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Youghal Harbour

[ Roud 2734 ; Henry H503 ; Ballad Index HHH503 , RcYoHa02 ; Bodleian Roud 2734 ; Mudcat 5598 ; trad.]

Colm O Lochlainn: Irish Street Ballads Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

Robert Cinnamond sang Youghal Harbour to Sean O’Boyle, probably in Co. Antrim, in August 1955. This recording was included in 1975 on his Topic album of traditional ballads and songs from Ulster, You Rambling Boys of Pleasure. Proinsias Ó Conluain noted:

“Few of our national airs are better known than Youghal Harbour”, said Hardiman in his Irish Min­strelsy, 1831. Bunting in his 1796 volume published the tune under the title Maidin Fhomhair (On an Autumn Morning), and Dr. Donal O’Sullivan lists about a dozen printed variants in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, Vols. XXII-XXIII, 1926. Two versions of the words of Youghal Harbour are published in Old Irish Street Ballads, Vol. 1 (ed. James N. Healy, 1967). Of these the first (p.245) most closely corresponds to that sung by Robert Cinnamond. Robert’s ending, however, is less sexually specific and less cynical.

Eddie Butcher of Magilligan, Co. Derry, sang Youghal Harbour in a 1961 recording maade by Hugh Shields that was included in 1976 on his Leader album Shamrock Rose & Thistle. Hugh Shields noted:

1961. Verse 1 i-iv form part of an adaptation of the Gaelic song Eochaill. Such an adaptation is already found in a Paisley chapbook of 1812; many broadside texts appeared under the title Youghal Harbour and the air became well known. Cf. Henry no. 503 and BBC RPL 23840 (Antrim). Vv. 3-5 form part of Young Reilly, or Reilly From the County Cavan, Henry no. 826, obtained in 1939 (Antrim). It is noteworthy that the internal assonances observable in 1-2 (harbour; morning; darling etc.) are absent from 3-5. 5 1, brimy: ‘briny’.

Air hexatonic, omitting the seventh degree (except in iii, unstressed). E. sings other songs—Nancy’s Whisky, The Weary Gallows, and on one occasion The Mountain Streams—to this air.


Eddie Butcher sings Youghal Harbour

Oh, Youghal harbour on a summer’s morning,
I met my darling upon the way;
The sun was shining, she looked so charming
I stopped a while and she thus did say:
“Oh, Jamie, Jamie, are you going to leave me
Or are you going where bullets fly?
A handsome youth and my dearest jewel,
I love you well and I can’t deny.”

“Oh Nancy darling, was I to marry you
What would your false-hearted parents say?
That they reared a daughter with such a fortune
And carelesslie she threw herself away!
Before that I would live at variance
All with your parents and brothers too –
It was them that banished you far from my arms –
Unto your charms I’ll now bid adieu.”

As I walked up through the county Cavan
To view the sweet and the bonds of love
Who did I spy but a charming fair maid,
She appeared to me like a turtle dove.
I stepped up to her and fondlie asked her
Would she consent to be a dragoon’s wife;
With modest blushes she thus made answer:
“Kind sir, I mean to lead a single life.

“Had I a-married, I might been married,
I could been married many’s a year ago
To a man named Reilly lived in this country,
It was him that caused my sad overthrow.”
“Don’t depend on Reilly for he’ll deceive you
But come with me unto yon Irish shore
Where we’ll sail over to Pennsylvania,
Bid adieu to Reilly for ever more.”

“Was I to sail on yon brimy ocean,
The winds to blow and the seas to roar,
I thought my very heart would ha’ split asunder
When I thought on Reilly that I left on shore.
But youth and folly makes fair maids marry
And when they’re married then they must obey;
What can’t be cured must be endured,
So farewell, darling, for I’m away.”