> The Watersons > Songs > Barney

My Johnny / Barney

[ Roud 1422 ; Henry H7 ; Ballad Index HHH007 ; trad.]

Cecilia Costello of Birmingham sang My Johnny an a BBC recording made my Marie Slocombe and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw on November 30, 1951. This recording was included in 1975 on her Leader album Cecilia Costello and, together with a second recording made by Peter Kennedy on August 11, 1951, in 2014 on her Musical Traditions anthology Old Fashioned Songs. Rod Stradling commented in the latter's booklet:

Not a song much found in the oral tradition, with only 25 Roud entries—although my parents’ generation knew it well as My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean, with its “Bring back, bring back” chorus. This certainly didn’t have the fine aeolian tune Mrs Costello uses here, though her text has more than a hint of Victorian sentimentality. It was known in England and the USA, and Charles Demspey, from Derry, is mentioned as the only Irish singer. The only other recorded version is by Chris Bouchillon of Atlanta, Georgia (Old Hat CD 1005), who tags a parody verse and chorus onto the end of his talking blues, Born in Hard Luck.

Hedy West sang Blow Ye Gently Winds in 1966 on her Topic album Pretty Saro and Other Appalachian Ballads. It was also included in 2011 on her Fellside anthology Ballads & Songs from the Appalachians. She commented in the original album's notes:

Blow Ye Gentle Winds could be a commercial product of full-time or part-time professional musicians in the early country music business. I’ve only heard it from Grandma, and she doesn’t remember where it came from. Perhaps from a phonograph record or from the radio. Since the 1920s phonograph records realised large sales in rural America, and had a strong impact on native music. There’s a cartoon of a typical caricature mountaineer, scrawny and barefooted, saying to a folk song collector: “I learnt that one from my pappy. He had all the records.”

Lal and Norma Waterson sang Barney in 1975 on the Watersons' album For Pence and Spicy Ale. It was also included in 2004 on the Watersons' 4CD anthology Mighty River of Song. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A stage song favoured by Irish comedians from the 1860s on. During the 1880s, apparently on American University campuses, close harmony groups remade it in to the better-known—and even more preposterous—My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean. The Watersons had this from Bob Davenport who learnt it from a Frank Quinn (78).

Anni Fentiman sang My Johnny in 1996 on her and Dave Webber's album Bonnet & Shawl. They credit their version to the recordings of Cecilia Costello.

Vic Shepherd and Lizzie Bowden sang Deep Blue Sea in 2015 on Vic's and John Bowden's Hallamshire Traditions CD Still Waters. They noted:

Vic learned this song many years ago from the singing of Cecilia Costello. Mrs Costello was born in Birmingham of Irish parents who had fled the famine in Ireland, and much of her repertoire reflects her Irish roots, albeit delivered in a broad Brummie accent! Although she had a relatively small repertoire of only seventeen songs, they included four Child ballads. among them the rare The Lover's Ghost (Child 248), which Mrs Costello called The Grey Cock, and which was included in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs.

We like this interesting variation of the Bring Bock My Bonnie family. which succinctly describes the hopes and fears of a young woman hoping her lover will return in one piece from the seas.

Lyrics

Cecilia Costello sings My Johnny The Watersons sing Barney

He's gone, I am now sad and lonely
He's left me to cross the deep sea
I know that he thinks of me only
And will soon be returning to me.
My eyes they are filled with devotion
For my husband he said he would be
Blow gently the winds on the ocean
And send back my Johnny to me.

Oh he's gone and I'm now sad and lonely
He has left me to cross the blue sea
But I know that he thinks of me only
And he'll soon be returning to me
His eyes they were filled with devotion
As my husband he said he would be
Blow gently ye winds of the ocean
And bring back my Barney to me

Each night as I lie on my pillow
My bosom it heaves with a sigh
I think of each angery pillow
And I'm watching the clouds in the sky.
Some say that my love is returning
To his own native country and me
So blow gently the winds on the ocean
And send back my Johnny to me.

If at night as I lay on my pillow
The wild winds they mourn and they sigh
And I think of each angery billow
And I watch every cloud o'er the sky
My bosom is filled with emotion
As I see my love over the sea
Blow gently ye winds of the ocean
And bring back my Barney to me

He's gone for his fortune to better
I know that he's gone for my sake
I'll soon be receiving a letter
Or else my poor heart it will break.
Some say that my love is returning
To his own native country and me
So blow gently the winds on the ocean
And send back my Johnny to me.

He has left me his fortune to better
And I know that he left for my sake
Soon I'll be receiving a letter
If not, sure my poor heart will break
For to think that he'll soon be returning
To his beauteous dear island and me
Blow gently ye winds of the ocean
And bring back my Barney to me

Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
Last night as I lay on my pillow
I dreamed my poor Barney was dead
My bosom is filled with emotion
As I see my love over the sea
Blow gently ye winds of the ocean
And bring back my Barney to me

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard.