> Folk Music > Songs > (Down By) The Shannon Side / Captain Thunderbolt
(Down By) The Shannon Side / Captain Thunderbolt
; Master title: The Shannon Side
; Ballad Index
Phoebe Smith sang Captain Thunderbolt to Mike Yates in her home in Melton, Woodbridge, Suffolk, on 22 April 1976. This recording was included in the following year on Topic’s anthology of Gypsy singers, The Travelling Songster. Mike Yates commented in the album’s sleeve notes:
Lucy Broadwood used to refer to this song as The Betrayal and she believed that it shared a common—possibly Irish—origin with songs such as The Lily White Hand and Blackwater Side. My own view is that the song at one time recorded a more supernatural encounter—possibly with the Devil himself—and is, I feel, connected in spirit to another lrish tale of the netherworld, Reynardine, in which a girl plays out a meeting with a disturbing half-animal, half-human being. For an early version of the song, see The Westerne Knight and the Young Maid of Bristoll, Their Loves and Fortunes related—a blackletter broadside that was licenced to be printed on 1 June 1629 and is reprinted in Hyder Rollins, A Pepysian Garland (Harvard) 1922 (reprinted 1971).
The Cornish traveller Charlotte Renals sang Down By the Shannon Side in a recording made in 1978 by Pete Coe. It was published in 2003 on the Backshift/Veteran CD of songs from this Cornish Travellers family, Catch Me If You Can. Mike Yates commented in the album notes:
Once a widely-known song. Cecil Sharp collected nine versions in the west of England and Superintendent Ord of the Glasgow police said that it was “common all over the North-east of Scotland” (Bothy Songs and Ballads, 1930). Originally an Irish song, some later singers localised the song’s setting (Frank Kidson found it being sung in parts of Yorkshire as Down By the Derwent Side, for example), while some singers, including the Gypsy singer Phoebe Smith, called it Captain Thunderbolt. Charlotte’s version fills in some of the details that singers such as Phoebe had lost.
Mary Delaney sang Peter Thunderbolt on one of Jim Carroll’s and Pat Mackenzie’s recordings of Irish Travellers in England that were published in 2003 on the Musical Traditions anthology From Puck to Appleby. The collectors commented in the accompanying booklet:
An early text of this from a black-letter broadside entitled A Western Knight and dated 1629, was published in H.E. Rollins’ A Pepysian Garland . In his note to the song, the editor compares it to The False Lover Won Back (Child 218), Child Waters (Child 63) and particularly to Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight (Child 4).
Cecil Sharp collected several versions with the title The Shannon Side mainly from singers in Somerset, and Ord has it in his collection with the same title, where it is described as “an Irish folk-song common all over the North-east of Scotland”. William Christie, the Dean of Moray, quotes a verse in his Traditional Ballad Airs, but says: “The ballad of The Shannon Side is not suited for this work.”
It has also been found among English Gypsies, a recording of it being included on the Topic album, The Travelling Songster, sung by Phoebe Smith of Woodbridge, Suffolk. The only Irish versions we could find were one collected by Séamus Ennis for the BBC in the 1950s from Thomas Moran of Mohill, Co Leitrim and another we got from Pat McNamara of Kilshanny, Co Clare in 1976.
Andy Irvine sang Captain Thunderbolt in 1982 on his and Dick Gaughan’s album Parallel Lines. He noted:
This song is usually called The Shannonside but the man I heard it from in Mohill, Co. Leitrim had changed it to Lough Allen Side to make it more localised. There seems to be more here than meets the eye. Captain Thunderbolt was a pseudonym often used by the United Irishmen around the time of the 1798 rising. This gentleman appears to be a nasty bit of work by any standards however.
Andy Turner learned Down By the Shannon Side from the singing of Charlotte Renals and sang it as the 26 April 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.
Phoebe Smith sings Captain Thunderbolt
Was on one May morning so early in the spring
When prim-a-rosy violets come spreading round the green,
And one of them so manfully come Jack-in-the-field with pride
As we both walked down together along the Shannon side.
“Where are you going my pretty fair maid?
Where are you going this way?”
“I am going to seek my father’s ship
Down by the Shannon side.”
“May I come with you my pretty maid, may I come along your way?
And if you’ve any objections I will follow on behind.”
The ground being moss and slippery, one foot from her did slide
And they both went down together along the Shannon side.
“Now since you’ve had your will of me pray tell to me your name.
That’s when my baby that is bom as that may be the same.”
“My name is Captain Thunderbowl and the truth I’ll never deny
For l have got men to guard me over yonders mountains high.”
Charlotte Renals sings Down By the Shannon Side
It was in the month of April and early in the morn,
The cowslips and the violets were growing in the long;
The flowery, flowery mantle it decked the fields with pride,
When I meet with a lovely damsel down by the Shannon side.
“Good morning to you sweetheart,” all unto her I cried,
“Where are you going so early now, where are you going this way?”
“I’m going to see my father’s sheep,
Down by the Shannon side.”
But she said, “Young man excuse me my parents would be annoyed,
If I am seen with any man down by the Shannon side.”
“I will chance myself in transport to you I’ll give a kiss.”
She said, “Young man be civil what do you mean by this?”
The ground was mossy where they stood, their feet from them did slide,
And they both fall down together, down by the Shannon side.
Now three times he kissed her rosy cheeks, as she lay on the grass,
And when she came to herself again she cried out for the love.
Now we both shook hands and parted and from her I did steer,
We hadn’t parted many months not more than half a year;
Before he was crossing mossy banks my love I chanced to see,
She was scarcely able for to walk down by the Shannon side.
I pretend to take no notice and steered all on my way,
My love she turned her head aside those words to me did say;
“Don’t never forget the poor young girl,
Down by the Shannon side.
And since you’ve had your will of me, make me your lawful bride,
Don’t never you leave me here to mourn, down by the Shannon side;
There is fifty pounds all in bright gold my father will provide,
And sixty acres of good land down by the Shannon side.”
I said, “My pretty fair girl I love your offer well,
But I am engaged already the truth to you I’ll tell;
It’s to a fair young lady who wishes to be my bride,
She’s a wealthy grazier’s daughter down by the Shannon side.”
“Now if you cannot marry me pray tell me then your name,
And when my baby it is born I may call it the same.”
“My name is Captain Walters, my name I will never deny,
While I have men to guide me on yonder mountain side.”
Now the tears like crystal fountains now down her cheeks did slide,
Saying, “I hope this will be a warning to all young girls beside,
And never to trust you now young man,
Down by the Shannon side.”
Andy Irvine sings Captain Thunderbolt
When Flora’s flowery mantle it bedecked each field with pride
I met a comely damsel down by Lough Allen side.
“Good morning to you fair maid,” I modestly did say,
“What has you out so early or where are you going this way?”
Her cheeks like blooming rosesm this fair maid replied,
“I’m going to seek my father’s sheep down by Lough Allen side.”
I boldly stepped up to her and I gave her a kiss,
She says, “Young man, be civil, oh what do you mean by this?”
The grass being mossy where we stood, her feet from her did glide,
And we both fell down together down by Lough Allen side.
Three times I kissed her ruby lips as we lay on the grass,
And coming to herself again twas then she cried, “Alas,
Now you have had you will with me make me your lawful bride,
Don’t leave me here to mourn down by Lough Allen side.”
Says I “Fair maid, be easy and from mourning now refrain
And we will speak of marriage sure when I come back again.
And never let your courage fail no matter what betide
Until I see your face again down by Lough Allen side.”
So we kissed, shook hands and parted and from her I did steer,
I did not see her face again for over half a year.
Walking down those flowery dells my love I chanced to spy,
She was scarcely able for to walk down by Lough Allen side.
I seemed to take no notice but continued on my way
But as I turned my head around she desired for to stay.
The tears like crystal fountains and they down her cheeks did slide
Saying, “Don’t forget the fall you gave down by Lough Allen side.
Here’s sixty pounds in ready gold my father will provide
And forty acres of good land down by Lough Allen side.”
“Fair maid, your offer it is good and I do like it well,
But I’m already promised, and the truth to you I’ll tell.
Unto another fair maid that I mean to make my bride,
She’s a wealthy grazier’s daughter down by Lough Allen side.”
“Oh since you will not marry me pray tell me your name,
That when my baby it is born I may call it the same.
My name is Captain Thunderbolt and the same I’ll never deny,
I have good men at my command on yonder mountainside.”
So we kissed, shook hands and parted and then she went her way,
And as I turned my head around these words I heard her say,
“This ought to be a warning now to all fair maids besides
To never trust a young man down by Lough Allen side.”