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Bonny Irish Boy
(Laws P26; Roud 565)
Mikey Kelleher
Quilty and Depford, London

Recorded in London, 1977
Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Mikey Kelleher

First when I was courted by a bonny Irish boy,
He calls to me his true love, and his darling girl was I.
He called to me his true love, his heart’s delight and joy,
And how can I forget the thought of my bonny Irish boy.

You all know Dublin city, a city of noble fame.
And there my bonny Irish boy, to court me first, he came.
His cheeks were like the rosy red, and his eyes was as black as the sloe,
He’d break the heart in any fair maid, no matter where he go.

I’m a long time in his company, and hope to be his bride.
And now he have forsaken me, and have crossed the ocean wide.
I’m afraid some other fair maid, his company will enjoy,
Which leaves me now lamenting for my bonny Irish boy.

And through all green fields and gardens where gentle flowers so gay,
There my bonny Irish boy could ramble, sport and play.
Where the blackbird and the thrushes and the larks so softly sing,
There my bonny Irish boy, some kisses he would bring.

So I’ll pack up my Sunday clothes, and in search of him I’ll go.
I’ll travel through dear old Ireland, through rain, cold frost and snow.
And when I’m tired and weary, I will sit down and cry.
Lamenting for the day I spent, with my bonny Irish boy.

So when I’m dead, and gone to rest, there is one request I’ll crave.
Bring back my bones to Ireland, and bury them in the grave.
Write it on my tombstone, for all that do pass by:
That I died quite broken hearted for my bonny Irish boy.

Conversation after the song:
Jim Carroll: Lovely. Where did you get that from Mick?
Mikey Kelleher: Oh, that’s years old too, years.

"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 Micheál Conway