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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 ; 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.

Margaret Barry sang She Moves Through the Fair in an Ewan MacColl recording from 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. A fourth version, recorded by Bill Leader in The Bedford Arms, Camden Town, London, in 1957 or 1958, was included on the anthology Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Series Volume 10; Topic 1998).

Most subsequent versions of this song seem to be derived from Margaret Barry's which also had introduced the change from “my young love” to “my dead love” in the last verse.

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.

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 in 1965 on her album Paddie—Herself.

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.

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

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

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 She Moves Through the Fair and the Wikipedia page She Moved Through the Fair.