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Mary Ann

[ Roud 4438 ; Ballad Index FJ142 ; trad.]

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 Tadoussac 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 Tadoussac 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.

The years given above should be taken with a grain of salt since Dr. Barbeau published the lyrics of Mary Ann a bit earlier, in The Journal of American Folk-lore, Vol. 31, No. 120, April-June 1918.

Peggy Seeger sang Mary Ann in 1962 on the Folkways album Whaler Out of New Bedford and Other Songs of the Whaling Era.

Marianne Faithful sang Mary Ann in 1965 on her Decca album Come My Way and on the Decca compilation Folk Now.

The Ian Campbell Folk Group sang Mary Anne in 1966 on the B-side of their Transatlantic single Guantanamera. and on the Transatlantic sampler The Best of British Folk Music. It was also included in 2005 on their Castle Music anthology The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Cyril Tawney sang Mary Ann in 1990 on his Neptune Records cassette Sailor's Delight; it was reissued in 2003 on the CD Nautical Tawney. He commented in the liner notes:

Here we have a distant, North American relation of the British The Turtle Dove or My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose.

John Spiers and Jon Boden found Mary Anne in Edith Fowke's Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (1973), and their version is very close to that in the Canadian section of A.L. Lloyd and Isabel Aretz de Ramón y Rivera's Folk Songs of the Americas (1965). They sang it in 2008 on their Navigator CD Vagabond. Jon Boden also sang Mary Ann as the November 9, 2010 entry of his A Folk Song a Day project.

Lyrics

Perry Friedman sings Mary Ann Spiers & Boden sing Mary Anne

Oh fare you well my own true love,
Fare you well my dear;
For the ship is waiting and the wind blows high,
𝄆And I am bound away for the sea, Mary Ann. 𝄇

Oh fare thee well my own true love,
Fare thee well my dear;
For the ship she's sailing and the wind blows free
𝄆 And I am bound away to the sea, Mary Anne. 𝄇

Oh yonder don't you see the dove
Sitting on the stile,
She is mourning the loss of her own true love
𝄆 As I do nor for you, my dear Mary Ann. 𝄇

Oh don't you see the turtle dove
Sitting on the stile,
She's mourning the loss of her own true love
𝄆 As I do nor for you, my sweet Mary Anne. 𝄇

The lobster boiling in the pot,
The salt fish in the brook,
They're suffering long but it's nothing like
𝄆 The ache that I feel for you, my sweet Mary Anne. 𝄇

Oh if I had a flask of gin
And sugar enough for two
And a great bowl for to mix it in,
𝄆 I'd pour a drink for you, my sweet Mary Anne. 𝄇

(repeat first verse)

Peggy Seeger sings Mary Ann Cyril Tawney sings Mary Ann

Then fare ye well my own true love,
Then fare ye well for a while;
The ship is a-waiting and the wind blows high,
𝄆 I'm bound away to the sea, 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 home,
Ten thousand miles or more,
The sea will freeze and the earth will burn
𝄆 If I never no more return to you, 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.

Do you see the grass that's under your feet
Arise and grow again?
For love it is a killing thing,
𝄆 Don't you ever feel the pain, Mary Ann? 𝄇

A lobster boiling in the pot,
And a blue fish on the hook,
They're suffering long but it's nothing like
The ache I feel for you, my dear Mary Ann,
Like the ache I feel for you, my dear Mary Ann.

Oh do you see yon crow fly high,
She'll surely turn to white,
If I ever prove false to you, my dear,
𝄆 Morning turn to night, Mary Ann, 𝄇;

Oh had I brought a flask of gin
With sugar here for two
And a great big bowl for to mix it in,
I'd pour a drink for you, my dear Mary Ann,
Yes, I'd pour a drink for you, my dear Mary Ann.

(repeat first verse)

So fare you well my own true love,
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.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Mary Ann.