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Constant Farmer’s Son
(Laws M33; Roud 675)
Tom Lenihan,
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, September 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Tom Lenihan

There was a rich farmer’s daughter near Limerick Town did dwell,
She was modest, fair and handsome and her parents loved her well,
She was admired by lords and squires, but all their hopes were vain;
She had but one, a farmer’s son, young Mary’s heart would gain.

A long time young Willie courted her and appointed the wedding day.
Her parents, they did give consent, but the brothers they did say;
“There is a lord who pledged his word, and him yous will not shun,
For we’ll betray and we will slay your constant farmer’s son”.

There was a fair not far from there, the brothers went straightaway.
And asked young Willie’s company with them to pass the day.
The day being gone, the night came on, they said his race was ran,
And ‘twas with two sticks the life did take of the constant farmer’s son.

As on her pillows Mary lay, she had a dreadful dream.
She dreamt she saw her own true love lying in yon crystal stream.
Mary arose, put on her clothes, to seek her love she ran,
But ‘twas dead and cold she did behold her constant farmer’s son.

The tears rolled down her ruby cheeks, all mingled with his gore;
And to relieve her troubled heart she kissed him o’er and o’er.
She gathered green leaves from the trees to shade him from the sun.
Since that night and day she passed away with her constant farmer’s son.

Hunger, it came on her, and she wept with bitter woe;
And to find out the murderer she straightway home did go.
“Oh parents dear, you soon will hear of this dreadful deed that’s done,
For in yonder vale lies cold and pale, my constant farmer’s son.”

Up comes the eldest brother and swore it was not he;
The same reply the youngest gave, but swore more bitterly.
But Mary said, “Now don’t ye run, or shun the deed that’s done;
You have done the deed and you will swing for my constant farmer’s son.”

Those villains soon, they owned the guilt and for the same did die.
The doctors got their bodies for to practice by.
But Mary’s thoughts both night and day on her dead love did run.
In the madhouse cell, poor Mary dwells, for her constant farmer’s son.


"This story of social misalliance and murder was probably old in the 14th century when Boccaccio used it for the plot of the fifth tale told on the fourth day in ‘The Decameron’. It has persisted in one form or another down the ages and appeared in the tradition as ‘Bruton Town’, or ‘The Bramble Briar’, a song which F. J. Child rejected when compiling his ballad collection. According to one writer who described it as “a doggerel version of ‘Bruton Town’, ‘The Constant Farmer’s Son’ was said to have been a re-modelling of that song by mid-19th century broadside printers which, he claimed, completely dislodged the earlier forms. Tom learned the song from a written text supplied by Joe Gilligan, a native of Crusheen, and fitted his own tune to it.
Other recordings: Josie Connors: ‘From Puck To Appleby’; Musical Traditions, MTCD 235-6.
Ref: ‘The Wanton Seed’, Frank Purslow, EFDSS Publications 1968."

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.

Tom Lenihan talks to Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie about Constant Farmer's Son

See also
Constant Farmer's Son sung by John Lyons

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