Rita Gallagher of County Donegal is a multiple winner of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann‘s English singing competition. Rita is considered by many to be one of the best living singers in the tradition. Here she sings another “As I Roved Out” song. This one goes under many names, but most frequently “Blackwaterside” and “Lonely/Bonnie/Lovely Irish Maid.”
Lonely Irish Maid/Blackwaterside
As I roved out one morning fair,
Bright and early as I strayed,
It being in the merry month of May
As the birds sang in each glade.
The sun it shone so merrily
And billowing with pride,
Where primroses and daisies there,
Down by Blackwaterside
A great duo singing this song – the great Northern Irish singer Len Graham, and a singer from the border, County Louth, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin. According to Cantaria Folk Song Archive:
This love song has a question and answer pattern which is found in the older type of Anglo-Scots ‘riddling’ ballads. In fact there is a Scots ballad, The Trooper and the Maid (Child no. 299), of similar theme from which the Anglo-Irish form may well derive. A similar courtship duet also appears in the Seduction Song Rolling in the Dew (No. 189, Kennedy) and in Where are you going to, my Pretty Maid?
The age of our incomparable maiden is given as ‘sixteen Monday morning’, but other versions, and that used as a convenience title by scholars, have ‘seventeen come Sunday’. It is a classic encounter, with the stage just right for rural romance: a bright May morning, the girl with shining hair hanging down over her shoulders, and the boy invited to return later when the moon shines bright and clearly. In the lingua franca of British folksong, ‘she leads his horse to the stable’.
Folk Songs of Britain and Ireland, ed. Peter Kennedy, pub. 1975. The song ends with a line that is resonant of riddle ballads, answering the maid’s question with an idiomatic “Never.”
As I Roved Out
As I roved out on a May morning
On a May morning right early
I met my love upon the way
Oh, Lord but she was early
And she sang lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle, lilt-a-doodle-dee,-
And she hi-di-lan-di-dee, and she hi-di-lan-di-dee and she lan- day
Her boots were black and her stockings white
And her buckles shone like silver
She had a dark and a roving eye
And her ear-rings tipped her shoulder
Here’s another As I Rode Out in lovely performance by Kate Rusby with Cathy Jordan and the band Dervish. This version was made famous by Plantxy in 1073 and supposedly comes from the singing of the great Paddy Tunny.
We learned this sad and beautiful song from the singing of Paddy Tunney who lives in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. He has described it as dating back to the days of the famine, when any bit of property at all was enough to tempt a man to jilt his true love in favour of the lassie with the land. – Andy Irvine
As I Roved Out
As I roved out on a fine May morning
To view the meadows and flowers gay,
Who should I spy but my own true lover
As she sat under yon willow tree.
I took off my hat and I did salute her,
I did salute her most courageously.
When she turned around, well the tears fell from her,
Sayin’, “False young man, you have deluded me!
“A diamond ring I owned I gave you,
A diamond ring to wear on your right hand.
But the vows you made, love, you went and broke them
And married the lassie that had the land.”