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The Flower of Sweet Strabane
(Roud 2745)
Mikey Kelleher
Quilty and Depford, London
Recorded in London, 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Mikey Kelleher

If I was King of Ireland and all things at my will,
I'd roam for recreation new comforts to find still.
The comforts I would seek most, you all may understand,
Is that lovely maid called Martha, she’s the flower of sweet Strabane.

Her cheeks are like the rosy red, and her hair of a lovely brown,
And o'er her lily white shoulders her hair of brown hangs down.
She's one of the finest creatures and famous is her clan,
And my heart is captivated with the flower of sweet Strabane.

If I had my lovely Martha far away in Inishowen,
Or in some lonely valleys in the wild wood of Tyrone.
I’d do my whole endeavour and try to work my plan,
For to gain my bride and fix my eye on the flower of sweet Strabane.

Faretheewell to bonny Lifford where the sweet mood waters flow.
And likewise until my brown-haired girl since I from her must go.
Down Lough Foyle, where the water boil, and my ship stands out from the land,
I will say good night and God bless you now, my flower of sweet Strabane.


“Ireland has a strong tradition of songs which present the idea that the composer’s home place contains the finest women in the world – Tralee, Mooncoine, Miltown, Moneymore, Ballydoo, Donegal, Dungloe…. all having unsurpassed beauties. From Sam Henry’s note to songs published in his regular column, which appeared in Colraine’s newspaper, ‘The Northern Constitution’ between 1923 and 1939:

‘This popular ballad, which has been sung in our streets within the last few weeks, has the old theme of disappointed love. It tells of a draper's assistant whose name was MacDonald, who sought in vain the hand of his employer's daughter, Miss Ramsay, of Strabane. The song is about 80 years old (dating it around 1846). It was first published in a Derry paper by Dan MacAnaw in 1909, but the air is now published for the first time. Ten versions have reached me, and it is evident that the song has two principal versions which differ considerably.’”

Songs of the People, Sam Henry, Univ. of Georgia Press, 1990.

Jim Carroll

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