Clare County Library
Songs of Clare
Home | Library Catalogue | Music of Clare | Photographic Collection | Maps | Folklore | Genealogy | History | Copyright | What's New
The Trees They Grew High
(Laws O35; Roud 31)
Vincie Boyle
Mount Scott, Mullagh
Recorded in Michael Hehir’s home in Tirmanagh Hill, 2012

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Vincie Boyle

The trees are growing high my love, and the grass, it’s growing green.
And many’s the cold and winter’s night, that I alone have been.
It is a cruel and bitter night that I must lie alone,
Oh, the bonny boy is young, but he’s growing.

Oh father, dear father, why did you do me wrong,
To go and get me married, to one who is so young?
He is but sixteen years and I am twenty-one,
Oh, the bonny boy is young, but he’s growing.

Oh, daughter, dear daughter, I did not do you wrong,
To go and get you married, to one who is so young.
He will be a match for you, when I am dead and gone,
Oh, the bonny boy is young, but he’s growing.

Oh father, dear father, I’ll tell you what I’ll do:
I’ll send my love to college for another year or two.
And all around his college cap, I’ll bind a ribbon blue,
For to let the ladies know that he’s married.

A year, it went by, and I passed the college wall.
I saw the young collegians a-playing at the ball.
I spotted there amongst them the fairest of them all,
Oh, my bonny boy was young, and growing.

At the early age of sixteen, he was a married man.
And at the age of seventeen, the father of a son.
But at he age of eighteen, o’er his grave the grass grew green:
Cruel death put an end to his growing.

I will buy my love a shroud of the finest holland brown,
And whilst they are weaving it, the tears they will flow down.
For once I had a true love, but now he’s lying low,
And I’ll nurse his bonny boy while he’s growing.


"The events described here have been attributed to a marriage in the first half of the seventeenth century when the juvenile Laird of Craigton was betrothed to a young woman several years his senior. However, it has been suggested that the ballad may be far older than this event. It first appeared in print in 'The Scots Musical Museum', having been contributed by Robert Burns who had re-written it as 'Lady Mary Anne' 'from a fragment of an ancient ballad entitled Craigton’s Growing, still preserved in a manuscript collection of Ancient Scottish Ballads, in the possession of The Rev. Robert Scott, minister of the parish of Glenbuckett.' It has also been suggested that the ballad may not even be of Scots origin, having also been found extensively in both England and Ireland. One English version from Surrey has it that the boy was twelve and the girl 'scarcely thirteen', while another said that the he was married at thirteen and became a father at fourteen. However, when the latter was published in Baring Gould’s ‘Songs of the West’, this was modified to seventeen and eighteen, 'In deference to the opinion of those who like to sing the song in a drawing room or at a public concert.' In his note to this, Baring Gould says that he had received an Irish version from Co. Tipperary in which the ‘trees they grow so high’, first verse is missing. In Wexford Traveller Andy Cash’s version, unusually the scene of meeting is 'in between the mortuary'."

Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, R.V. Williams & A.L. Lloyd (eds.).
Scots Musical Museum, James Johnson (ed), with notes by William Stenhouse.
Songs of the West, S. Baring Gould, H Fleetwood Shepherd and F.W. Bussell (eds.).
Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, Peter Kennedy, Cassell, 1975.
Jim Carroll

See also
The Bonny Boy sung by Tom Lenihan
The Trees They Grew High sung by Pat MacNamara

<< Songs of Clare