarcely thirteen', while another said that the he was married at thirteen and became a father at fourteen. However, when the latter was published in Baring Gould’s ‘Songs of the West’, this was modified to seventeen and eighteen, 'In deference to the opinion of those who like to sing the song in a drawing room or at a public concert.' In his note to this, Baring Gould says that he had received an Irish version from Co. Tipperary in which the ‘trees they grow so high’, first verse is missing. In Wexford Traveller Andy Cash’s version, unusually the scene of meeting is 'in between the mortuary'."

Reference:
Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, R.V. Williams & A.L. Lloyd (eds.).
Scots Musical Museum, James Johnson (ed), with notes by William Stenhouse.
Songs of the West, S. Baring Gould, H Fleetwood Shepherd and F.W. Bussell (eds.).
Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, Peter Kennedy, Cassell, 1975.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Bonny Boy sung by Tom Lenihan
The Trees They Grew High sung by Vincie Boyle


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