Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Two of my favorite singers, Christy Moore and Sinead O’Connor, sing this song by Ewan MacColl. There seems to be difference of opinion on the origin of the song, but the majority point to the song being written for an experimental production by the Critics Group, based on Romeo and Juliet, which was broadcast by the BBC to schools in May 1966.  Moore sang it first on the first Planxty album, which was released in 1973.

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

I met my girl at Woolwich Pier beneath a big crane standing
And oh, the love I felt for her it passed all understanding
Took her sailing on the river, flow, sweet river, flow
London town was mine to give her, sweet Thames, flow softly
Made the Thames into a crown, flow, sweet river, flow
Made a brooch of Silvertown, sweet Thames, flow softly

At London Yard I held her hand at Blackwall Point I faced her
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth and tenderly embraced her
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing, flow, sweet river, flow
All the time my heart was singing, sweet Thames, flow softly
Limehouse Reach I gave her there, flow, sweet river, flow
As a ribbon for her hair, sweet Thames, flow softly

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The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow

The Yarrow Valley

So I had a fantastic weekend at the St. Louis Tionól last weekend, including five hours in a room with singer/folklorist Ed Miller from Edinburgh (although now living in Austin, TX.) He spent the day talking with us about the rich tradition of song in the Scottish Lowlands and the Border country, both traditional and modern folk.

This song is one of the older ones he taught us. It’s the usual sad tale. Boy courts girl. Girl’s family doesn’t like boy. Girl’s family kills boy. Girl apparently learns her lesson. Here’s Ewan MacColl‘s version. The text below is one of the longer versions I have found and includes a bit more than what Ewan sings.

The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow

There was a lady in the North,
I ne’er could find her marrow,
She was courted by nine gentlemen,
And a ploughboy lad frae Yarrow.

These nine sat drinking at the wine,
As oft they’d done afore, O;
They hae made a vow amang themselves
Tae fecht wi’ him on Yarrow.

She’s washed his face and kaimed his hair,
As aft she’s done afor, O,
She’s made him like a knight sae hright,
Tae fecht for her on Yarrow.

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