Mary Ann

Archie Fisher sings a traditional (possibly English) parting song made famous by Bob Dylan on his album “Dylan.”

According to the “Mainly Norfolk” site:

Perry Friedman sang two verses of the parting song Mary Ann in 1960 on his Topic EP Vive La Canadienne. The album notes commented:

“This unusual sailor’s song comes from the collection of Dr. Marius Barbeau, the dean of Canadian folklorists. He heard it in 1920 in the town of Tadoussao in the province of Quebec. The singer, Edouard Hovington, who was then ninety, had been for many years an employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the famous fur-trading company which played such an important part in Canada’s early history. He said he had learned it from an Irish sailor some seventy years earlier, which would carry it back at least to 1850.

Mary Ann is obviously descended from the old English song, “The True Lover’s Farewell,” which is also the ancestor of “The Turtle Dove “and Burns’ “My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose,” but this is one of the most unusual of the many variants. The nautical references give it a salty flavour quite appropriate to the Tadoussao region which abounds in tiny fishing villages. However it did not originate in Canada, for almost the same words are given in a book of Victorian Street Ballads edited by W. Henderson and published in London in 1937. Even the lobster and the blue fish, which seem typically Canadian, are found in the English version. The only difference is in the final stanza: instead of longing for a flask of gin, the Victorian ballad concludes:

The pride of all our kitchen rare
That in our kitchen garden grows
Was pumpkins, but none could compare
In angel form to my Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann

Oh fare you well my own true love,
Oh fare you well my dear;
The ship is waiting and the wind is high,
And I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann,
Yes, I am bound away to the sea, Mary Ann.

Ten thousand miles away from you,
Ten thousand miles or more,
But the earth will freeze and the sea will burn
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann,
If I never no more return to you, Mary Ann.

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The Cat She Went a Hunting

This song by Sonny Condell and “Scullion” was first recorded in the 70s. A great fun song, newly written but definitely in the Irish tradition. It’s sung by Cathy Jordan of Dervish with Sonny Condell himself.

The cat she went a-hunting and found the barn a-blazing
In fact she’s come a-calling, a-calling, a-calling
Wake up farm boys! The barn is burning down!

And the cat she’s got to hide herself behind the rat she’s eating
So as not to show a smirk and maybe get a beating
The farmer slips on his dungarees and he falls down the stairs
The rats came out in their hundreds and the cat she caught a-plenty
She’s got the artful dodger, the dodger, the dodger
She spied him in the burning hay the barn is burning down!

The fire brigade is coming and frying chicken singing
And we’ll be sitting on boiled eggs, on boiled eggs, on boiled eggs
So open the cage and hose us down we may get a dozen a day

The roof is starting to crumble, sparks fly up in the night sky
The dogs are wearing their tails down, their tails down, their tails down
The boys have made a chain in the yard and they’re passing the pails along

The cat she went a-hunting and found the barn a-blazing
In fact she’s come a-calling, a-calling, a-calling
Wake up farm boys! The barn is burning down!


Carrickfergus Castle

This song seems to have originated in the mid-nineteenth century, and is most likely a merging of a couple of different songs and may or may not have ties to yet another in Irish. The Irish version is about a bawdy gentleman, whereas the English version is one of many nostalgic songs.  Carrickfergus is a town in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Here’s yet another amazing performance from Transatlantic Sessions – Series 4: Volume 3 featuring Allison Moorer.


I wish I was in Carrickfergus, only for nights in Ballygrand.
I would swim over the deepest ocean, the deepest ocean for my love to find,
But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over and neither have I wings to fly.
If I could find me a handsome boatman to ferry me over to my love and I.

My childhood days bring back sad reflections of happy times I spent so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations have all passed on now like melting snow,
But I’ll spend my days in endless roaming; soft is the grass, my bed is free.
Ah, to be back in Carrickfergus on that long road down to the sea!

And in Kilkenny it is reported there are marble stones as black as ink.
With gold and silver I would support her, but I’ll sing no more now till I get a drink.
I’m drunk today and I’m seldom sober, a handsome rover from town to town.
Ah, but I’m sick now, my days are numbered, so come all ye young men and lay me down.