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Waves of the Silvery Tide
(Laws O37; Roud 561)
Austin Flanagan
Luogh, Doolin
Recorded in singer's home, August 1974

Carroll Mackenzie Collection


It’s of a youthful damsel who dwelt by the ocean side.
Her beautiful form and features, she was called the village pride.
Until a bold sea captain young Mary’s heart did gain,
But it’s true she loved young Henry, whilst o’er the raging main.

One evening as this noble man 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 o’er the waves of the silvery tide.”

Oh Mary’s limbs, they trembled but her vow she could not break,
For it’s true she loved young Henry and she’d die for his fond sake.
It is with a red silk handkerchief her hands and feet he tied,
And he sent her body floating o’er the waves of the silvery tide.

It being a few days after young Henry came from sea.
In hopes for to get married and appoint the wedding day.
“I fear your love is murdered”, both her parents cried.
“She has proved her own destruction, o’er the waves of the silvery tide.”

Young Henry went to bed at night but 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 a midnight roam went he,
Down by the royal ocean, down by the silvery sea.

He wandered there till daylight came, young Mary’s corpse he spied.
“It is true my love is murdered, o’er the waves of the silvery tide.”
It is well he knew his own true love with a ring on her right hand.
He unbound this red silk handkerchief which made him to understand.

The name of this cruel murderer were on blood-letters on her side.
To prove it was he who murdered her, o’er the waves of the silvery tide.
Young Henry went distracted and he wandered till he died,
And his last dying words were “Mary”, on 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 Nora Cleary

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