> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Irish Girl

The Irish Girl / As I Walked Out / Let the Wind Blow High or Low

[ Roud 308 ; G/D 5:946 ; Ballad Index HHH711 ; Bodleian Roud 308 ; Wiltshire Roud 308 ; trad.]

Shirley Collins recorded The Irish Girl in London in 1958/59 for her 1959/60 Collector EP English Songs. This track was also included in 2002 on her Fledg'ling anthology Within Sound.

Lemmie Brazil sang The Irish Girl to Peter Shepheard in her caravan at Walham Tump, Gloucestershire, on September 29, 1967. This recording was included in 2007 on the Brazil Family's Musical Traditions anthology, Down By the Old Riverside. The accompanying booklet commented:

Although Roud's 138 entries span the world, the great majority are from England, despite the word ‘Irish’ in so many of the titles. Indeed, given that the song is little more than a collection of floating verses, it's surprising that The Irish Girl is so universal as a title; the more obvious Let the Wind Blow High or Low being used in only three cases. Lemmie's text here is strikingly similar to that sung by James McDermott to Keith Summers in Co Fermanagh, and known to him as The Blue Cuckoo.

Sarah Makem sang I Wish My Love Was a Red Red Rose in 1968 to Michael O'Donnell. This recording was included in 2011 on her Musical Traditions anthology As I Roved Out. Rod Stradling commented in the accompanying booklet:

A well-known song which is usually called The Irish Girl or Let the Wind Blow High or Low. Though, as it's little more than a collection of floating verses, it's difficult to know for sure what is and what isn't the same song. Versions were widely printed on broadsides and in books. Roud has 157 instances, though most of these are English. The 12 named Irish singers include James McDermott, Robert Cinnamond, Paddy Doran, Win Ryan, Mikeen McCarthy and Mary Connors.

Bob Copper sang As I Walked Out in 1971 on the Copper Family's Leader anthology, A Song for Every Season. He recorded it again as Irish Girl in 1995 for their CD Coppersongs 2. And the Young Coppers sang The Irish Girl in 2008 on their CD Passing Out.

Walter Pardon sang Let the Wind Blow High or Low to Bill Leader and Peter Bellamy in his home in Knapton, Norfolk, on May 11, 1974. This track was released on his 1975 Leader album A Proper Sort and was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs of love and amorous encounters, Who's That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Volume 10).

Levi Smith sang The Irish Girl to Mike Yates in 1975/76. This recording was released in 1977 on the Topic anthology of gypsy singers, The Travelling Songster.

When John Pitts printed this song in the first decade of the 19th century he called it The New Irish Girl. It may be that there was an earlier song titled The Irish Girl although l suspect that the title really refers to the fact that Pitts—or somebody now unknown—had created a ‘new’ song using already existing lines and verses. Fifty years later when Henry Parker Such issued the song—using the same title—he added a number of additional verses that were also taken from established songs. Interestingly, though, Levy‘s short fragment is nearer to the Pitts sheet than to the later sheet that Such issued.

Bill Smith sang two floating verses of The Irish Girl in May 1982 to his son Andrew Smith. This recording was included in 2011 on his Musical Traditions anthology A Country Life: Songs and Stories of a Shropshire Man.

Maz O'Connor sang Red, Red Rose in 2012 on her Demon Barber Sound CD Upon a Stranger Shore. The liner notes commented:

This is a patchwork song made up of two verses from the traditional The New Irish Girl and a verse of Maz's about tea.

Andy Turner learned As I Walked Out from Bob Copper's and Walter Pardon's albums. He sang it as the May 10, 2014 entry of his blog A Folk Song a Week.

Fran Foote sang The Irish Girl on Stick in the Wheel's 2017 anthology of English folk field recordings, From Here.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings The Irish Girl

As I rode out one morning down by the riverside,
I cast my eyes around me, and the Irish girl I spied.
Her cheeks were red and rosy and curling was her hair,
How costly were the jewels that the Irish girl did wear.

Yes, as I rode out that morning, my true love passing by,
I knew her love was changing by the roving of her eye.
By the roving of her eye, by the roving of her eye,
I knew her love was changing by the roving of her eye.

Oh say, don't you remember, love, when you gave me our right hand?
You vowed if you ever married that I would be the man.
That I would be the man, that I would be the man,
You said if you ever married that I would be the man.

I wish I was in London or in some sea-port town,
I'd set my foot on yonder ship and I'd sail the ocean round.
I'll sailing on the deep, my love, I'll sailing on the deep,
I'll think on handsome married just as I go to sea.

Lemmie Brazil sings The Irish Girl

As I walked out one morning clear, it was in the summer time,
I gazed all right round me, and an Irish girl I spied.
Red and rosy was her cheek and coal black was her hair,
And scorsely was the old robes of gold that the Irish girl did wear.

Oh I wish I was in old Dublin town a-sittin on the grass,
With a bottle o whisky in my hand and on my knee a lass;
I'd call for liquors merrily, I'd pay before I go,
Sure I'd roll my lass upon the grass; let the wind blow high or low.

I wish my love was a red, red rose that in the garden grows,
And if I was a gardener along with my love renewn; [or, I'd go]
And every month all through the year 'long with my love renewn,
I'd sit and sing for you Polly, for once I loved you true.

I wish I was a butterfly, I'd set on my love's breast,
And if I was a linnet I would sing my love to rest;
And if I was a nightingale, I'd sing the mornings clear,
I'd sit and sing for you Polly, for once I loved you dear.

Oh her shoes was made of the best Spanish leather and neatly being tied,
The tears rolled down her rosy cheek, until she began to cry;
“Where are you going Johnny,” cried she, “Give to me your grá mo chroí.
How can you go a-roamin' to slight your dear Polly?”

Sarah Makem sings I Wish My Love Was a Red Red Rose

I wish my love was a red red rose blowin' in yon garden fair
And me to be the gardener of her I would take care
There's not a month throughout the year but my love I'd renew
I'd garnish her with flowers fine, sweet William, thyme and rue.

I wish I was a butterfly, I'd light on my love's breast
And if I was a blue cuckoo I'd sing my love to rest
And if I was a nightingale I'd sing 'til daylight clear
I'd sit and sing for you, Molly, for once I loved you dear.

I wish I was in Dublin and sitting on the grass
In my right hand a jug of punch and on my knee a lass
I'd call for liquor freely and I'd pay before I'd go
And I'd roll her in my arms, let the wind blow high or low.

Bob Copper sings As I Walked Out

As I walked out one May morning down by a riverside
I gazed all around me when an Irish girl I spied.
So red and rosy were her cheeks and coal black was her hair
And costly was the robe of gold this Irish girl did wear.

Her shoes were made of Spanish leather, all sprinkled o'er with dew,
She wrung her hands, she tore her hair crying, “Oh, what shall I do?
“I'm a-going home, I'm a-going home, I'm a-going home,” said she,
How can I go a-roving and slight my own Johnny?”

I wish I was a butterfly, I would fly to my love's breast,
And if I were a linnet I would sing my love to rest,
And if I was a nightingale I would sing till the morning clear,
I'd sit and sing to you, Polly, for once I loved you dear.

I wish I was a red rose bud that in the garden grew
And if I was that gardener to my love I would prove true.
There is not one month throughout the year of what my love I would renew,
With flowers three I would garnish thee, sweet william, thyme and rue.

I wish I was in Dublin town a-romping on the grass
With a bottle of whiskey in my hand and on my knee a lass.
I would call for liquor merrily, I would spend my money free,
With a rant and a roar all along the shore let the winds blow high or low.

One night as I lay on my bed so sick and bad was I
I called for a napkin all around my head to tie.
But there's many more as bad as me so why should I complain,
For love it is a funny thing, did you ever feel the pain?

Walter Pardon sings Let the Wind Blow High or Low

One night when I was walking down by the riverside,
Gazing all around me when an Irish girl I spied.
Red and rosy were here cheeks, lovely coal black was her hair;
Costly were those lovely robes this Irish girl did wear.

Her shoes were black, her stockings white, all sprinkled with dew.
She wrung her hands and tore her hair and cried, “Alas, what shall I do?
I'm going home, I'm going home, I'm going home,” said she,
“O would you go a-roving to slight your own Polly?”

The very last time I saw my love, he seemed to be in pain,
With heartfelt grief and chilling woe, his heart it seemed near broke in twain.
There's many a man more true than he, so why should I e'er complain—
Love it is a killing thing; did you ever feel the pain?

I wish I were a butterfly, I would fly to my true love's breast.
I wish I were a linnet, I would sing my love to rest.
I wish I were a nightingale, I would sing to the morning clear.
I'll sit and sing for you, Polly, the girl I love so dear.

I wish my love were a red rose bud who in the garden grew,
And I to be the gardener; to her I ever would prove true.
There's not a month in all the year but my love I would renew,
The lilies I would garnish, sweet William, thyme and rue

I wish I were in Manchester, a-sitting on the grass,
With a bottle of whisky in my hand and upon my knee a lass.
I'd call for liquor merrily and I would pay before I go,
I'll roll my lass all on the grass, let the wind blow high or low.

Levi Smith sings The Irish Girl

1 For I wish I was in old Dublin Town for a-sitting on the grass
With a bottle of whisky in my hand and on my knee a lass.
We would call for pints of liquor-y for we’ll pay before we go,
How can I go and leave her for to slight my pretty Polly.

Now my pretty Polly have a pair of shoes for the tops are painted green
For if I was a nightingale for I’ll sing from mom to night
But it must have been that Spain(ish) girl For my darling (short?) of will.

I’m a-going home, l’m going home, for I’m going home quite sure.
With a bottle of whisky in my hand, for and on my knee a lass,
But I‘ll roll my lass all on the grass, let the wind blow high and low.

Bill Smith sings The Irish Girl

I wish my love was a red rose bud and in the garden grew
And I to be the gardener to her I would be true.
There's not a month throughout the year my love I would renew,
I'd roll her in mine arms once more, let the wind blow high or low.

I wish I was in Manchester, all seated on the grass,
With a bottle of whisky in my hand and on my knee a lass.
I'd call for liquors merrily and pay before they go,
I'd sit and sing to my old thing, let the wind blow high or low.