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Bonny Irish Boy
(Laws P26; Roud 565)
Micheál Conway
Recorded 1973

Carroll Mackenzie Collection  


Once I was courted by a bonny Irish boy,
He called me his true love his heart’s delight and joy.
His cheeks they were of a rosy red, and his eyes were as black as a sloe.
Sure, he coaxed the heart of any girl no matter where he’d go.

I’m a long time in his company, in hopes to be his wife.
But now he’s gone and forsaken me, by crossing the ocean wide.
And I’m afraid some other fair maid, my true love will enjoy.
Which leaves me broken hearted for my bonny Irish boy.

Now I will pack up all my clothes, and in search of him I’ll go.
I’ll travel around all Ireland, through all of the frost and snow.
And when I’ll come to a shady place, I will sit down and cry.
Still thinking of the days I spent, with my bonny Irish boy.

And when I’m dead and in my grave, there is one request I’ll make.
To carry my bones to Ireland, and lay them on his grave.
These words write on my tombstone, for all who pass it by:
I died quite broken hearted for my bonny Irish boy.

"The published sets of this song fall into a number of categories.
A. A girl is courted and abandoned; she resolves to follow him;
B. She follows him, fails to find him, says she will die in exile and wishes to be buried in Ireland;
C. She finds him, but he is married, conclusion as B, above;
D. She fails to find him, goes mad and is confined to an asylum;
E. She finds him and marries him.

Nearly all the Scots’ texts, including nine in the Greig / Duncan collection, are of the A type, the majority of the others are of the B or C type. There is only one recorded version from Norfolk, of the D type and just two, from Newfoundland and from a Scots Traveller with a happy ending. According to Dr Hugh Shields, the 'mad' version dates from an early nineteenth century broadside, which he said was 'a favourite with the popular press in Britain and Ireland'; this seems to have all but disappeared. Ewan MacColl, in his note to a Scots Travellers’ version, says that the happy ending variation was the one favoured by Scots Travellers. Frank Kidson obviously didn’t think much of the song; he notes a version taken from a Scots girl, of which he published only three verses:

'I have not thought it worth while to reprint the whole of the verses.'"

Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection.
Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, Kenneth Peacock.
Till Doomsday in the Afternoon, Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger (eds.).
Traditional Tunes, Frank Kidson.
Jim Carroll

See also
Bonny Irish Boy sung by Mikey Kelleher