The Holland Handkerchief

For Halloween this year I have to post one of my favorite “ghost ballads.” You have to listen to the whole song to find the ghost, but it’s worth it. I first heard it off of Connie Dover back in the mid ’90s. Here’s it’s sung by Mary McPartlan.

The Holland Handkerchief

A wealthy squire he lived in our town
And he was a man of high renown
He had one daughter, a beauty bright
And the name he called her was his Heart’s Delight

Many young man far to court her came
But none of them could her favour gain
Till there came one of the low degree
And above them all why she’d fancy he

But when her father he came to know
That his lovely daughter loved this young man so
Over fifty miles he sent her away
All to deprive her of her wedding day

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An Spailpín Fánach

I heard a slightly different version of this song from the singing of Connie Dover, whose website describes it as “an early version of an Irish song that became one of America’s most widely known folk tunes. Known originally as ‘The Bard of Armagh,’ the melody migrated westward, evolving eventually into a popular song, ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.'” This lively version is sung by Síle Denvir and Valerie Casey from Líadan.

A Spailpín Fánach

1. Is Spailpin aerach tréitheach mise is bígí soláthar mná dhom,
Mar a scaipfinn an síol faoi dhó san Earrach in éadan na dtaltaí bána,
Mar a scaipfinn an síol faoi dhó san Earrach in éadan na dtaltaí bána,
Mo lámha ar an gcéachta a’m i ndiaidh na gcapall
agus réapfainnse cnoic le fána.

2. Is an chéad lá in Éirinn dár liostáil mise, ó bhí mé súgach sásta,
Is an dara lá dár liostáil mise ó bhí mé buartha cráite,
Ach an tríú lá dár liostáil mise, thabharfainn cúig céad punt ar fhágáil,
Ach dtá dtugainn sin is ar oiread eile ní raibh mo phas le fáil agam.

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Rosemary’s Sister

A sad song of Britain during the Blitz. I first heard it off Connie Dover, but it’s performed by the Fairview Convention here. Words and music by Huw Williams.

Rosemary’s Sister

Brother of disaster and sister of our fate
Do you count the tragedies we see?
And brother of confusion and sister of debate
Do you remember the sister of Rosemary?

The doodlebugs were flying and the blitz was at its height
Rosemary lay sleeping with her sister only nine
And no one heard the one that hit, the one that blew the lid
Rosemary came out crying but her sister never did

Chorus
And we fly high, our dreams are all in vain
One moment we are singing and the next we cry in pain
But high above the heavens in a host of angels’ wings
Rosemary’s sister will be dancing

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