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The Irish Girl
(Roud 308) 
Peggy McMahon
Cloonlaheen, Doolough
Recorded January 2002

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


As I roved out one evening down by the river side,
And looking all around me an Irish girl I spied.
Red and rosy were her cheeks, gold yellow was her hair.
And costly were the robes of gold my Irish girl did wear.

The sort of shoes that my love wore, were of a Spanish brown.
The sort of shoes that my love wore were bound around with spans.
Crying alas, a rue, what must I do, for the loss of stór mo chroí,
Or must I go and leave my love, and slight my own Mollie.

The second time I saw my love I was sick and very bad.
And the only request I asked of her was to rest my weary head.
For I see none as bad as me, but times might mend again,
Oh, love it is a killing thing, did you ever feel the pain?

I wish my love was a red, red rose, growing in the garden fair.
And I to be the gardener, of her I would take care.
There’s not a month all in the year but my love I would renew,
With flowers fine and garnish thine?, sweet william, thyme and rue.

I wish I was a butterfly, I’d fly to my love’s breast.
Or if I was a nightingale, I’d sing my love to rest.
Or if I was a blue cuckoo, I’d sing till morning clear,
I’d sit and sing with you Mollie, since first I loved you dear.

I wish I was in Banagher, just sitting on the grass.
And in my hand a bottle of wine, and on my knee a lass,
I’d call for liquor plenty, and I’d pay before I go,
And I’d roll her in my arms, let the wind blow high or low.


“This seems to have been as popular with country singers in England and Scotland as it was in Ireland. P.W. Joyce, in his 'Irish Peasant Songs in the English Language’ (1906), wrote of it:

‘This beautiful air, and the accompanying words, I have known since my childhood; and both are now published for the first time. I have copies of the song on broadsheets, varying a good deal, and much corrupted. The versions I give here of air and words are from my own memory, as sung by the old people of Limerick when I was a child; but I have thought it necessary to make some few restorations. The "Red red rose” is common in Irish peasant songs; and I have one song where it comes in exactly as in this verse of Burns —

Oh, gin my love were yon red rose
That grows upon the castle wa;
And I mysel a drap o’ dew
Into her bonnie breast to fa’!
Oh, there beyond expression blest,
I’d feast on beauty a' the night,
Seal’d on her silk-salt faulds to rest,
Till fley’d awa by Phoebus' light.”

The corresponding verse of the Irish peasant song is (I write it from memory):—

I wish my love was yon red red rose
That grows on the garden wall,
And I to be a drop of dew,
Among its leaves I’d fall—
’Tis in her sacred bosom
All night I’d sport and play,
And pass away the summer night
Until the break of day.

Burns took the idea, and partly the very words, from a Scotch peasant song—as was his custom—and with the magic touch of genius changed it to his own exquisite stanza.

Addenda: In my childhood I picked up a song to this air from hearing the elder members of my family sing it. It is not a peasant song; but it was evidently suggested by ‘The Irish Girl’. I am under the impression that it was taken from one of the Irish Penny Journals or Magazines, but though I have searched all the volumes of that class on my book-shelves, I have failed to find it. I give it here from memory, and I am quite sure I give it correctly.

Oh, Come with me, my Irish Girl

Oh, come with me, my Irish Girl,
To climes beyond the sea;
For oh, thou art the brightest pearl
In my heart's treasury.
I may regret my native isle,
And ties as vet a Driven;
But oh. wherever thy graces smile
Shall be my home, my heaven.

And thou wilt soothe me with thy sighs,
Should sickness cloud my brow;
And bless me with those angel eyes.
Should fate my spirit bow.
And I will cling till death to thee,
In weal, or woe, or peril,
And bless my lot, whate’er it be,
With my sweet Irish Girl.’

Some of the Scots versions of the song are beautifully erotic.”

P.W. Joyce, Irish Peasants Songs in the English Language, Dublin, 1906.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Irish Girl sung by Susie Cleary

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