Star of the County Down

Dundrum, County Down

From one of the many, many Chieftains and Friends collaborations, Irishman Van Morrison joins the lads for a great song. The tune itself is of English origin, a folk tune called “Kingsfold” that has also been used frequently in hymn settings.

Thought by some scholars to date back to the Middle Ages, KINGSFOLD is a folk tune set to a variety of texts in England and Ireland. The tune was published in English Country Songs (1893), an anthology compiled by Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland. After having heard the tune in Kingsfold, Sussex, England (thus its name), Ralph Vaughan Williams (PHH 316) introduced it as a hymn tune in The English Hymnal (1906) as a setting for Horatius Bonar’s “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (488).

Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Star of the County Down

In Banbridge town in the County Down
One morning last July,
From a boreen green came a sweet colleen
And she smiled as she passed me by.
She looked so sweet fronn her two bare feet
To the sheen of her nut brown hair.
Such a coaxing elf, sure I shook myself
For to see I was really there.

From Bantry Bay up to Derry quay and
From Galway to Dublin town,
No maid I’ve seen like the brown colleen
That I met in the county down.

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The Water is Wide

Niamh Parsons version of The Water is Wide just might be one of my favorites. This is one of those songs that is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget it’s traditional roots.  The first texts that date back to the 1600s and the song has several precursors and cousins, including O Waly, Waly.  Peter Seeger is credited with bringing the song back into popular culture during the Folk Revival.

The Water is Wide

The water is wide, I can’t swim o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
Build me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

There is a ship and she sails the sea
She sails so deep as deep can be
But not so deep as the love I’m in
I know not how to sink or swim

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Miles Weatherhill


This traditional broadside ballad is based on an historical event. Pat Broaders performs with fiddler Liz Knowles as part of Celtic Legends on Tour. They also form 2/3rds of the band Open the Door for Three along with piper Kieran O’Hare.

From the all-knowing Wikipedia:

A double murder took place at Christ Church, Todmorden, Lancashire on March 2, 1868. The victims’ graves lie in the churchyard. Miles Weatherhill, a 23-year-old weaver from the town, was forbidden from seeing his housemaid sweetheart, Sarah Bell, by the Reverend Anthony John Plow. Armed with four pistols and an axe, Weatherhill took revenge first on the vicar and then on Jane Smith, another maid who had informed Plow of the secret meetings. Miss Smith died at the scene, while the vicar survived another week before succumbing to his injuries. Weatherhill also seriously injured the vicar’s wife. On 4 April 1868 Weatherhill became the last person to be publicly hanged in Manchester, at the New Bailey prison. Local legend has it that the face of a young woman is sometimes seen in the window of the vicarage, now in private ownership.

Miles Weatherhill

Miles Weatherhill was a brisk young weaver
And at Todmorton he did dwell
He fell in love with a handsome maiden
The parson’s servant Sarah Bell
It was at Todmorton where these true lovers
At the parson’s house their love did tell
And none in the world will be more constant
Than Miles Weatherhill and Sarah Bell.

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