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(Johnny) Lovely Johnny / The High Walls of Derry

[ Roud 5168 ; Ballad Index RcJoLoJo ; Mudcat 6419 ; trad.]

Traveller's Joy

Paddy Tunney sang Johnny, Lovely Johnny in a 1965 Bill Leader recording on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge. It was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs of love, courtship and marriage, As Me and My Love Sat Courting (The Voice of the People Volume 15). Sean O'Boyle noted on the original album:

In rural Ulster many songs used to be sung on the kitchen floor as conversations between a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman. This conversation-piece from Tyrone protests the enduring affection of Lovely Annie for the fickle Johnny who, as he says himself, never intended to make her his wife. Paddy learned it from his mother. The tune is Doh mode hexatonic.

Mary Ann Haynes sang a fragment of Lovely Johnny to Mike Yates in Brighton in 1974. This was printed in 2000 in his book Traveller's Joy, and was included in 1979 on the Topic anthology of songs, Stories and Tunes from English Gypsies collected my Mike Yates, Travellers, in 1998 on the Topic anthology on songs of courtship and marriage, Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Volume 1), and in 2003 in the Musical Traditions anthology of Mike Yates recordings of Gypsy songs and music from South-East England, Here's Luck to a Man. Yates noted on the original Topic album:

Lovely Johnny is also known as The High Walls of Derry or The Diamonds of Derry and has become an intense lyrical statement to Mary Ann Haynes. Paddy Tunney has a fuller version.

and on the Musical Traditions anthology:

This short fragment, almost certainly from Ireland, is similar to a verse in the song Lovely Nancy that Sam Henry collected in 1936 (H.637). The late Paddy Tunney had a somewhat longer version.

Dolores Keane sang Johnny Lovely Johnny in 1979 on her and John Faulkner's Mulligan album Broken Hearted I'll Wander. She noted:

I learnt this song from my Aunt Sarah, who in turn learnt it in the late 40s from Alice Rainy, a travelling woman from Co. Tyrone.

Barbara Snape sang The Walls of Derry on Peter and Barbara Snape's 2008 album Take to the Green Fields. They noted:

This song was published in the Irish Woman's Songbook by Carmel O'Boyle (1997). Dolores Keane sang it after learning it from Alice Rainy, a travelling woman from County Tyrone. Paddy Tunney also sings a version of it.

Faustus sang Lovely Johnny in 2013 on their Navigator album Broken Down Gentlemen. They noted:

The tune is from Mary Ann Haynes, recorded by Mike Yates in Brighton, 1974 and contained in Yates, Mike (ed.), Traveller's Joy - Songs of English and Scottish Travellers and Gypsies 1965-2005 (London: English Folk Dance and Song Society, 2006). Her words are supplemented by those of Paddy Tunney: The Voice of the People volume 15 As Me and My Love Sat Courting (Topic, TSCD 665, 1998).

The Norfolk Broads sang Lovely Johnny on their 2021 album Yonder Green Grove.

Lyrics

Paddy Tunney sang Johnny, Lovely Johnny

“Oh, Johnny, lovely Johnny, do you mind the day
You came to my window to steal me away?
You promised to marry me above all female kind.
Tell me now, lovely Johnny, what has altered your mind?

“And the first place that we courted—'tis well it is known—
Was in my father's garden in the County Tyrone,
With my white apron around us shielding us from the wind.
Oh, Johnny, lovely Johnny, what has altered your mind?”

“Oh. Annie, lovely Annie, it was all but a jest.
For I never intended for to make you my best.
I never intended for to make you my wife,
Oh, Annie, lovely Annie, all the days of my life.”

Then a bunch of blue ribbons I'll tie up and wear,
And a wreath of forget-me-nots I'll twine round my hair.
And if ever he returns, I'll crown him with joy,
And I'll kiss the lips of my wee Johnny boy..

Mary Ann Haynes sings Lovely Johnny

Oh, the first time we met, was in a dark wood,
With the pinks and wild roses, round and round us it stood.
When you pulled off your apron, shaded me from all wind.
Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, now what have altered your mind?

Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, can you remember the time?
When you pulled off your apron, you shaded me from all winds.
When you promised you'd marry me, among all women fine.
Lovely Johnny, lovely Johnny, now what have altered your mind?

Dolores Keane sings Lovely Johnny

The high walls of Derry look dismal and grey
And so does lovely Johnny, he is now going away.
He is going to bonnie Scotland some sweetheart to see,
May the high powers above send him safe home to me.

“Oh Johnny lovely Johnny do you mind the day
When you came to my window to steal me away.
You promised you'd marry me above all female kind,
Oh Johnny lovely Johnny what has altered your mind?”

“Oh Annie lovely Annie it was all but a jest.
For I never intended to make you my best.
I never intended to make you my wife,
Oh Annie lovely Annie, all the days of my life.”

“The first time I met you 'tis well I do own
'Twas in my father's garden in the County Tyrone.
With my white apron round us to shield out the wind,
Oh Johnny lovely Johnny what has altered your mind?”

A bunch of blue ribbons I'll tie up and wear,
And a wreath of forget-me-nots I will twine round my hair.
And if ever he returns again I will greet him with joy
And I will kiss the lips of my own Johnny boy.