> Folk Music > Songs > Prince Robert / Lord Abore and Mary Flynn

Prince Robert / Lord Abore and Mary Flynn

[ Roud 55 ; Child 87 ; Ballad Index C087 ; trad.]

Al O'Donnell sang Lord Abore and Mary Flynn in 1978 on his Transatlantic / The Leader Tradition album Al O'Donnell 2.

Jackie Oates sang Lord Abore and Mary Flynn in 2006 on her eponymous first album Jackie Oates. She commented:

This is an Irish version of Child ballad 87 “Prince Robert” taught to me by Sean O'Shee of Exeter. The song is a harrowing insight into the consequences of a mother's overbearing motherliness!

Ewan McLennan sang Prince Robert in 2014 on his Fellside album Stories Still Untold. He commented:

This is a folk song that is typical of the more dark and epic murder stories involving parents' jealousy and fury towards a marriage they see as unacceptable.

It first appeared in Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border in 1802 and became ‘Child #87’ in Francis J. Child's seminal collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, where he published several variations of the text. In this recording I'm singing the text version from Motherwell's Minstrelsy Ancient and Modern collected from a Mrs Thompson. Although it shares some ‘floating verses’, the story in Prince Robert seems to be unique amongst the classic ballads.

The words were never printed with music and the melody that might have been sung with this ballad has been long lost. After trying, without great result, to write music for the song I put it to the tune of a similar Irish ballad, Lord Abore and Mary Flynn—it seems to work.

Lyrics

Jackie Oates sings Lord Abore and Mary Flynn

Lord Abore and Mary Flynn were both children young,
Scare but thirteen years of age, love between them sprung.

Now Lord Abore was going out one day and when his mother came to know,
“You are going away, my son,” she said, “you will drink before you go.”

She's fetched a cask of the very best wine and poured a glass for him,
But false, false with her two fingers she put strong poison in.

And, “Why, oh why, my mother,” he said, “have you poisoned me full sore?”
“It is so, my own young son,” she said, “You will see Mary Flynn no more,
You shall see Mary Flynn no more.”

“Is there anybody here in this household will go on an errand for me?
Who will go to Mary Flynn's high tower and send her here to me?”

Then up and spoke a little serving boy, “I'm your faithful man,” says he,
“I will go to Mary Flynn's high tower and send her here to thee.”

And when he's got to her high tower and walked into the hall,
Oh the tables were laid and the sheets outspread, and the candles burning all.

“How came you here?” Mary Flynn she said, “How came you here to me?
Has my grandmother set a place for you or yet invited thee?”

“No, your grandmother's not set a place for me or invited me,” he said,
And then he told this Mary Flynn that Lord Abore was dead,
That Lord Abore was dead.

“Go saddle me my bonny white steed, go saddle me my grey,
That I might ride to his high tower without the least delay.”

And when she's got to his high tower and walked into the hall,
Oh the tables were laid and the sheets outspread, and the candles burning all.

“How came you here, Mary Flynn?” she said, “How came you here to me?”
“Oh the ring that was on his left finger I've come to begot of thee.”

“No ring, no ring, Mary Flynn,” she said, “No ring have I for thee,
For the pain of death it came so sharp, it split the ring in three.”

She's laid her head down by his head and her side down by his side,
She's laid her breast down by his breast, and Mary Flynn she died.