> Folk Music > Songs > The Maid of Listowel

The Maid of Listowel / The Kerry Courtship

[ Roud 2556 , V4895 ; VWML RoudFS/S153810 ; Bodleian Roud V4895 ; Mudcat 114320 ; trad.]

Cecip Sharp collected The Maid of Listowel on 17 October 1908 from John Murphy, aged 67, who was at that time an inmate of the Marylebone Workhouse in London. See Journal of the Folk-Song Society 5 (1914), pp. 45-47 [VWML RoudFS/S153810] .

Five Hand Reel got The Maid of Listowel from the Journal and sang it in 1976 on their eponymous first album, Five Hand Reel.


Five Hand Reel sing The Maid of Listowel

One morn in October, for sweet recreation,
I met a fair maid and she bleachin’ her clothes.
I stood in amazement to gaze at this fair one;
I said, “My fair maid, won’t you come to Listowel?”
She smilingly said with the mildest behaviour,
“Desist and don’t tease me but leave me alone.
My parents might blame me, and you might deceive me;
You seem like a schemer that’s straight from Listowel.”

“Indeed I’m no schemer that wants to deceive you,
But all my fond secrets to you I’ll disclose.
I swear an allegiance; to you I’ll prove faithful;
If I could embrace you I’d make you my own.
By the high Hill of Howth; by the hole in my coat,
The ships that go sailing through Stran Ballamore,
The fairies of Leinster, the druids and witches,
I’d make you my bride if you come to Listowel.”

“If I was so vain as to go with you rovin’,
I’m certain and sure that your temper you’d show.
You’d surely degrade me for my misdemeanour
If I was so vain as to come to Listowel.
My fortune is small and you’d surely degrade me;
You’d censure and tease me and show me the door.
Walkin’ about with a babe in my arms
If I was so vain as to come to Listowel.”

“After all that I swear sure I can’t be ungrateful,
How can you suggest that I’m telling a lie?
A judge on his throne cannot ask but an oath
For to swing off a man or transport him for life.
So lets be preparin’ without hesitation
We’re not the first two to go off on our own.
Fortune might favour the fruits of our labour
To live at our ease in the town of Listowel.”

“If you swore as much more I should not be deluded,
I highly suspect that you’re married before.
There’s many a man who would think it no scruple
To defile a young maid, or despisin’ his own.
I’ll take my own time and I’ll ne’er go a-rovin’,
My heart it is young and I’ll ne’er will give o’er.
My father will sanction my lawful contraction;
I care to live single a year or two more.”

“Here’s full fifty pounds I have got in my pocket
That I earned last week of my own
For corn I sent down to sweet Ballylongford;
And more I have ready to send to the stores.
If I had the wealth of King Saul or King David
The riches of Damer on you I’d bestow;
To rifle your charms without much alarm
And dangle your babe in the town of Listowel.”

“If you want to gain me you’ll make me your consort
You’ll come to the priest and he’ll marry us both;
Parents on both sides shall give us some money
To open a shop in the town of Listowel.