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The Bonny Irish Boy

[ Roud 565 ; Laws P26 ; G/D 6:1080 ; Henry H168 ; Ballad Index LP26 ; Bodleian Roud 565 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins sang The Bonny Irish Boy in 1959 on her first LP Sweet England. The album notes comment:

One of the many songs showing the recent influence of the Irish on Southern England. Shirley Collins says the learnt in from an Irish bus conductor. The words are from Kidson's Traditional Tunes [1891] and the tune is traditional.

And Frank Kidson noted in his book:

The Bonny Irish Boy is from the singing of a Scotch girl. The words are also found on a ballad sheet. I have not thought it worth while to reprint the whole of the verses.

Cecilia Costello sang My Bonny Irish Boy in 1967 to Pam Bishop and Charles Parker. This recording was included in 2000 on her Musical Traditions anthology Old Fashioned Songs. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

Roud has 102 instances of this song, but 47 of these are broadside printings, and so give no indication of where the song was found. Of the named places, rather surprisingly, most of them are in Scotland—with only 11 from Ireland and 3 from England. Of the 21 sound recordings, few appear to have been published, and none are available on CD.

John Maguire of Tonaydrumallard, Co Fermanagh, sang The Bonny Irish Boy in 1970 to Robin Morton. This recording was included in 1973 on his Leader album Come Day, Go Day, God Send Sunday.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings The Bonny Irish Boy

When first that I was courted by a bonny Irish boy
He called me his jewel, his heart's delight and joy.
It was in Dublin City, that place of note and fame,
When first my bonny Irish boy a-courting to me came.

His cheeks like the roses, his hair it is light brown,
His locks in ringlets shining o'er his shoulders all hung down;
His teeth were white like ivory, his eyes as black as sloes,
He breaks the hearts of all the girls wherever that he goes.

Long time I kept his company in hopes to be his bride,
But now he's gone and left me for to cross the raging tide.
I'm afraid some other fair girl my true love will enjoy
And leave me here lamenting for my bonny Irish boy.

Cecilia Costello sings My Bonny Irish Boy

When first I was courted by a bonny Irish boy,
Called me his jewel, his heart’s delight and joy.
It was down in Dublin city, oh a town of great fame.
When first my bonny Irish boy a-courting to me came.

Oh, the green fields were ? and the meadows fresh and gay,
Where me and my bonny Irish boy we used to sport and play.
The birds they sweetly whistled and the lambs they did skip round.
Oh, the voice of my Irish boy is nowhere to be found.

Now a long time my love courted me and he promised me to wed.
In a short time after he broke the vows he’d said.
So, maidens, do not blame me, for I can not forebear,
For the love of that Irish boy I vow and do declare.

Now a long time my love courted me, and now he’s took his flight.
I’ll bundle up my clothing and I’ll follow him by night.
When I arrived in London, oh, fair London town,
Oh, I was told my love got married to a Lady of high renown.
Spoken: It drove her mad.

So now I’ll rattle off every chain on a bed of straw I’ll lay.
It is loudly I called out for my bonny Irish boy.
I am here in close confinement, with no hopes of liberty,
Until my bonny Irish boy returns safe home to me.