> Peter Bellamy > Songs > Peggy Bawn

Peggy Band / Peggy Bawn

[ Roud 661 ; Master title: Peggy Band ; Ballad Index OLcM005 ; Bodleian Roud 661 ; trad.]

This Irish song of unrequited love—and with the narrator something of a cad—is known as Peggy Bawn, Peggy Bann, Peggy Benn, or Peggy Band, meaning simply fair-haired Peggy. It has nothing to to with the mistaken-for-a-swan Polly Vaughan / Molly Bawn.

According to Lesley Nelson-Burns' Contemplator website, Peggy Bawn was printed in Vocal Companion (1796), where it was dated around 1772, and afterwards appeared in many collections. The tune is from J.L. Hatton and J.L. Molloy, Songs of Ireland (ca. 1879) and is listed there as “an old melody”.

Peter Bellamy recorded Peggy Bawn, accompanied on concertina, in 1974 for The First Folk Review Record. This track was included in 1999 on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes and in 2001 on the Fellside CD reissue of Keep on Kipling. The original album's liner notes said:

An obviously Irish tune collected in Norfolk by Peter Bellamy from the singing of Walter Pardon; how it got there is anyone's guess. Words and music were published in Folk Review, August 1974, and are copyrighted by Walter Pardon.

… which makes me wonder how a traditional song and tune can be copyrighted by a third party.

Walter Pardon himself sang Peggy Bawn at home in Knapton, Norfolk on 24 June 1978, recorded by Mike Yates and published on his 1982 Topic LP A Country Life. This track was also included as Peggy Benn on the Topic anthology Come Let Us Buy the Licence (The Voice of the People Volume 1; 1998). Mike Yates noted on the original album:

The song Peggy Bawn was probably first printed in a Belfast chapbook that bears the date 1764, although no printer's imprint is shown. In 1788 William Shield included it in his opera Marian.

The song later appeared in several Irish collections and Colm Ó Lochlainn notes that it was “once very popular in Northern Ireland and among the Irish in Scotland.” Several English broadside printers also included the song among their wares usually calling it Peggy Band. When I asked Walter why he used the spelling “Bawn” (rather than, say, “Bann”) he told me that, during the war, a visiting Irishman hat spelt it thus when he had queried the point with him.

Ross Kennedy sang Peggy Bann in 2007 on his Greentrax CD Scottish Voice and Acoustic Guitar. He noted:

Peggy Bann is a well known tale of the handsome stranger turning up on a stormy night looking for lodgings, after he is welcomed in he seduces the daughter who falls in love with him and then in the morning he is offered her hand in marriage, as well as a nice dowry and a piece of land from her father. A bit of wishful thinking on the unknown composers behalf I think.

Jon Boden sang this song as Peggy Bann as the 4 January 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Bernie Cherry learned Peggy Benn from the singing of Walter Pardon. His version can be found on his 2013 Musical Traditions anthology With Powder, Shot and Gun. Rod Stradling noted in the album's booklet:

This song is something of a mystery because, although the text appears to be Scottish, it was probably first printed in a Belfast chapbook that bears the date 1764, although no printer's imprint is shown. It was published, without music, in the Scottish Vocal Companion dated around 1772, and in The Scots Musical Museum (1787-1802). This tune is found in The Songs of Ireland and is listed there as “an old melody”. The song thereafter appears in many collections, and in 1788 William Shield included it in his opera Marian. The song later appeared in several Irish collections and Colm Ó Lochlainn notes that it was “once very popular in Northern Ireland and among the Irish in Scotland”. However, none of Roud's 64 entries are from Scotland and only two are from Ireland!

There are several variations in the spelling of Bawn (presumably from the Gaelic bán = fair or white), Peggy Band, Peggy Ban, Peggy Baun, Peggy Bawne or Fair Peggy—Walter Pardon is the only listed singer to call her Peggy Benn.

Only two singers seem to have been recorded singing this song; Hugh Shields collected it from Margaret Byrne, in Donegal in 1968, and several people recorded Walter Pardon singing it, an example of which can still be heard on TSCD651.

Bernie: As soon as I heard Walter Pardon sing this I knew it was for me.

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Peggy Bawn

As I wandered over Highland hills to a farmer's house I came;
The night being dark and something wet, I ventured in the same,
Where I was kindly treated, and a pretty girl I spied,
Who asked me if I had a wife but marriage I denied.

So I courted her all that long even till near the dawn next day,
When frankly unto me she said, “Along with you I'll go.
For Ireland is a fine country and you to the Scots are kin.
Oh I will go along with you, my fortune to begin.”

And daybreak being nearly come I into the house was ta'en;
Where the good man kindly asked me if I would wed his daughter Jane.
“One hundred pound I'll give to you, likewise a piece of land.”
But scarcely had he said them words when I thought of Peggy Bawn.

“Well your offer, sir, it is very good, and I thank you, too”, said I,
“But I cannot be your son-in-law, I'll tell you the reason why:
My business calleth me in haste, i am king's messenger bound,
Oh I cannot be your son-in-law, till I've seen the Irish ground.”

And Peggy Bawn, she is my jewel, my heart lies in her breast.
Although we at a distance are, still I do love her the best.
Although we at a distance are, and seas between us roar,
Yet I'll be constant to Peggy Bawn, so adieu for ever more.

Walter Pardon sings Peggy Bawn

As I rambled over Highland hills, to a farmer's house I came.
The night being dark and something wet, I ventured in the same;
Where I was kindly treated and a pretty girl I spied,
Who asked me if I had a wife, but marriage I denied.

I courted her all that long eve, until near the dawn next day.
When frankly unto me she said, “Straight along with you I'll go,
For Ireland is a fine country and you to the Scots are kin,
So I will go along with you, my fortune to begin.”

The day-break being nearly come, I into the house was ta‘en.
When the good man kindly asked me if would wed his daughter Jane.
“One hundred pounds I will give to you, beside, a piece of land.”
But scarcely had he spoke the words, when I thought of Peggy Bawn.

“Your offer, sir, is very good, and I thank you too,” said I;
“But I cannot be your son-in-law and I'll tell you the reason why:
My business calleth me in haste, I am the King's messenger bound.
I cannot be your son-in-law until I've seen the Irish ground.”

Oh, Peggy Bawn thou art my jewel and thy heart lies in my breast.
Although we at a distance are, still I will love thee the best.
Although we at a distance are, and the seas between us roar,
Yet I'll be constant Peggy Bawn, and adieu for ever more.

Ross Kennedy sings Pegga Bann

As I rambled o'er highland hills tae a farmer's house I came,
The nicht being dark and something wet I ventured in the same.
There I was kindly treated and a pretty girl I spied,
She asked me if I had a wife but marriage I denied.

I courted her the lang lang nicht till near the break o' dawn next day
When frankly unto me she said, “Alang wie ye I'll gae,
For Irelands a fine country and tae us Scots are kin,
An I will gang alang wie ye my fortune tae begin.”

The daybreak being nearly come I unto a house was ta'en
When the guidman kindly asked if I wid wad his dochter Jane.
“One hundred pounds in Scots I'll gie, likewise a piece of land.”
But scarcely had he spoke these words when I tbocht o' Peggy Bann.

“Your offer sir is very kind and I thank you too,” says I,
“But I can not be your son in law for I'll tell ye the reason why:
Business calls me in great haste, for tae see the king I'm bound.
And I can not be your son in law till I've seen Irish ground.”

Oh Peggy Bann, though art my jewel, thy heart lies in my breast,
An though we at a distance are it is thee that I love best.
And though we at a distance are an the sea's between us roar,
Yet I'll be constant Peggy dear and adieu for ever more.

Bernie Cherrie sings Pegga Benn

As I rambled over Highlands hills to a farmer's house I came.
The night being dark and something wet I entered in the same
Where I was kindly treated and a pretty girl I spied
She asked me if I had a wife, but marriage I denied.

I courted her all that long evening ‘til near the dawn next day
When frankly then she said to me, “Along with you I'll go
For Ireland is a fine country, and you to the Scots are kin
So I will go along with you, my fortune to begin.”

Now the daylight being nearly come unto the house I was taken
Where the good man kindly asked me would I wed his daughter, Jane?
“One hundred pounds I will give you besides a piece of land.”
But scarcely had he said the word when I thought of Peggy Benn.

“Your offer it is very good and I thank you sir, said I
But I cannot be your son in law and I'll tell you the reason why
My business calls me in haste, I am the king's messenger bound
And I cannot be your son in law ‘til I've seen the Irish ground.”

Oh Peggy Benn thou art my jewel and your heart lies in my breast
And though we at a distance are I will love you the best
And though we are at distance are and the seas between us roar
Yet I'll be constant, Peggy Benn, and I drift for ever more.