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Dawning of the Day
(Laws P16; Roud 370)
Michael ‘Straighty’ Flanagan

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan

As I roved out one morning fair all in the summertime,
Each bush and tree, were decked with green, and meadows in their prime.
Returning home from a wake, through the fields I made my way.
‘Twas there I spied, a lovely maid, at the dawning of the day.

‘Where are you going my pretty fair maid, where are you going so soon?’
‘I’m going milking sir’, she said ‘this is the month of June.
The pasture where my cows do feed, it lies so far away
That I must be there, each morning fair at the dawning of the day.

‘You’re time enough, my dear’, I said, ‘perhaps it is a mile.
Come sit here on this primrose bank and we will chat a while.’
‘Although kind sir, my hurry is great, it permits me no delay.
I must be there, each morning fair, at the dawning of the day.’

As thus she spoke, my arms I entwined around her lovely waist,
And sat with her, on a primrose bank and there did her embrace.
‘Leave off your freedom sir’, she said ‘tis time that I must be away.
Look all around the morning there, tis the dawning of the day.’

Ah, we kissed, shook hands and parted and we both went on our way.
In the course of some months after, we chanced to meet again.
She appeared to me, just like a queen as she passed o’er the plain,
But carelessly did I pass her by at the noon-time of the day.

She wrung her hands and tore her hair and bitterly she cried:
‘I think young man, tis nearly time that I should be your bride.
?? there is damage done, as you before this say,
And don’t forget, the time we met, at the dawning of the day.’

I said, ‘My pretty fair maid, you must me now excuse.
To join with you in wedlock bands, indeed I must refuse.
For lately I’ve been married to a maid from Bantry Bay,
My oh my, I gained five hundred pounds at the dawning of the day.


“This song of ‘wayside seduction’ appeared regularly on broadsides throughout the 19th century in Britain and the United States; its first published form was in the ‘Forget-Me-Not Songster’, printed in New York in 1845. Said to have been taken from the Irish language song, ‘Fainne Geal An Lae’, it was reported to have been sung widely in Ireland as a street ballad in the early part of the 19th century, though it seldom appeared in full in published collections here, probably due to its racy theme of seduction, pregnancy and betrayal. ‘Straighty’s’ version is unusual in that it makes plain that the girl is pregnant and is demanding that the seducer ‘do the right thing’ by her. As far as I can find, this only occurs so clearly in the New York State version published in 1939. A number of researchers have noted its similarity to another song, ‘Shannon Side’, which can be found on this site under the title ‘Down by Mount Callan Side’ (Roud 1453) sung by Martin Reidy of Tullochaboy, Connolly.

Canadian collector, Edith Fowke, gives the following comprehensive account of it: ‘It was originally an Irish Gaelic song; in his ‘Ancient Irish Music’, P.W. Joyce prints an air, ‘Fáinne Geal an Lae’ (‘The Dawning of the Day’) and notes:

"The Irish song from which the air has taken its name is still well known in the southern counties. It was published in 1847, with a metrical translation, by Edward Walsh, in his ‘Irish Popular Songs’, who wrote, ‘A rude, though not very incorrect translation used to be sung as a street ballad in my young days.’ He then goes on to give the Irish words and a literal translation. The ballad found its way across to Scotland where it became a bothy ballad. Miss Alice Gillington found it in Hampshire, and Frank Kidson gives a version with re-written words in his ‘Folk Songs from the North Countrie’. It was probably much commoner in tradition than the published collections indicate for it is the type of song that early collectors tended to suppress. However, it was printed on many English broadsides and in several American songsters.”’

Traditional Songs and Singers from Ontario, Edith Fowke (ed.), 1965.
Body Boots and Britches, Folktales and Ballads etc from County N. Y., Harold H Thompson, N.Y., 1939.
Jim Carroll

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