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Moorlough Mary

[ Roud 2742 ; Henry H173 ; Ballad Index HHH173 ; Bodleian Roud 2742 ; James Devine]

In Songs of the People, Sam Henry credited Moorlough Mary to James Devine of Loughash, Donemana, Co. Tyrone, c. 1876.

John Doherty sang Moorlough Mary in 1964 on his EFDSS LP of songs, stories and fiddle tunes, Pedlar's Pack. An earlier field recording made by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle in in Glentie, Co.  Donegal, in August 1953 was included in 2014 on the Topic anthology The Flax in Bloom (The Voice of the People Volume 27).

Peta Webb sang Moorlough Mary in 1973 on her Topic album I Have Wandered in Exile. Reg Hall or A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

A local Strabane poet, name of Devine, wrote the words of this, with the ring of Gaelic poetry in his ears, hence all those internal rhymes and assonances. The song spread all over the North of Ireland on ballad sheets and singers seem to have fitted the words to pretty well any tune of the same metre that came into their head. Paddy Tunney sings it, Colm O'Lochlainn prints it, two versions appear in the Journal of Irish Folk Song (vols II and IX), and always the words are much the same but the melodies are quite different. Peta Webb's tune is a variant of the one used in Scotland for The Bleacher Lass of Kelvinhaugh.

The O'Halloran Brothers (Des and Vince O'Halloran) sang Moorlough Mary in 1977 on their Topic album The Men of the Island: Irish Traditional Music and Song.

Josie McDermott sang Moorlough Mary in 1977 on his Topic album Darby's Farewell: Traditional Songs Played on Flute & Whistle, and Songs from Shilo. Robin Morton commented in the sleeve notes:

Learned from the singing of Paddy Tunney. Moorlough is near Strabane. According to Seán O'Boyle (The Irish Song Tradition, 1976) the song was written by a local poet called Devine. He reports the tradition that though the poet never consummated his love in marriage, he remained in love with Mary for most of his life.

Boys of the Lough sang Moorlough Mary in 1980 on their Topic album Regrouped. The album's sleeve notes commented:

This song was composed at the latter end of the last century by James Devine, of Loughash, Donemana, Co. Tyrone. There are numerous airs and interpretations of this song to be heard in the North of Ireland. This version is mainly from Kevin Mitchell of Derry City (now residing in Glasgow). Cathal [McConnell] adds his own stamp with some changes and variations to the air.

Maggie Boyle sang four verses of Moorlough Mary in 2012 on her CD Won't You Come Away; the album's title is from the chorus of this song.

Cara Dillon sang Moorlough Mary on her 2014 CD A Thousand Hearts. This track was also included on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 anthology.


Maggie Boyle sings Moorlough Mary

The first time I saw young Moorlough Mary
'Twas at the market of sweet Strabane.
Her smiling countenance was so engaging,
The hearts of young men she did trepan.
Her killing glances bereaved my senses
Of peace and comfort both night and day.
In my silent slumber I start with wonder,
O, Moorlough Mary, won't you come away?

To see my darling on a summer's morning,
When Flora's fragrance bedecks the lawn,
Her neat deportment and manner courteous,
Around her sporting the lamb and fawn.
On you I ponder where'er I wander,
And still grow fonder, sweet maid, of thee.
By thy matchless charms, love, I am enamoured.
O, Moorlough Mary, won't you come away?

On Moorlough banks will I never wander,
Where heifers graze on a pleasant soil,
With lambkins sporting, fair maids resorting,
The timorous hare and blue heather bell,
I'll press my cheese while my wool's a-teasing.
My ewes I'll milk at the peep o' day.
While the whirring moorcock and lark alarms me
From Moorlough's banks I will never strain.

Were I a man of great education,
And Erin's Nation at my own command,
I'd lay my hand on your snowy shoulder,
In wedlock's portion I'd take your hand.
I'd entertain you both night and morning,
With robes I'd deck you both bright and gay.
With jewels rare, love, I would adorn you.
O, Moorlough Mary, won't you come away?