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“According to the standard poetic instructions one should move
through a fair like the white swan at evening moves o'er the bay.”
Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites

She Moves Through the Fair / Our Wedding Day

[ Roud 861 ; Henry H141 ; Ballad Index K165 ; trad. adapted Padraic Colum / Herbert Hughes]

She Moved Through the Fair was first collected in Donegal by poet Padraic Colum (1881-1972) and musicologist Herbert Hughes (1882-1937), and published by Boosey & Hawkes in London in Irish Country Songs in 1909. The tune is in mixolydian mode. The lyrics were also published in Colum's book Wild Earth and Other Poems, (Macmillan, 1922, p. 26) though the book doesn't mention their traditional origin.

The Irish tenor John McCormack recorded She Moved Through the Fair in 1941. He seemed to have introduced the change from “my young love” to “my dead love” in the last verse.

Margaret Barry learned She Moves Through the Fair ”off a gramophone record by Count John McCormack” as she said in a Karl Dallas interview. She sang it in an Ewan MacColl recording made on March 10, 1955 on her 1956 Riverside album Songs of an Irish Tinker Lady. Two other recordings by Peter Kennedy in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, in 1952 and by Alan Lomax in London in 1953 are on her 1998 Rounder anthology I Sang Through the Fairs. One of these two versions is presumably the one on the 1955 anthology The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music Volume I: Ireland. A fourth version, recorded by Bill Leader in The Bedford Arms, Camden Town, London, in 1957 or 1958, was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Series Volume 10) and in 2000 on the EFDSS anthology Root & Branch 2: Everybody Swings.

Most subsequent versions of this song seem to be derived from Margaret Barry's recording.

Dominic Behan sang She Moves Through the Fair in 1958 on his Topic album Irish Songs.

Belle Stewart sang She Moves Through the Fair (Our Wedding Day) in a Peter Kennedy recording from the 1950's on the 1994 Saydisc CD Songs of the Travelling People.

Pete Seeger sang She Moves Through the Fair at a Ballads and Blues concert at St. Pancras Town Hall Theatre on October 4, 1959. This concert was release in 1963 on the Folklore Records album Pete Seeger in Concert Vol. 2 an in 2016 on the Fellside CD Pete Seeger in England.

Francis McPeake sang Our Wedding Day on the anthology Songs of Courtship (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 1; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968).

A 19 years young Anne Briggs sang She Moves Through the Fair at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963 where it was recorded by Bill Leader for the album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 1. This track was later included in her compilation CD A Collection and on the Topic 4 CD anthology The Acoustic Folk Box.

Davy Graham played She Moves Through the Fair in 1963 too on the EP The Thamesiders and Davy Graham. This instrumental track was included in 1975 on the anthology Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock, together with another version of this song sung by Margaret Barry. Karl Dallas commented in the album's notes:

When Davey heard the melody of this song, he realised straight away that its melodic scale, with its flattened seventh (G to G on the white notes of the piano), is similar to the Indian rag scale, khammaj (sa ga ma pa dha ni sa - sa ni flat dha pa ma ga re sa, ascending and descending), as was Greensleeves. At the time of these studies, he was a sometime member of the Thamesiders, a post-skiffle group that had evolved from the Hasted group, featuring Marion Gray, Martin Carthy, Pete Maynard and, later, Redd Sullivan, who used to play in the Thameside restaurant on London's South Bank, hence the name. In the spring of 1963, Decca gathered together the Thamesiders with other London folkies for an all-night “hootenanny” in the studios from which this track, originally included in an EP, The Thamesiders and Davey Graham, was one result.

Paddie Bell sang She Moved Through the Fair at Leith Town Hall in November 1963 which was recorded for the album The Hoot'nanny Show Vol. 1. She also recorded it for her 1965 album Paddie—Herself.

Shirley Collins sang She Moves Through the Fair on her 1964 Collector EP Shirley Sings Irish. This track was also included in 2002 on her Fledg'ling anthology Within Sound.

The Black Country Three sang She Moved Through the Fair in 1966 on their eponymous Transatlantic album, The Black Country Three.

Paddy Tunney sang Out of the Windows on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge. Sean O'Boyle commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Paddy speaks before he sings this song, and rightly points out that it has an affinity with Padraic Colum’s She Moved Through the Fair (cf. Herbert Hughes, Irish Country Songs). It should also be compared with I Once Had a True Love, which Paddy has already recorded for Topic on A Wild Bees’ Nest, and which is immediately recognisable as the source of Colum’s sophisticated adaptation. The words of Out of the Window, as Paddy sings them, seem also to have been touched up by some poet like Colum, and students of folksong would be well-advised to consult Sam Henry Collection, Vol. 1, number 141, where a version from County Derry is printed. Paddy got the air (Doh mode hexatonic) from his mother, and he gives a really beautiful rendering of it in his own inimitable style.

There are several Sandy Denny / Fairport Convention recordings:

  1. Sandy Denny recorded She Moves Through the Fair in 1967 as a home demo that was finally made available in 2004 on the 5CD Fledg'ling anthology A Boxful of Treasures.
  2. Fairport Convention released this song on What We Did on Our Holidays; the arrangement is Sandy's solo version with accompaniment. Sandy plays acoustic guitar and Simon Nicol autoharp. This track was also included in the Island CD sampler Folk Routes.
  3. A BBC radio broadcast from the “Top Gear” session on December 9, 1968 is not available.
  4. A Fairport Convention recording out-take from 1968 or 1969 was included on the Ashley Hutchings anthology Burning Bright.
  5. A Fairport performance live at the L.A. Troubadour, Los Angeles on February 1, 1974 was released on the semi-bootleg From Past Archives and finally in 2004 officially available on the 5CD Sandy Denny anthology A Boxful of Treasures.

Three sang She Moved Thro' the Fair on their 1970 CBS album The Garden of Jane Delawney.

Tommy Dempsey sang She Moved Through the Fair on his 1976 Trailer album with John Swift, Green Grow the Laurel.

Bobby Eaglesham sang She Moved Through the Fair in 2010 on his Fellside CD Weather the Storm.

Richard Thompson released a 1990 live version of She Moves Through the Fair on his Doom and Gloom Vol. 2 cassette.

Judy Collins sang She Moves Through the Fair live at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Vienna, VA, on June 18, 2000. The recording of this concert was published in the same year on her CD Live at Wolf Trap.

Rory Gallagher sang She Moved Thro' the Fair in an “out-take or lost recording” with Bert Jansch that was made in between 1974 and 1994. It was included in 2003 on his posthumous CD Wheels Within Wheels.

Bob Davenport sang She Moved Through the Fair in 2004 on his CD The Common Stone.

Alex Campbell sang She Moved Through the Fair on his 2005 Castle Music anthology Been on the Road so Long. I don't know from which of his recordings this track had been included.

Jim Causley performed She Moved Through the Fair and Germany Clockmaker in 2011 on his WildGoose CD of Devon songs, Dumnonia. He commented in his liner notes:

This is really a tune set that happens to have words involved. Waltzes are rather popular in Devon folk sessions and tunes in minor keys simply do not exist! Now and then a song is allowed to be popped in and these are popular choices. The first is a local version of the well known tear-jerker and the second is a cheeky little song popular throughout the West Country.

Joseph Topping sang She Moved Through the Fair in 2010 on his Fellside CD Ghosts in the Shadow.

Ron Kavana sang She Moved Through the Fair on his 2011 double CD 40 Favourite Folk Songs.

Hughie Jones sang She Moved Through the Fair in 2014 on his Fellside CD Maritime Miscellany.

Lyrics

Padraic Colum's version of She Moved Through the Fair

My young love said to me, “My brothers won't mind,
And my parents won't slight you for your lack of kind.”
Then she stepped away from me and this she did say:
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

She stepped away from me and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her go here and go there,
Then she went her way homeward with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

The people were saying no two were e'er wed
But one had a sorrow that never was said,
And I smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear,
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

I dreamt it last night that my young love came in,
So softly she entered, her feet made no din;
She came close beside me, and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Margaret Barry sings She Moves Through the Fair

My young love said to me, “My mother won't mind,
And my father won't slight you for your lack of kind.”
As she stepped away from me and this shed did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

As she stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there.
And then she turned homeward, with one star awake,
Line the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

Well, the people are saying that no two were, were wed,
For one had a sorrow that never was said.
And she smiled as she passed with her goods and her gear
And that was the last that I saw of my dear.

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din.
As she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Anne Briggs sings She Moves Through the Fair

My young love said to me, “My mother won't mind,
And my father won't slight you for your lack of kind.”
Then she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

She laid her hand on me and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there.
Then she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in,
And so softly she came, her feet made no din.
Then she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Sandy Denny sings She Moves Through the Fair

My young love said to me, “My mother won't mind,
And my father won't slight you for your lack of kind.”
And she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

And she went away from me and moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there.
And then she went homeward, just one star awake
Like the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din.
And she laid her hand on me and this she did say,
“Oh, it will not be long, love, till our wedding day.”

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: She Moves Through the Fair and the Wikipedia page She Moved Through the Fair.