> Frankie Armstrong > Songs > The May Morning Dew

The May Morning Dew

[ Roud 5405 ; Ballad Index DTmaymor ; trad.]

Annie Jane Kelly sang The May Morning Dew on July 14, 1952 in Kead, Co Armagh, to Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle. This recording was included in 2011 on Sarah Makem's Musical Traditions anthology As I Roved Out. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

This song, evoking old age and the passing of time, while being very popular in West Clare, does not seem to have been recorded from traditional singers very often elsewhere; the only other version listed by Roud being from Paddy Tunney of Beleek, Co Fermanagh, in 1965. Paddy also collected it from Mandy Gallagher, of Tullagh.

John Lyons sang The May Morning Dew in 1974 as the title track of his Topic album The May Morning Dew. A.L. Lloyd and Sandra Kerr commented in the sleeve notes:

A rather rare song, this one. As a rule, English and Anglo-Irish folk songs tend to be rather like short ballads, telling at least a bit of a story. True folk songs that are simply evocations of nature aren’t all that common in English, though they may be reasonably abundant in Gaelic. John Lyons got this one from Paddy Tunney, who has a great fancy for such handsome flowery pieces.

Pat Sheeran sang The May Morning Dew live in June 1976 at the festival Eurofolk '76 in Ingelheim, Germany.

Peta Webb sang The May Morning Dew in 1980 on her and Alison McMorland's eponymous Topic album Alison McMorland & Peta Webb. Their liner notes commented:

Peta has been influenced by the various styles of Irish singing […] The May Morning Dew from John Lyons has proved a great favourite in the Cork/Kerry area where it is said to originate.

Mike Taylor sang May Morning Dew in 1994 on Incantation's Cooking Vinyl CD Sergeant Early's Dream.

Maggie Holland sang The May Morning Dew in 1995 on her Rhiannon CD By Heart. She commented:

I've always had a soft spot for Irish emigration songs, but only recently discovered that two of my great grandparents were brought, as children, from Ireland to England because of the Great Famine. I'm not sure how I came to know of The May Morning Dew.

Joan Mills sang The May Morning Dew in 2000 on Frankie Armstrong's Fellside CD The Garden of Love. Brian Pearson commented in the album's liner notes:

Joan first heard this sung by one of her students and learnt it after reading about the remains of Welsh villages re-emerging from forests as the now mature trees were felled. The loss of place, family and friends caused by emigration and clearances is a theme common to Celtic histories. “Nowadays,” says Joan, “it's often urban expansion, airports and roads which destroy the places of our birth and roots. The M54 has covered every trace of my own family home in Shropshire, yet I still remember each childhood fishing pond, grassy bank and tree. In Wales there's a word for the feeling this song expresses so well: hiraeth, a deep sense of nostalgia and longing.”

Hector Gilchrist sang May Morning Dew in 2007 on his WildGoose CD Ingleneuk. He noted:

My time spent working and living in Ireland, has left me with a love of that country, the music of its people and also, a better understanding of its history. Ennis, Co. Clare artist, Phil Brennan, brings it all to life in his paintings, one of which, depicts this scene of an abandoned cottage in decay, slowly returning to the earth.

Robert Lawrence sang May Morning Dew in 2010 on his CD of Celtic folk songs, The Journey Home.

Ciarán Boyle sang The May Morning Dew in 2012 on his Hallamshire Traditions CD Bright Flame. He noted:

The May Morning Dew is again a song my father [Tommy Boyle] used to sing, and deals with the important issues of life. I fell it has a prayerful or meditative quality to it, which is rare in other songs of this type. Denny Bartley also did a great version in the early days of ‘Last Nights Fun’. So, between the two of these, and assisted by my Dad's song book, I developed this version…

Kris Drever sang May Morning Dew on his and Éamonn Coyne's 2013 CD Storymap. Their liner notes commented:

Éamonn heard the Moving Hearts' instrumental version of this close RTÉ Radio 2 each night at 01:50 a.m. for many years in the 80's when he should have been asleep. Kris got the song from the singing of Dolores Keane via Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley.

Lyrics

Annie Jane Kelly sings May Morning Dew

How sweet it is in yule times to sit by the hearth,
It's in winter when the dark clouds are crossing the earth.
In summer to wander the green meadows through
And the lark it will be rising on the May morning dew.

Oh it's summer is coming, oh, it's summer once more
Brings with it the soft sun and four motley birds
For the birds they'll be singing and the skies they'll be blue
And the flowers will be springing on the May morning dew.

For it's God be with old times that is faded and gone,
Likewise my two brothers, young Emmett and John.
For it's […] them where the wild hare 'tis viewed
And we'll mingle our tears on the May morning dew.

We will stand on the hill side and just gaze all around
Where all the kind people and its pleasure was found.
And all the kind neighbours which in new times I knew
Like the green fields are fading on the May morning dew.

On the home of our homesteads not a stone upon stone
For our gardens will blossom while the weeds they are growing.
For we'll curse the old tyrants which caused them to rue
And we'll fish the bright waters on the May morning dew.

Peta Webb sings May Morning Dew

How pleasant in winter to sit by the hob,
Listening to the bark and the howls of the dog,
Or in summer to wander the wide valleys through
And to pluck the wild flowers in the May morning dew.

Summer is coming, oh, summer is here
With the leaves all so green and the sky bright and clear.
And the birds they are singing their loved ones to woo
And the flowers they are springing in the May morning dew.

God be with the old folks who are now dead and gone
And likewise my brothers, young Michael and John,
As they tramped through the heather, the wild hare to pursue,
And their joys they would mingle in the May morning dew.

The house we were reared in is but a stone on a stone
And all around the garden with weeds is all grown.
And all the kind neighbours that ever I knew,
Like the wild rose they are withered in the May morning dew.

Mike Taylor sings May Morning Dew

How pleasant, in winter, to sit by the hob,
Listening to the barks and the howls of a dog,
Oh in summer to wander the wide valley through
And to pluck the wild flowers in the May morning dew.

Summer is coming, oh, summer is here
With the leaves on the trees and the sky blue and clear.
And the birds they are singing their their fond notes so true
And the flowers they are springing in the May morning dew.

The house I was reared in, there's not a stone on a stone
And all round the garden the weeds, they have grown.
And all the kind neighbours that ever I knew,
Like the red rose they've withered in the May morning dew.

God be with the old folks who are now dead and gone
And likewise my brothers, young Dennis and John,
As they tripped through the heather, the wild hare to pursue,
With their joys they were mingled in the May morning dew.

Joan Mills sings May Morning Dew

How pleasant in winter to sit by the hob,
Listening to the dogs as they howl and they bark,
Or in summer to wander the wide valleys through
Picking wild heather in the May morning dew.

Oh, summer is coming, oh, summer is here
And the leaves on the trees and the sky's bright and clear.
And the birds they are singing songs so sweet and so true
As I walk through the heather in the May morning dew.

I long for my old friends who are now long since gone,
Also my brothers, young Dennis and John,
As they ran through the meadows the wild hare to pursue
There's nothing left now but the heather in the May morning dew.

And the house I was born in now is nothing but stone
And all o'er the garden the weeds they have grown.
And all the kind neighbours that ever I knew,
Like the red rose they have faded in the May morning dew.

And how pleasant in winter to sit by the hob,
Listening to the dogs as they howl and they bark,
Or in summer to wander the sweet meadows through
Picking wild heather in the May morning dew.

Links

See also the Mudcat Café thread Lyr Req: The May Morning Dew (Chieftains).