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Banks of Sweet Dundee
(Laws M25; Roud 148)
Michael ‘Straighty’ Flanagan
Recorded in a bar in Inagh, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan

'Tis of a farmer’s daughter, so beautiful, I’m told,
Her parents died and left her a large amount in gold,
She lived with her uncle, the cause of all her woe,
You soon shall hear how this fair maiden proved his overthrow.

Her uncle had a ploughboy young Mary loved so well;
And in her father’s garden, the tales of love did tell.
There was a wealthy squire, who oft came her to see,
But still she loved her ploughboy on the banks of sweet Dundee.

One fine summer’s morning her uncle went straightway,
Knocked at this maiden’s bedroom and into her did say;
“Arise, arise, my pretty maid, a lady you may be;
The squire is waiting for you on the banks of Sweet Dundee.”

“A fig for all your squires, your lords and dukes likewise,
Young William, he appears to me like diamonds in the skies.”
“Begone, unruly female, you ne’er shall happy be,
For I will banish William from the banks of sweet Dundee.”

Her uncle and the squire rode out one summer’s day.
“Young William is in favour", her uncle he did say.
And it is my intention to tie him to a tree,
And then to bribe a press-gang on the banks of sweet Dundee.”

A press-gang came to William when he was alone,
He boldly fought for liberty, but they were six to one.
The blood did flow in torrents; “Pray don’t kill me now”, said he,
“For I’d rather die for Mary on the banks of sweet Dundee”.

This maiden fair was walking out lamenting for her love.
She met the wealthy squire down in her uncle’s grove.
He clasped his hands around her. “Stand off, base man”, said she;
“You have sent the only lad I love from the banks of sweet Dundee.”

He threw his arms around her waist and tried to throw her down.
Two pistols and a sword she spied beneath his morning gown.
Young Mary took the pistol, the sword she used so free,
And she fired and shot the squire on the banks of sweet Dundee.

Her uncle overheard the noise and hastened to the ground.
Saying, “since you shot the squire I’ll give you your death wound.”
“Stand off then”, said Mary, “undaunted I will be.”
The trigger drew, her uncle slew on the banks of sweet Dundee.

He doctor then was sent for, a man of noted skill,
And likewise came the lawyer, for him to sign the will.
He willed all his gold to Mary, who fought so manfully;
Then he closed his eyes, no more to rise on the banks of sweet Dundee.


"Widely popular throughout the English speaking world, this was described by Cecil Sharp as being ‘known to every singer of the present day’. It was even found as a capstan shanty with the words ‘heave away my Johnny, heave away’ sung after every line. While most versions, as here, have the two lovers being parted, never to re-unite, there are a number that end with William returning, and one broadside, ‘An Answer to Undaunted Mary’, describes his adventures at sea and his coming back in disguise in order to test Mary’s faithfulness.
Other recordings: Walter Pardon, Norfolk; ‘A World Without Horses’. Topic TSCD515."

The above commentary, lyrics and recording are taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.

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