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Green Mossy Banks of the Lea
(Laws O15; Roud 987)
Katie Droney
Recorded in Clancy’s Bar, Miltown Malbay, during the
Willie Clancy Summer School July 1978

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Katie Droney

When first to this country a stranger,
Curiosity caused me to roam;
Over Europe I wandered a stranger,
Since I left Philadelphie, my home.

I quickly sailed over to Ireland,
Where forms of great beauty do shine;
And it’s there I beheld a fair damsel,
I wished to my heart she was mine.
I stepped up and bid her the morning,
As her fair cheeks, they blushed like the rose.
I said, ‘Miss your meadows are charming,
Your gardener I'll be if you choose.’

‘Kind sir, then I don’t want no gardener;
You seem to be a stranger to me.
Look yonder my father is coming,
O'er the green mossy banks of the Lea.’
I waited til up came her father,
And I summoned her spirits once more.
I said, ‘Sir, if this be your daughter,
She is surely the girl I adore.

Ten thousand a year is my fortune,
And a lady, your daughter will be.
She can ride in her carriage and horses,
O'er the green mossy banks of the Lea.’
They welcomed me home to their cottage;
Soon after in wedlock we joined;
And it’s there we erected a mansion,
Where splendour and beauty do shine.

So all you fair maids take a warning,
No matter how poor you may be:
There is many poor girl just as handsome,
As those having large property.
‘Then let no man deceive you,
Not knowing what a stranger might be,
Like the adorable and gentle Eliza,
On the green mossy banks of the Lea.

"Sometimes confused with 'The American Stranger' (Roud 1081), this popular song is to be found in numerous English, Irish, American and Canadian versions. W. Roy Mackenzie in his Nova Scotian collection suggests that it probably originated as an English song and that the Lea in question may be the river that flows into the Thames at The Isle of Dogs in East London, even though in some versions the second verse begins 'I quickly sailed over to Ireland'. I can find no conclusive evidence either way, the confusion perhaps having arisen from the coincidence of the names of the two rivers, the Irish one being spelt Lee, the London one Lea. The U.S. set collected in Southern Michigan, gives the river as the Dee. The song seems to have first appeared in print on a broadside published in London in 1850. Far more attention has been paid by researchers to the air of the song, many of whom have identified it as being the same as or similar to 'Cailín Deas Crúite na mBó' ('Pretty Girl Milking her Cow')."

Ballads and Sea Songs from Nova Scotia, W Roy Mackenzie, 1963.
Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan, Gardner & Chickering, 1939.

Jim Carroll

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