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Down by Mount Callan Side
(Roud 1453)
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer’s home, July 1983

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

As I roved out one evening fair, being troubled in my mind.
To view the hills and valleys fair and meadows in their prime.
Approaching the Hand Cross I met a lass, who my heart she did beguile,
And she milking of her father’s cow, down by Mount Callan side.

I instantly saluted her and put her in a maze,
I asked her if she’d quench my thirst, as the milk was in her pail.
She said: ‘Young man, away be gone, and you’ll not need to hide,
For I’m milking of my father’s cow, down by Mount Callan side.’

‘What matter if you give a drink, you know it won’t be missed.
For I am much in want of it, I hope you don’t resist.
For here in pain, I do remain, if you do not divide.
For Cupid's dart, has pierced my heart, down by Mount Callan side.’

‘If milk is all the cure you want, I’ll heal you of your pain.
But if you’re as bad, as bad as that, I hear tis all in vain.
Come drink enough, and quench your thirst, enough you may survive.
And do not blame a simple dame for the losing of your life.’

The milk being filled, I took a drink and found it very mild.
I drank a health to my true love, and wished that she’d be mine.
She said: ‘Young man, it’s all a plan, how soon you want a wife.
If you’re as bad as bad as that, down by Mount Callan side.’

‘If I was as bad, as bad as that, a little while ago.
Much you have improved my health, and eased me of my woe.
The doctor that did prescribe a cure she’d swear she would be mine,
To live in peace in my estate for the saving of my life.’

‘Your offer Sir is very good, I think you’re very kind.
But what is your prosperity, or where do you reside?
My father is a wealthy man, by him I must abide,
For he reared me up tenderly, down by Mount Callan side.’

I said: ‘My love, your gore remarks are very shrewd and wise.
My estate is by Doolough Lake and I’m an only child.
Through rural plains and fertile vales your carriage you can drive,
And you'll bless the day you cured the swain, down by Mount Callan side.’

I went straight to her father and showed him all my deeds.
And asked him to come along with me, till my estate he’d see.
He seemed to be quiet satisfied, and got away that night.
Five hundred pounds he counted out, down by Loch Doolough side.

The carriage was got ready and we drove to sweet Kinsale.
The joy bells they were ringing and the band they sweetly played.
To all fair maids both bright and gay, be sure, take my advice,
And give a drink to a swain that’s in, down by Mount Callan Side.

“An early text of this from a black-letter broadside entitled 'A Western Knight' and dated 1629, was published in H E Rollins's ‘A Pepysian Garland’. In his note to the song, the editor compares it to 'The False Lover Won Back' (Child 63); 'Child Waters' (Child 218) and particularly to 'Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight' (Child 4). Cecil Sharp collected several versions with the title 'The Shannon Side', mainly from singers in Somerset. Scots collector John Ord has it in his collection with the same title, where it is described as 'an Irish folk-song common all over the North-east of Scotland'. William Christie, the Dean of Moray, quotes a verse in his ‘Traditional Ballad Airs’ but says: 'The ballad of The Shannon Side is not suited for this work.' It has also been found among English Gypsies, a recording of it being included on the Topic album, ‘The Travelling Songster’, sung by Phoebe Smith of Woodbridge, Suffolk. The only other Irish versions we could find were one collected by Seamus Ennis for the BBC in the 1950s from Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co Leitrim in 1952; one we got from Pat MacNamara of Kilshanny, Co Clare in 1976 and another from Tipperary Traveller, Mary Delaney.

We first came across it in Sean O’Sullivan’s book 'The Folklore of Ireland', where it was written down by schoolchild Mary Keane, a pupil at Kanturk National School, from John Boland of Tullochaboy, during the 1938 Folklore Commission’s Schools project:

“The following rather humorous ballad describes how a young man was 'cured' of his thirst and love-sickness by a drink of milk given to him by a milk-maid, and how marriage swiftly followed the inspection of his landed property by the girl's father. Mount Callan (Sliabh Collain) is a hill, over 1280 feet in height, in the parish of Inagh in West Clare. 'The Hand' is a cross-roads, and Doolough (Black Lake) lies in the adjoining parish of Kilmurry.”

As John Boland would have been a near neighbour of Martin’s, we asked him if he knew the song; he replied he had heard him sing it many times, but couldn’t remember it. He requested that we send him a text and the following year he sang it for us. It was as if he’d been singing it all his life."

A Pepysian Garland, Hyder E Rollins (ed), Cambridge Univ Press, 1922.
The Bothy Songs and Ballads (etc.), John Ord, Paisley, Alexander Gardner Ltd, 1930.
Traditional Ballad Airs, W Christie, Edinburgh.
The Folklore of Ireland, Sean O’Sullivan, Batsford, 1974.
Jim Carroll

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