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Waves of the Silvery Tide
(Laws O37; Roud 561)

Nora Cleary
The Hand, near Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer’s home, July1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Nora Cleary

It was of a beautiful damsel, who dwelt by the ocean side.
Her beautiful forms and features, were known as the village pride.
Until a bold sea captain, poor Mary’s heart did gain,
It was true she loved young Henry, whilst over the raging main.

One evening as this nobleman, went out to take fresh air,
Down by the royal ocean, he met with this maiden fair.
Saying, ‘If you don’t consent to marry me, and be my loving bride,
I will send your body floating over the waves of the silvery tide.’

Young Henry went to bed at night and no rest there could he find,
For the thoughts of lovely Mary ran through his wounded mind.
He then arose, put on his clothes, and at midnight alone went he,
Down by the royal ocean, down by the silvery sea.

He wandered there until daylight came, when young Mary’s corpse he spied.
Saying: ‘It’s true my love is murdered over the waves of the silvery tide.’
Right well he knew his own true love, with a ring on her right hand.
He unbound the red silk handkerchief, which made him to understand.

The name of this cruel murderer were on blood-letters in her side.
To prove ‘twas he who murdered her, o’er the waves of the silvery tide.
This villain, he was taken and a scaffold was his doom,
For the murder of poor Mary, who had scarcely reached her bloom.

Young Henry went distracted and he wandered until he died.
And his last words were of Mary, and the waves of the silvery tide.


“Distributed on broadsides, this was popular in Britain, Canada and somewhat less regularly in America. It is almost certainly English in origin; Cecil Sharp found it early in the 20th century and published it in his ‘Folk Songs from Somerset; the earliest oral version was recorded on wax cylinder in 1908 in Lincolnshire by collector and composer Percy Grainger. It has been recovered only a couple of times in Ireland, twice from Ulster; Sam Henry wrote of it, ‘it bears the marks of an old country song’. One of those ‘marks’ is the handkerchief and the ring as methods of identification, which is a recurring motif in many traditional songs.”
Jim Carroll

ee also
Waves of the Silvery Tide sung by Austin Flanagan

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