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The Lake of Coolfin
(Laws Q33; Roud 189)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home,
July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Tom Lenihan

It was early one morning young Willie arose
And up to his comrade’s bedside he did go,
Saying: ‘Comrade, loyal comrade, let nobody know,
It is a fine morning and a-bathing we’ll go.’

The two of them walked on till they came to a lake
The first man they met was the keeper of game.
He sorely advised them to turn back again,
‘For there’s deep and false water in the lake of Coolfin.’

Young Willie stripped off and he swam the lake round.
He swam to an island, but no island found.
‘Comrade, loyal comrade, don’t you venture in.
For there’s deep and false waters in the lake of Coolfin.’

It was early that morning Miss White she arose,
And up to his mother’s bedside she did go.
Saying: ‘Mother, oh mother, I had a sad dream,
That young Willie was floating in a watery stream.’

It was early that morning his mother came there,
With the wringing of her fingers and the tearing of her hair.
Saying: ‘Murder, oh murder, is there anybody by
That will venture his life to save my darling boy?’

It was early that morning his uncle came there,
And swam round the lake like a man in despair.
Saying: ‘Where was he drowned or where did he fall in?
There is deep and false waters in the lake of Coolfin.’

And as for Miss White, she has cause to complain.
She will never meet with her true love again.
For ‘tis early in the morning he would her salute,
With pink and red roses and sweet winter fruit.

The day of his funeral, ‘twas a grand sight,
To see four and twenty young men and they all dressed in white.
They carried him on their shoulders till they laid him in the clay,
Saying: ‘Adieu, lovely Willie,’ and then walked away.


“Romanticism, largely based on the writings of American ballad scholar Phillips Barry, has attributed to this song deep mythological significance involving magically disappearing islands and lethal mermaids luring unwitting mortals to their doom, but much of this can probably be put down to what folklorist A.L. Lloyd described as ‘the afterthought of some folklorising enthusiast’. ‘The Lake of Coolflynn’, 'Coolfin', 'Cold Finn', 'Shallin', or the many other names it is known by, has survived, not as a myth, but rather as a beautifully concise account of a drowning tragedy.”

Folk Music Journal (English), 1973.
Jim Carroll

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