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Only Nineteen Years Old
(Roud 4792)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, 1982

Carroll Mackenzie Collection 

Tom Lenihan

As I roved out walking one evening last May,
A charming young damsel I met on my way.
She had jewellery and riches, she had diamonds and gold,
And she said she was a virgin only nineteen years old.

I quickly fell in love with this beautiful dame,
I asked where she came from and she told me that same.
In three weeks we were married and the church bells they tolled.
I was married to a virgin only nineteen years old.

When the wedding party scattered we retired for to rest.
I thought I would die when this maid she undressed.
For a cartload of padding from her breast she unfold,
Oh says I: ‘You’re a daisy only nineteen years old.’

When awaking next morning I thought I would faint
When she scraped from her two cheeks a full pound of paint.
And on her left shoulder a hump I behold.
‘Oh good God almighty, only nineteen years old.’

She pulled out her fingers till she left only three,
She screwed off her right leg right over the knee.
She pulled out her glass eye, on the carpet it rolled.
‘Oh bad luck and damnation to your nineteen years old!’

Well now you young fellas, when for marriage you go,
Examine your true love from the top to the toe.
If you don’t do that, well, like me you’ll be sold
To a damsel not nineteen, but a ninety year old!


“Around 1927, Tom's sister Margaret used to sing this when she was home on holidays from America but she hadn’t all the words correctly, so, on her return to the States she sent them back to Tom. The song dates back to at least December 1875 when it appeared in a list of songs on in the Poet’s Box (Glasgow) Broadsides and in 1890 it was included in Cole’s ‘Funniest Songbook’ in the U.S. It seems not to have been recorded from another traditional singer. This type of song was to be found in abundance in the early part of the 20th century (see Tom’s By the Bright Silvery Light of the Moon); that such pieces were considered entertaining is underlined by the fact that Tom's source was a woman and it is important in considering the repertoire of any traditional singer that the times and context of their material be taken into account. Songs ridiculing the opposite sex (men and women) were hugely popular in both languages in this country as well as throughout Europe and North America. These songs are still sung, but nowadays the singer is quite likely to have to run a gauntlet of protest unless they are presented in a legitimate context.”
Jim Carroll

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