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The Lakes of Pontchartrain

[ Roud 1836 ; Laws H9 ; Henry H619 ; Ballad Index LH09 ; trad.]

Planxty sang The Lakes of Pontchartrain in 1974 on their album Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, the band's member Christy Moore returned to it nine years later on his 1983 solo album The Time Has Come. He commented in the sleeve notes of his 2001 album This Is the Day:

Mike Waterson from North Yorkshire taught me The Lakes of Pontchartrain in 1967 and now it is part of our National repertoire.

Martin Simpson sang this as The Lakes of Ponchartrain in 1985 on his Topic album Sad of High Kicking. This track was also included in his anthologies The Collection (2002) and The Definitive Collection (2004). He re-recorded this song in 2011 for his Topic CD Purpose and Grace where he commented in the liner notes:

[…] I learned it from the Cajun bluegrass band The Louisiana Honeydrippers, who made one excellent record for Arhoolie in the 1960s. Having lived in New Orleans, I felt qualified to revisit the song with a different feel. Thousands of Irish emigrants ended up in New Orleans. The city has a great Irish culture and heritage. The levees and drainage ditches which stop the city being inundated were largely built by Irish labour. Ten thousand Irish died during the construction and their memorial is a small Celtic cross on the meridian of an Uptown New Orleans road. When the Civil War broke out, the Union Navy sailed up the Mississippi and took New Orleans, the young Irishman in the song fled north through the swamps. There is so much history in the few verses of a folk song.

In this video Martin Simpson sings The Lakes of Ponchartrain at the fRoots 30th birthday Frootsnanny at London's Roundhouse in January 2010:

Jon Boden sang The Lakes of Pontchartrain as the March 1, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He gave Planxty as his source and commented that it was

Possibly the first song I ever learnt, probably aged about 14. Attracted by the alligator line I think. Sung a lot in Irish sessions.

Lyrics

Martin Simpson sings The Lakes of Ponchartrain

Through streams and bogs and under bush, I'd made my weary way,
Though windfalls thick and devil's floods my aching feet did stray.
Until at last by evening start on higher ground I gained
And there I met with a Creole girl by the Lakes of Ponchartrain.

“Good evening to you, Creole girl, my money is no good,
Although I fear the 'gators, well I must defend the wood.”
“You are welcome here, kind stranger, my house is very plain
But we never turn a stranger out on the Lakes of Ponchartrain.”

She took me to her mammy's house, she treated me right well,
The hair around her shoulders, in them jet black ringlets fell.
I'd try to describe her beauty but I find the words in vain,
So beautiful that Creole girl by the Lakes of Ponchartrain.

Well I asked if she'd marry me, she said that could not be,
Because she loved a sailor and he's far away at sea.
She said that she would marry him and true she would remain,
Even through he never did come back to the Lakes of Ponchartrain.

So farewell, farewell you Creole girl, I'll ne'er see you no more,
I'll ne'er forget your kindness in the cottage by the shore.
And at each social gathering a flowing glass I'd drain
And I drink a health to the Creole girl by the Lakes of Ponchartrain.

Jon Boden sings The Lakes of Pontchartrain

It was on one fine March morning I bid New Orleans adieu
And I took the road to Jackson my fortune to renew.
I cursed all foreign money, no credit could I gain,
Which filled my heart with longing for the Lakes of Pontchatrain.

I stood on board of the railroad car beneath the morning sun,
I rode the runs till evening and I laid me down again.
All strangers there, no friends to me till a dark girl towards me came
And I fell in love with a Creole girl by the Lakes of Pontchatrain.

I said, “My pretty Creole girl, my money here's no good.
If it weren't for the alligators I'd sleep out in the wood.”
“Oh, you're welcome here, kind stranger, our house is very plain
But we never turn a stranger out from the Lakes of Pontchatrain.”

She took me into her mammy's house and she treated me quite well,
The hair upon her shoulders in jet black ringlets fell.
To try and paint her beauty I'm sure 'twould be in vain,
So handsome was my Creole girl by the Lakes of Pontchatrain.

So it's fare thee well, my bonny girl, I never shall see you more,
I'll ne'er forget your kindness in the cottage by the shore.
And at each social gathering a glass of wine I'll drain
And I'll drink a health to the Creole girl by the Lakes of Pontchatrain.