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The Galway Shawl

[ Roud 2737 ; Henry H652 ; Ballad Index HHH652 ; VWML RoudFS/S439142 ; Mudcat 5434 , 72825 ; trad. ]

The earliest documented version of The Galway Shawl was collected by Sam Henry from Bridget Kealey in Dungiven in 1936 (Sam Henry's Songs of the People, p.269).

Margaret Barry sang The Galway Shawl in a recording made by Ewan MacColl on 10 March 1956 on her 1956 Riverside album of Irish street songs and ballads, Songs of an Irish Tinker Lady. This recording was also included in 1965 on her Topic LP of Irish street songs and fiddle tunes, Her Mantle So Green. An earlier recording, made by Alan Lomax in 1953, was included in 1998 on her Rounder anthology I Sang Through the Fairs. Its booklet (which omits verse 3 of her singing as shown below) noted:

A classic ballad scenario much favoured by the broadside writers and art song popularisers: the chance encounter in springtime with a poor but immeasurably beautiful colleen (from the Irish word cailin (girl)), who sings with the voice of Ireland’s national bird, the description of her unadorned beauty makes her sound like Margaret herself. The town of Oranmore lies on Galway Bay, about 10 miles due east of Galway City.

In the 1970s Irish pop singer Dermot O ’Brien enjoyed success with his own version of this song.

Strange enough, in both Bridget Kealey and Margaret Barry's versions the girl is described wearing a bonnet with roses on it, while in all later versions her bonnet has ribbons, even when the later versions are assumed to have Kealey or Barry as their source.

The magazine Spin 3:5 (1965) has a version of The Galway Shawl noted by John Paddy Browne of Derry from his mother in 1961 [ VWML RoudFS/S439142 ] . He commented:

I noted this version from my mother as late as 1961, although I remember her singing it many years ago in our home in Derry, Ireland. Richard Hayward, the eminent Ulster folklorist who died last year, recorded a version which he claimed to have collected in County Galway, but a version which I have always suspected to be unauthentic due to an overuse of dialect terms. This theory of mine was strengthened when I sang Hayward’s version, word for word, to my mother who had an uncanny ear for the most trivial detail in song, and she declared that the words I sang “were wrong”, although to all appearances they follow the text which she sang and which I reproduce here.

Hayward is quite right, however, when he said that the song should be sung unaccompanied or at least, with a very free accompaniment, for one glance at the score will show that a metric arrangement of the tune would be totally unacceptable to this kind of song.

Eugene Ward McElroy sang The Galway Shawl to Keith Summers in Eugene Smith’s bar, Maguiresbridge, in August 1977. This recording was included in 2014 on the Musical Traditions anthology of traditional songs from around Lough Erne's shore, I Pray You Pay Attention. Rod Stradling noted:

Roud has 20 references. The Galway Shawl is a traditional Irish folk song, concerning a rural courtship in the West of Ireland. The first known version was collected by Sam Henry from Bridget Kealey in Dungiven in 1936 (Sam Henry's Songs of the People, p.269). And it was sung, famously, by Margaret Barry, and also by Sheila Stewart, and [Winnie] Ryan.

Fred Jordan sang The Galway Shawl, in a Dave Bryant recording from 1978/79, on his Veteran anthology of 2003, A Shropshire Lad. Mike Yates noted in the album's booklet:

Yet another song from Fred's mother, although Fred probably also heard the Irish singer Margaret Barry performing it at English festivals. Surprisingly, we can find no trace of an author for the words, although the tune is well-known under a number of different titles, including Eochaill—which is the Irish name for the town of Youghal—or else Boolavogue.

Peta Webb sang The Galway Shawl in a 1989 recording by David Kenny on her 2003 Musical Traditions CD The Magpie's Nest.

The Dubliners sang The Galway Shawl on their 1992 album 30 Years A-Greying.

Ray Driscoll sang The Galway Shawl on 27 October 1993 to Gwilym Davies. This recording was released in 2008 on Driscoll's CD Wild, Wild Berry. Gwilym Davies noted:

Another of the songs learnt by Ray from his father. Ray was scornful of revival folk singers who use the ‘she wore no jewels’ verse as a chorus.

Beryl Graeme sang The Galway Shawl in 1999 on her CD of “songs in the traditional manner”, Moth to a Flame.

John Wright sang The Galway Shawl on his 1999 Fenn Music / 2000 Greentrax album A Few Short Lines. He noted:

This traditional Irish song appears in Sam Henry's collection, Songs of the People, where he names his source as Bridget Kealey, Dungiven, 23 May 1936. Like Gavin Greig’s Folk-Song of the North-East, Sam Henry’s collection originally appeared as a regular feature in a local newspaper between the years 1923-1939. The song is an old favourite with a handsome tune and was made more widespread by the singing of Margaret Barry, a notable Irish tradition-bearer.

Bob Fox sang The Galway Shawl in 2000 on his Woodworm CD Dreams Never Leave You.

Ron Kavana and Anne Armstrong sang The Galway Shawl in 2011 on the Kavana and Friends album 40 Favourite Folk Songs.

Jack Rutter of Moore Moss Rutter learnt The Galway Shawl from the singing of Fred Jordan; they recorded this song in 2011 for their eponymous CD Moore Moss Rutter.

Andy Turner learnt The Galway Shawl from the singing of Fred Jordan too and sang it as the 9 June 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lisa O'Neill sang The Galway Shawl in 2018 on her River Lea CD Heard a Long Gone Song.

Daoirí Farrell sang The Galway Shawl on his 2019 CD A Lifetime of Happiness. He noted:

During 2017, I was asked to sing two songs of my choice for a radio documentary about the winning teams of the all Ireland final matches in Gaelic and Hurling. Dublin beat Mayo in the Gaelic and Galway beat Wexford in the hurling. The Dublin song had to be without doubt Biddy Mulligan but the Galway song was one that I was undecided about for quite some time. One of the songs that I considered was The Galway Shawl. It is a beautiful love song about a man and woman who meet on the road in Oranmore. The lady takes the man back to meet her parents and he woos them with his musical talents before leaving early the following morning for Donegal. I’ve heard that the song is over 200 years old but it seems to have been first documented on 23 May 1936 by Sam Henry in his book Songs of the People (p. 269). He collected it from a Bridget Kealey from Dungiven, Co. Derry.

The Magpies sang Galway Shawl on their 2020 album Tidings.

See also the related The Red Plaid Shawl [ Roud V8342 ; Ballad Index OCon084 ; VWML RoudFS/S439142 ; Bodleian Roud V8342 ] which begins similarly but then turns in a very different direction.

Lyrics

Bridget Kealey sings The Galway Shawl (Sam Henry's Songs of the People)

Near Oranmore in the County Galway,
One evening in the month of May,
I spied a colleen who looked so charming,
Her beauty stole my heart away.
She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint, no powder, ah, none at all,
She'd a pink sunbonnet with roses on it,
And around her shoulders a Galway shawl.

As we were walking she kept on talking
Until her cottage came in view,
She asked me in to meet her father
And, to please him, play The Foggy Dew.
She sat me down beside the hearthstone
Fornenst her father, who was six foot tall,
And soon her mother had the kettle boiling,
While I kept thinking on the Galway shawl.

I played The Blackbird, The Stack of Barley,
The Evening Glory and The Foggy Dew,
And she sang each note like an Irish linnet
While the tears filled up her eyes of blue.
I left it early the next morning
To walk the road to Donegal;
As she said good-bye, she cried and kissed me,
But my heart remains 'neath the Galway shawl.

Margaret Barry sings The Galway Shawl

Oranmore in the County Galway,
One summer’s morning in the month of May,
He espied a colleen, she was tall and handsome,
And then she nearly stole his poor heart away.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint of powder, no, none at all,
She wore a bonnet with red roses on it,
And o’er her shoulders hung the Galway shawl.

And they kept walking, and they kept talking,
Till his father's cottage came into view;
Very soon his mother had the kettle boiling,
But all he could think of was her Galway shawl.

He played The Blackbird, The Stack of Barley,
And Rodney's Glory, and The Foggy Dew.
She sang each note like an Irish linnet,
’Til down her cheeks came the tears like dew.

She set out early on next morning,
To hit the road for Donegal.
She kissed and hugged him, and then she left him,
And then she’s stole his heart in her Galway shawl.

Mrs Browne sings The Galway Shawl

Near Oranmore in the County Galway
One pleasant evening in the month of May,
I met a cailin so fair and handsome
That soon she stole my heart away.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all,
But she wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,
And around her shoulders, a Galway shawl.

She kept on talking as we kept on walking,
And soon her cottage came into view,
And she said, “Come in, and meet me father
And lighten his heart with The Foggy Dew.”

She set me down beside the fire,
Fornenst her father, he was six-fool tall.
And in no time the kettle boiled,
But all I thought of was the Galway shawl.

I sang The Blackbird, The Stack of Barley,
The Harvest Home and The Foggy Dow,
And she hummed each note like an Irish linnet,
Till the tears welled up in her eyes of blue.

I started out when dawn was breaking,
To make my way to oul Donegal,
But she knew full well as I parted from her
That my heart remained 'neath her Galway shawl.

Eugene Ward McElroy sings The Galway Shawl

In Oranmore in the county Galway,
One pleasant evening in the month of May;
I spied a colleen, she was tall and handsome,
And she nearly stole my old heart away.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, nor none at all;
But she wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,
Around her shoulders hung the Galway shawl.

We kept on walking, we kept on talking,
Till her father's cottage came into view;
She said: “Come in, sir, and meet my father,
And play and teach him The Foggy Dew.”

She set me down by a big turf fire,
A next her father, him being six foot tall;
And soon her mother had the kettle boiling,
But all I could think of was her Galway shawl.

She played The Blackbird, The Lads of Antrim,
Oh, Rodney's Glory and The Foggy Dew;
She sang each note like an Irish linnet,
‘Til the tears ran down her old Irish cheeks like dew.

It was early, early the very next morning,
I hit the road for old Donegal;
She cried, I kissed her, and then I left her
But she stole my old heart in her Galway shawl.

Fred Jordan sings The Galway Shawl

As I was walking in the County of Galway
One pleasant evening in the month of May,
I met a maiden, she was tall and handsome,
Her look fairly took all my breath away.

Chorus:
For she wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds,
No shoes nor stockings on her feet at all,
But on her head a bonnet with ribbons on it
And round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.

We kept on walking and she kept on talking
'Till her father's cottage came into view.
She said, “Kind sir, won't you bide a minute
And play for me, oh, The Foggy Dew?”

She sat me down beside the hearthstone,
I saw her father, he was six feet tall.
And while her mother put on the kettle
All I could think of was her Galway shawl.

Chorus:
For she wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all,
But on her head a bonnet with ribbons on it
And round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.

I played The Blackbird, The Rigs of Barley,
Rodney's Glory, and The Foggy Dew.
She sang on softly, like an Irish linnet,
And tears came down from her eyes so blue.

Early next morning, so very early,
I took the road to old Donegal.
She climbed the gate and kissed me dearly
And wished me godspeed in her Galway shawl.

(repeat first chorus)

John Wright sings The Galway Shawl

In Oranmore, in the county Galway
One summer’s evening, in the month of May,
I spied a damsel, she was fair and handsome
And she fairly stole my poor heart away.

She wore no jewels, no fancy diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all.
She wore a bonnet, with ribbons on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway Shawl.

We kept on walking, kept on talking,
Till her father’s cottage came into view
And then she said, “Sir, come meet my father
And play for him The Foggy Dew.”

Well I played The Blackbird, and the Stack of Barley,
Old Robbie's Glory, and The Flax in Bloom.
And she said, “Sir, come be my partner,
And we’ll go dancing to the flowers in June.”

'Twas early, early all in the morning
When I hit the road for old Donegal.
She said, “Goodbye Sir”, and she cried and kissed me,
And my heart remained with that Galway Shawl.

She wore no jewels, no fancy diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all.
She wore a bonnet, with ribbons on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway Shawl.

Daoirí Farrell sings The Galway Shawl

In Oranmore in the county Galway
Early, early in the month of May,
I spied a damsel so fair and handsome
And her beauty stole my heart away.

Chorus (after each verse):
She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no, none at all.
But she wore a bonnet with a ribbon on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway shawl.

We started walking, and started talking
Until her daddy’s house came into view,
And she said, “Come in, sir, and meet my father
And play to please him the Foggy Dew.”

She sat me down beside the fire
And I could see her daddy there, he was six foot tall,
And her mammy smiling and the kettle boiling,
But my mind was all on the Galway shawl.

I played The Blackbird, The Stack of Barley,
And Rodney’s Glory and The Foggy Dew.
And she sang each note there like an Irish linnet
While the tears like fountains down her cheeks they flew.

It was early, early all in the morning
When I hit the road for sweet Donegal,
And she said goodbye sir and I hugged and kissed her,
But my mind will always be on the Galway shawl.

The Red Plaid Shawl [Harding B 20(59)]

One summer's morning, I took a ramble,
Down by a bramble I took my way,
I met a damsel, she looked so charming,
I list to what she had to say:
Oh! she wore no jewel or costly diamonds
She had no finery—none at all,
She wore no chignon, but sung a sweet song,
This lovely colleen with a red plaid shawl.

I stepped up to her, she smiled so sweetly,
She winked at me—she looked so shy,
Will there be any harm in, I said so charming,
My sweet colleen one kiss to try?
She cocked her eye, she look'd so sheepish,
I scare knew myself—no not at all,
She asked me to treat her—this fair young creature,
May they all look sideways on her red plaid shawl.

She stole my heart, this artful colleen,
I kept on speaking—I could not stop;
At last she said, what is your calling?
I'm a clerk, I said, in a marine store shop.
I treated her and spent my money,
She gave me a clump which made me fall
I fell in the gutter and there did sputter,
Bad cess to the damsel with the red plaid shawl.

Next morning early when day was dawning,
I found my coat, chain and watch was gone,
My had was aching, my limbs was shaking,
You may guess, my boys, I felt forlorn,
The kids were bawling—some were squalling,
Jim twig the cove up against the wall,
While they were shouting I kept on spouting,
May the devil take the damsel with the red plaid shawl.