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Origins: Isle of St Helena

GUEST,bradfordian 15 Aug 07 - 07:43 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 15 Aug 07 - 10:28 PM
Charley Noble 16 Aug 07 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 16 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM
Fred McCormick 16 Aug 07 - 01:51 PM
RTim 16 Aug 07 - 02:05 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Aug 07 - 03:37 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 16 Aug 07 - 04:15 PM
bradfordian 26 Aug 07 - 05:17 AM
Rowan 26 Aug 07 - 09:53 PM
Jim McLean 27 Aug 07 - 09:09 AM
Joe Offer 28 May 20 - 12:37 AM
GeoffLawes 28 May 20 - 04:35 AM
GeoffLawes 28 May 20 - 04:40 AM
GeoffLawes 28 May 20 - 05:33 PM
Lighter 28 May 20 - 05:55 PM
GUEST,JeffB 29 May 20 - 01:03 PM
Reinhard 29 May 20 - 01:16 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 29 May 20 - 01:40 PM
Lighter 29 May 20 - 02:34 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 29 May 20 - 03:01 PM
Lighter 29 May 20 - 03:19 PM
GUEST,JeffB 29 May 20 - 05:51 PM
Lighter 29 May 20 - 06:23 PM
GUEST,JeffB 29 May 20 - 07:46 PM
Lighter 29 May 20 - 08:14 PM
Brian Peters 30 May 20 - 06:29 AM
Brian Peters 30 May 20 - 06:40 AM
MartinNail 30 May 20 - 08:49 AM
Lighter 30 May 20 - 11:29 AM
GUEST,JeffB 31 May 20 - 09:27 AM
Brian Peters 31 May 20 - 02:09 PM
GUEST,JeffB 31 May 20 - 04:34 PM
MartinNail 02 Jun 20 - 06:35 AM
Brian Peters 02 Jun 20 - 07:18 AM
GUEST,JeffB 03 Jun 20 - 10:39 AM
Jim McLean 03 Jun 20 - 11:01 AM
Jim McLean 03 Jun 20 - 11:16 AM
Jim McLean 03 Jun 20 - 01:04 PM
Brian Peters 03 Jun 20 - 01:59 PM
Jim McLean 03 Jun 20 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,JeffB 04 Jun 20 - 07:59 PM
GUEST,Jim McLean 05 Jun 20 - 03:49 PM
Jim McLean 05 Jun 20 - 04:09 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 05 Jun 20 - 04:19 PM
Lighter 05 Jun 20 - 04:25 PM
Jim McLean 05 Jun 20 - 04:55 PM
JeffB 05 Jun 20 - 06:45 PM
Jim McLean 06 Jun 20 - 06:43 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 08 Jun 20 - 08:39 PM
JeffB 14 Jun 20 - 06:47 AM
Lighter 14 Jun 20 - 07:40 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 15 Jun 20 - 02:15 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 15 Jun 20 - 02:28 PM
Lighter 15 Jun 20 - 07:01 PM
JeffB 15 Jun 20 - 07:49 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 15 Jun 20 - 09:14 PM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 15 Jun 20 - 09:34 PM
Jim McLean 16 Jun 20 - 11:32 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 16 Jun 20 - 03:50 PM
MartinNail 19 Jun 20 - 12:38 PM
Jim McLean 19 Jun 20 - 06:08 PM
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Subject: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,bradfordian
Date: 15 Aug 07 - 07:43 PM

In the song (full words in thread here )who was Louise/Louisa?
Presumably, he moved on since divorcing Josephine.

"Louise as she weeps, from her husband is parted
And she dreams while she sleeps and awakes broken-hearted
There is none to console her, though there's many would be with her
While alone she does mourn when she thinks of St. Helena"

I sang the song and someone asked the question, and you sort of feel that you ought to know what you're singing about.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 15 Aug 07 - 10:28 PM

Maria Louisa, an Austrian princess; Napoleon's second wife.

See Remembering the Old Songs,
http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/RmOlSngs/RTOS-SaintHelena.html
See for more on the song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Charley Noble
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 08:57 AM

It's doubtful if Louise wasted many tears weeping for her exiled husband, but it's a nice verse. It was a political marriage which did produce the required heir.

Cheerily,
Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 12:00 PM

For me the origin of this fine song was Tip Tillet, a song informer for folklorist Frank Warner.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Fred McCormick
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 01:51 PM

Surely you mean Tink Tillet? Wanchese, North Carolina. In any event, the song is known in a great many versions which long predate the Frank Warner/Tink Tillet recording. EG., Gale Huntington (Songs the Whalemen Sang) reports 2 versions found in whaling ship's logs dating from the 1820s., I doubt Tink Tillet's version could be could considered an "original".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: RTim
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 02:05 PM

From Mudcat's own song list:

BONY ON THE ISLE OF ST. HELENA

Oh, Bony he has gone from his wars all a-fightin'
He has gone to the place where he takes no delight in.
And there he may sit down and tell the scenes that he's seen of
When full long doth he mourn on the Isle of St. Helena.

Oh, Louisy she weeps for her husband's departin'
She dreams when she sleeps and she wakes broken-hearted.
Not a friend to console her, even those who might be with her
For she mourns when she thinks on the Isle of St. Helena.

Oh the rude rushing waves all around the shores a-washin'
And the great billows heaves on the wild rocks are dashin'.
He may look to the moon o'er the great Mount Diana
With his eyes o'er the waves roll around St. Helena.

No more in St. Cloud he'll be seen in such splendor
Or go on with his wars like the great Alexander,
For the young king of Rome and the prince of Gehenna
They have caused him to die on the Isle of St. Helena.

O you Parliaments of England and you Holy Alliance
To a prisoner of war you may now bid defiance.
For his base intrudin' and his base misdemeanors
Have caused him to die on the Isle of St. Helena.

Come all you's got wealth, pray beware of ambition
For it's a degree of fate that may change your condition.
[Be's it best in time]* for what's to come you know not
For fear you may be changed like he on the Isle of St. Helena.

Collected by Frank and Anne Warner from C.K. (Tink) Tillett, 1940
* According to Jeff Warner, this phrase was (originally) [Be
steadfast in time]


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Subject: Lyr. Add: Bonaparte on St. Helena
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 03:37 PM

From Songs the Whalemen Sang:

Lyr. Add: BONAPARTE ON ST. HELENA

Bonaparte is gone
From his wars and his fightings
He has gone to a place
That he never took delight in
He may sit down and tell-o
What great sights he has seen-o
Yet alone he must mourn
On the Isle of St Helena

Where the (Magalene) clouds
Come forth in great splendor
They come forth in crowds
Like the great Alexander
He may sigh to the winds
On the great Mount Diana
Yet alone he must mourn
On the Isle of St Helena

Where the great white-top waves
On the rocks they are dashing
and proud foaming billows
On the shores they are washing
He may sigh to the winds
On the mount of Diana
Yet alone he must mourn
On the Isle of St Helena

Louisa she mourns
From her husband she is parted
And she dreams when she sleeps
And awakes broken hearted
There is none to console her
Though there's plenty would be with her
Yet alone she mourns
When she thinks on St Helena

Come all you that have great wealth
Now beware of ambition
Or by some degree or other
You might change your condition
Be steadfast in time-o
What is to come you can not tell-o
Or by chance you might end
On the Isle of St Helena

George 1829
Galaxy 1827
"Gale Huntington, 1964 (2005), "Songs the Whalemen Sang," pp. 205-207, with brief score. Mystic Seaport.
"The version in the George journal is slightly more complete than the Galaxy version. But both are garbled in places. A. L. Lloyd sent me a very nice version of the song collected in 1904 from one Henry Burstow of Sussex. That version is called "Boney's in St. Helena.""
Greanleaf pp. 168-169; "Napoleon the Exile".
JFSS vol. 2 pp. 88-90; "The Island of St. Helena."
JAF vol. 13 p. 140; vol. 35 pp. 358-359; "Bonaparte on St. Helena."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 16 Aug 07 - 04:15 PM

Lyr. Add: BONAPARTE ON ST. HELENA (2)

Bony, he is gone from the wars of all fighting,
He has gone to the place he never took delight in,
Oh, there he may sit down and tell the scenes he's seen, ah!
While forlorn he doth mourn on the Isle of St. Helena.

Louise does mourn for husband departed,
She dreams when she sleeps, and she wakes broken-hearted;
Not a friend to console her, even those that might be with her,
But she mourns when she thinks of the Isle of St. Helena.

Come all ye that have got wealth, pray beware of ambition,
For it is a decree in fate that might change your condition,
Be ye steadfast in time, for what is to come ye know not,
For fear you might be changed, like he, on the Isle of St. Helena.

The rude rushing waves all around the shores are washing,
And the great billows heave, and the wild rocks dashing,
He may look to the moon of the great Mount Diana,
With his eyes o'er the waves that around St. Helena. [surround?]

No more, in St. Clouds, he will be seen in such splendor,
Or go on, with his crowd, with the great Alexander
For the young king of Rome, and the Prince of Ganah,
Says he will bring his father home from the Isle of St. helena.

The Parliaments of England and your Holy Alliance,
To a prisoner of war you may now bid defiance,
For, your base intrigues and your baser misdemeanors
Have caused him to die on the Isle of St. Helena.

Song sheet, H. De Marsan, New York.
Bodleian, Ballads Catalogue: Harding B18(51); c. 1860.
A more coherent version, printed in the U. S.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: bradfordian
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 05:17 AM

Thanks for the info mudcatters. Sorry late in getting back here. Just for completeness, Reference here to Louise, where it says that Bony was exiled to the island of Elba from where he went walkabout.(or should that be sailabout?) It was on his second exile that he was sent to St Helena for another holiday (after working so hard!)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Rowan
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 09:53 PM

"it says that Bony was exiled to the island of Elba from where he went walkabout."

Leading to the old palindrome
Able was I ere I saw Elba

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 09:09 AM

There is a verse in Catnach's ballad-sheet version:

Since Anna she weeps for her husband departed,
She dreams when she sleeps, and she wakes broken-hearted,
Not a friend to console her, those that might, they will na,
She may mourn when she thinks of the Island of St. Helena.

So who was Anna?

Another verse, slightly different from those posted:

The rude rushing waves of our shores is a-washing,
And the great billows heave, on the wild rocks dashing,
He may look on the main, when he thinks on Lucanna,
With his heart full of woe in the Island of St. Helena.

Are these names all the same, Louise/Louisa/Anna/Lucanna?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 20 - 12:37 AM

IS THIS ONE DIFFERENT?

http://www.lizlyle.lofgrens.org/RmOlSngs/RTOS-SaintHelena.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 28 May 20 - 04:35 AM

Many performances on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGGUEe2Q2Eo Steve Turner
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqfFMg8BKxo Stuart Carolan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gBa0OI45u0 Nic Jones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZTL9wFZA9whttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyAoArimsMo Steve Evans
/mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=143601
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEVYB10bsjo Mary Black


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 28 May 20 - 04:40 AM


Also interesting and informative
https://mainlynorfolk.info/watersons/songs/bonaparteslament.html


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 28 May 20 - 05:33 PM


Another great performance of the song on YouTube - by Frank Harte
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyazcGH7qPE


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 28 May 20 - 05:55 PM

An "Old Farmer" wrote to the Republican Journal of Belfast, Maine, early in 1896 to reminisce about the area in the 1840s:

"The young people knew very few songs in those days, but many had good voices and perhaps could sing a verse or two. About all I can remember of the old-time songs are:

"Bonny [sic] is gone from the wars of all fighting,
He has gone to the place he never took delight in,
Ah, there he may sit down and tell the sights he saw, ah,
While forlorn he doth morn on the Isle of St. Helena.

"Louisa doth mourn for her husband departed,
She dreams when she sleeps and she wakes broken-hearted,
Not a friend to console, even those that night with her,
For she mourns when she thinks on the Isle of St. Helena.

"A few verses of the old songs, Banks of Brandywine, and The Constant Farmer's Son are [also] recalled."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 29 May 20 - 01:03 PM

Marie Louisa of Austria, Bonaparte's wife, is obvious, but what are the lines "the young King of Rome and the Prince of Gehenna have caused him to die on the Isle of St Helena" all about? I know the King of Rome was his son François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, who was only about 4 years old at the time of Waterloo, but does anyone have the least idea who the Prince of Gehenna might have been, or why they were supposed to be responsible for Bonaparte's exile and death?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Reinhard
Date: 29 May 20 - 01:16 PM

Remembering the Old Songs: Saint Helena says:

The "young king of Rome" is Napoleon's son. Young Napoleon (Napoleon II) did not take part in his father's overthrow, but his existence meant that the world was more afraid of Napoleon. The "prince of Gehenna" is the Devil.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 29 May 20 - 01:40 PM

I thought on hearing a recording years ago that the line was,

"The young King of Rome and the Prince of Vienna",

which would make straightforward historical sense (?Metternich), but maybe that's too obvious for a corrupt word to have been adopted instead.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 20 - 02:34 PM

"Prince of Gehenna" has a clear (well, pretty clear) literal meaning, but after 1812 Metternich really was a Prince - not of "Vienna" but of "Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 29 May 20 - 03:01 PM

Didn't know his precise "territorial designation", but had of course often read in general histories of his being "Prince Metternich". And the Congress of Vienna would be a familiar term in the news of the time. Nevertheless, the diabolical contrast to the Holy Alliance (familiar contemporary term!) is attractive. Haunting song, really.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 20 - 03:19 PM

This is the first rendition I heard, back during the Carter administration.

And it's still great! No! It's a classic!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHj5oXZyYiw


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 29 May 20 - 05:51 PM

Thanks for those ideas. I think Metternich is certainly a good candidate for being the Prince of Gehenna, and the connection with the Holy Alliance had not occurred to me.

Incidentally, I looked at Reinhard's link and have to disagree with Bob Waltz's claim that the song was originally Irish. The Bodleian Ballads website has many imprints of this song, and one of them names the author as J. Watt. I think this must be the Scottish writer James Watt, about whom I know nothing besides his name. Even Wiki hasn't any information.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 20 - 06:23 PM

I bet there were plenty of J. Watts in the UK in 1815, '16, or thereabouts.

The celebrated James Watt, inventor of the steam engine, died in 1819 at the age of 83.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 29 May 20 - 07:46 PM

Yes, several thousand J. Watts I imagine. But somewhere (no idea from where or when) I believe I heard of a James Watt who not only wrote verse but also did not invent steam engines.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 29 May 20 - 08:14 PM

> a James Watt who not only wrote verse but also did not invent steam engines.

Several thousand of them too, I'll wager,

But seriously, could you be thinking of the theologian, logician, and hymnist Isaac Watts, author of, e.g., "How doth the little busy bee/ Improve each shining hour?"

Probably not. He died in 1748.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 May 20 - 06:29 AM

I did some research on this song when Jeff Davis and I were putting together 'Sharp's Appalachian Harvest' - Sharp collected a slightly garbled text with a spectacular tune from Mrs Townsley and Mrs Wilson in Kentucky in 1917. All I can find of my background information is the following note, but I'm afraid I can't remember where I got it from:

Probably a composition by James Watt of Paisley, Scotland, sung to the tune ‘The Braes of Balquidder’. Appeared in ‘The Forget-me-Not Songster’, sold in America c 1835


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Brian Peters
Date: 30 May 20 - 06:40 AM

It's also in The Social Harp under the name 'Buonaparte'.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: MartinNail
Date: 30 May 20 - 08:49 AM

There are 67 entries in the Roud Broadside Index for this song. Most are from England, but about 10 are Scottish and 13 American. None are Irish, so I don't see the basis for saying it's probably Irish.

The earliest dated printing is from Scotland, a chapbook printed by J. Fraser of Stirling in 1817: https://digital.nls.uk/chapbooks-printed-in-scotland/archive/104186909.

Another Scottish printing is the one that attributes it to James Watt of Paisley: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/view/635ca286-d3a1-4d07-ac64-90d9fa72f626/. Whilst obviously one shouldn't necessarily take attributions like this at their face value, this one reads plausibly to me and the Poet's Box in Glasgow was near enough to Paisley(!).

However, the best summary of information about this song in in Pete Wood's "The green linnet: Napoloeonic songs from the French Wars to the present day" 2015.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 20 - 11:29 AM

"Old Farmer" mentioned The Forget-Me-Not Songster as the first songster he or any of his neighbors had seen, about 1840.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 31 May 20 - 09:27 AM

Thanks to all for those contributions. Glad that I wasn’t imagining James Watt, and if I had had the wit to look into The Green Linnet I would have found out the date of 1817 for myself. Probably that was where Watts got into my head. So, Fraser seems to have published the poem twice, on a broadside and in a chapbook (if Peter Wood is correct about the broadside and didn’t mean the chapbook). The chapbook doesn’t name a tune, and the date on the broadside referenced by Martin, which names both Watt and The Braes of Balquidder, is, sadly, illegible, although I suppose from the preface that it was printed nearly forty years later, during the Crimean War. The Braes of Balquidder was composed by 1810 (the year of Tannahill’s death) but it seems that it wasn’t published until the period between 1821 and 1824 (though of course, it was possibly current much earlier). But presumably The Isle of St Helena became a song in the early 1820s.

A couple of minor pedantic points - The Poet’s Box in Glasgow doesn’t have any direct connection to The Isle of St Helena as it started up in 1849. And Wood says that the song was published in Ireland, though only a couple of times.

The original poem had only five verses. I wonder who introduced the Prince of Gehenna into the song, or wrote the verse with the marvellously bitter line “on a prisoner of war you may now hurl defiance”. I would guess an Irish author.

For any future readers of this thread who do not have access to Peter Wood’s The Green Linnet, he also tells us that the lovely melody with which we are all familiar nowadays is not The Braes of Balquidder (which was the ancestor of the Wild Mountain Thyme tune). Wood says that “this tune was sent to Frank Kidson in 1892, as ‘sung by an old soldier in the streets of Dublin’. So, there is an Irish element to the song after all.” Our thanks to that old unknown soldier, and the lover of folk song who took the trouble to pass it on to Kidson.

Tracing the history of songs is an irrational hobby of mine so I am indeed grateful for this help.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Brian Peters
Date: 31 May 20 - 02:09 PM

"the lovely melody with which we are all familiar nowadays is not The Braes of Balquidder"

I'm not sure which 'lovely melody' you're referring to here, Jeff, but the tune Sharp got from Mrs Townsley, and that collected by the Warners from Tink Tillet (which is the one I'd have said was familiar), sound to me very like The Braes of Balquidder. I don't have access to the Pete Wood CD.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 31 May 20 - 04:34 PM

Hi Brian, the one I had in mind waas the one popularised by Frank Harte and Mary Black.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: MartinNail
Date: 02 Jun 20 - 06:35 AM

Jeff -- yes, Pete Wood does say that there were Irish boadsides, but unfortunately they don't seem to be in the Roud Broadside Index which is where I got my figures from.

The Poet's Box text is later, though as you say the date is illegible. I was only suggesting that they may have had some knowledge of local songwriters, even from thirty or forty years earlier.

I think that Pete Wood is mistaken in saying that the tune from the old Irish soldier was sent to Frank Kidson. The article in the Journal of the Folk Song Society is confusingly laid out but, although the notes on the song were written by Kidson, I think that in fact the song was sent by the collector, Mary Oulton, to Lucy Broadwood.

The Mainly Norfolk site mentioned above says that Mary Black learned the song from Steve Turner, who is quoted as having found the words in the John Rylands Library. That text doesn't seem to be online (nor is in the Roud Broadside Index), but it would be interesting to see. It doesn't say where Steve got the tune from but presumably it was the article in the Journal.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Brian Peters
Date: 02 Jun 20 - 07:18 AM

Martin, yes, the 'Old Soldier' tune does look like Steve's. The third line of it resembles Tink Tillet's, which is more like 'Braes of Balquidder'. Possibly 'Braes' got folk-processed somewhere up the line?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 10:39 AM

Thanks both for that additional info.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 11:01 AM

I have a printed music sheet dated 1810 of Tannahill's Braes O' Balquhither to the tune he set it to, The Three Carles o Buchannan. This is different to the 'normal' tune which Smith set it to in 1824.
I researched this about 12 years ago and found a similar, Scottish Gaelic tune called Brochan Buirn. Ms Gilchrist the musicologist said this was the tune her mother sang to The Braes and that it was different to the 'normal' melody.
It is very similar to 'The Island of St Helena'
John Moulden printed Hugh McWilliams 'The Lass Among the Heather' tune Saint Helena. It appeared in a collection of his poems in 1831.
The lyrics of this song were conflated with Tannahill's Braes by Jeannie Robertson but she called it the Braes and her melody, when all the ornamentation is stripped away is a close variant of 'The Three Carls o Buchannan.
I would suggest the St Helena tune is Tannahill's Three Carles and McWilliams poem, hence Jeannie Robertson, was sung to this tune which was used by "Bonnie's Awa" thus McWilliam gave his song tune title as St Helena.
This is a very short summary of my research.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 11:16 AM

You can find both Melodies to The Braes o Balquhither in R A Smith's Scotish(sic) Minstrel. The former in Vol 1 1821 and the latter indexed as the Three Carles o Buchannan, Vol lV 2nd edition. They are not the same. Smith set the Braes to his first tune but later printed it to Tannahill's original choice "The three Carls, which had already been printed in 1810 as a "New Scotch Song The Braes O' Balquhither.
(Publisher J. McFadyen, music seller No 30, Wilson Street Glasgow, engraved by Walker and Hutton who were in business between 1810 and 1814 only).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 01:04 PM

To summarise:

Robert Tannahill's set his poem to a melody he called "The Three Carls o' Buchannan", dated 1810 and printed soon after, between 1810 and 1814. It was a very popular song to have been printed in song sheet form with music soon after the Poet's death. There was no title for the melody although Tannahill's said his poem was to be sung to The Three Carls o Buchannan. I have a photo copy of Tannahill's letter to R A Smith.

Robert A Smith printed this tune in 1824, three years AFTER he printed The Braes to HIS tune in 1821 which is normally sung today.

Bonaparte was exiled on the Island of St Helena in 1815 so Tannahill's song would be well known along with the tune which was never titled until Smith Indexed as The Three Carles in 1824.

The Scottish words in 'the old soldier's' song suggest it could have been sung to a popular tune which was common then... and still is. It is not surprising therefore, looking at the content, the Bonaparte song melody could be given the title of "Island of St Helena".

Hugh McWilliams published a poem called "The Lass Among the Heather" in 1834 to a melody he suggested was St Helena., 20 years after Tannahill's popular song was written.

Tannahill's poem and McWilliam's were conflated as shown by Jeannie Robertson.
It's entirely possible that because the lyrics were conflated, the two melodies, Smith's and The Three Carles were also conflated hence some printings of "Buonaparte is afar from his war and his fighting.." Social Harp 1855, sound like a mixture of both tunes.

There was a lot of interchange between Paisley and Ireland in 1810 among weavers and Tannahill's was a weaver. Words and tunes were conflated due to the 'folk process' no doubt.

There are many songs with Ballymena or variations of this spelling in Greig/Duncan Collection which use similar lyrics to McWilliam's and Tannahill's but Greig/Duncan never picked up on McWilliam's which I found very strange. Most of the accompanying melodies are variants of the Three Carls tune.

As an aside neither melody has any similarity to McPeaks Wild Mountain Thyme, only the lyrics are taken from Tannahill's but the tune is entirely unique.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Brian Peters
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 01:59 PM

That's all very interesting, Jim. I must admit I was just going by a version of 'Braes' I found on Youtube.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 03 Jun 20 - 06:38 PM

The 1817 printing of Bonapart's Departure for the Isle of St Helena says the tune is The Braes o Balquidder and as the 'usual' tune wasn't written until 1821 by R A Smith then the 1817 tune must have been The three Carls o Buchannan as I have previously postulated (also in my dissertation of 2008).


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,JeffB
Date: 04 Jun 20 - 07:59 PM

Jim – Thanks very much indeed for your valuable research. Can I just clear up a few points?

Firstly, when you mention the ‘usual tune’, or ‘normal tune’ or ‘The Island of St Helena’, do you have in mind the one referenced above by Lighter (29 May), which is the one recorded by Mary Black and Frank Harte?

Second, is this tune the same as (or pretty close to) ‘The three carles o’ Buchanan’, which you say is itself close to ‘Brochan Buirn’.

Third, can you clarify some comments in your posts of 3 June. You first say that ‘The three carles o’ Buchanan’ is different from the ‘normal’ tune (Smith’s of 1824). You then quote Anne Gilchrist as saying that “this (‘Brochan Buirn’) was the tune her mother sang to (? Tannahill’s) The Braes, and that it was different from the ‘normal’ melody.” By “normal melody”, do you mean this time ‘The three carles o’ Buchanan’.

Your last post was - “The 1817 printing of 'Bonapart's Departure for the Isle of St Helena' says the tune is The Braes o Balquidder and as the 'usual' tune wasn't written until 1821 by R A Smith then the 1817 tune must have been The three Carls o Buchannan.” Are you saying that in 1821 Smith wrote the tune for the poem ‘The Braes o Balquidder’ and that this tune became the one sung by Mary Black & Frank Harte, “which is normally sung today”(for ‘Boney on St Helena’) ? But I thought this tune *was* (more or less) The three Carls o Buchannan.

Fourth, you say that Jeannie Robertson conflated the lyrics of ‘The lass among the heather’ by Hugh McWilliams with ‘The braes o’ Balquidder’ by Robert Tannahill. McWilliams intended it to be sung to “Saint Helena”. Can you be a bit more specific as to what this Saint Helena tune was? Jeannie called it ‘The Braes’ and sang it to the tune of ‘The three carles o’ Buchanan’. Is there anything in her song which connects to James Watt’s composition?

I take it that the tune to ‘The braes o’ Balquidder’ must be the this one www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOK3cAZCSoM


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: GUEST,Jim McLean
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 03:49 PM

Hi JeffB.
When I say the 'normal tune' I mean the one R A Smith put to Tannahill's words in ThE Scotish Minstrel 1821. This melody was printed continually throughout the 18/19th century and was first recorded by Alma Gluck in 1914 and is printed in Norman Buchans 101 Scottish Songs 1962.
Tannahill's set his lyrics to The Three Carls and the first printing of his lyrics to this tune was in 1810 as I posted.
These two melodies are different and Smith eventually printed the Three Carles tune in 1824.
The 1817 tune referred to as The Braes o Balquhidder had to be the three Carles tune as Smith's setting did not appear until 1921.
Brochan Buirn and the The Three Carles is the same melody and so is St Helena when it appears.
James Watts composition is a Bonapart song and the lyrics have nothing to do with The Braes except he says his lyrics should be sung to the 'current' tune associated with the Braes, which, as I pointed out has to be the Three Carles/Brochan Buirn which Anne Gilchrist said her mother sang it to. By the way, Watts was from Paisley as was Tannahill.
It makes sense then that the tune called St Helena is in fact The Three Carles and this can be heard quite clearly.
Because Tannahill's and McWilliam's lyrics were conflated, the tunes must also have been mixed together by the travelling people and again this can be heard in all the Ballymena versions in the Greig/Duncan collection.

To summarise: Mary Black sings the Bonapart song to the Three Carles Tune which Watt called The Braes o Balqhuidder and this is the tune McWilliams called St Helena.
The tune now sung for the Braes can be found in publications after Smith's first printing in 1821.
I call this the 'normal tune' and you can hear Kenneth McKellar sing it on Spotify.
Don't confuse the melody of the McPeaks song as it is entirely different, only the lyrics have been 'absorbed'.
I hope this is clearer but if not ask me.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 04:09 PM

Sorry I posted as Guest, I forgot to log in.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 04:19 PM

Have been following this thread with interest, and will just add my thanks too for this exacting research. Tannahill's grave in Paisley has a fine mourning figure, sculpted I think by Mossman.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 04:25 PM

Thanks, Jim! I think I get it.

Have anything on the origin of the "Wild Thyme" melody?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 04:55 PM

I knew old Francie McPeake and all the family but I couldn't find any traditional connection to the Wild Mountain Thyme tune so it has to be credited as original by the McPeakes. There's a whole load of talk about this elsewhere but the only thing we can be sure of is the lyrics have been lifted from Tannahill.

Regarding Tannahills grave: I was born in Paisley and brought up in a tenement that overlooked Tannahills grave on the other side of the railway line. As youngsters we would rob apples from the local 'big' houses in Castlehill and eat them behind the railings which surrounded his grave. This was in 1945 or thereabouts but it's different today.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: JeffB
Date: 05 Jun 20 - 06:45 PM

Jim - that's great. Thanks again for your research which must have taken a lot of effort and perseverence.

In following this thread I looked at some versions on the Bodleian Ballad website and noticed some of the changes in Watt's original text as it moved south. Watt had written "... Not a friend to condole, even those that might, they winna." Croshaw of York might have got his words directly from a Scottish singer and mis-heard them. He happily printed "... even those at Mount Minna". When it reached London, J. Pitts recognised rubbish when he saw it, and must found someone who knew the words better. He printed ".... even those that might win her". There is also Catnach's version (Jim's post above, 27 Aug 07) "... those that might, they will na", which is as close as a Sassenach would have got. So if you find (as I do) that the 'standard' "... even those that would be with her" is rather weak, there are these three attested variants to chose from. But if you choose Mount Minna you'd better have a story about it ready for the pesky pedant in the audience, like me, who will demand to know where it is.

For some reason, Watt called Louisa 'Louisiana'. Croshaw used the spelling 'Luciana'. Catnach (whose broadside was pretty close to the original) called her both 'Anna' and 'Lucanna' in the same song, so obviously he was quite confused. Until I saw Croshaw's broadside I had always wondered where on Earth Lucanna was. Somewhere close to Mount Minna as it turns out. A line about Lucanna or Lucania still survives in some versions, such as Mary Black's.

Watt did not write the lines about the King of Rome and the Prince of Gehenna and they do not appear in any English broadsides I have seen (though I use only the Bodleian website). As support for Bonaparte was strong in Ireland I assume these lines were written there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Jun 20 - 06:43 AM

JffB, hi, my research was about orality versus literacy and the transmission, however corrupt, of Tannahill's chosen tune in 1807 when he wrote the song, against the printed version supplied by Smith in 1821. The printed version came out on top as it was published by all the big houses throughout the 19/20 century with piano accompaniment and so it is sung today.
I showed that the Tree Carls tune existed through oral transmission and was used for the Bonaparte song (Watt says so) and as it was untitled (oral transmission) it became known as (Isle of) St Helena.
I didn't look into the lyrics or history of the Bonparte song so can't help you there.
Mary Black sings, I would say, a 'corrupted' version of The Three Carles as the second part shows its origin compared the standard tune of the Braes published by Smith in 1821.
The tune, Braes of Balquhither is very old and was first vocalised by Burns "I'll Kiss Ye, Yet" but Smith put it into the form we know today.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 08 Jun 20 - 08:39 PM

A couple more points: first, in addition to the use of a characteristically Scottish form, "winna" for the English equivalent "will not" (discussed above), at times in the Scottish printings the form " a' " is used, not unusually, for "all" (as in the lines about waves dashing on rocks). Thus, the rather clumsy phrase about "the scenes he has seen a'" signifies "all the scenes he has seen"; the variation "sights" is understandable, and the line works better - at least for a Scot - this way rather than with the final "O".

Secondly, that damned "Prince of Gehenna" again: despite the statement in "Remembering the Old Songs" that this means the Devil, it appears that Gehenna is a place of [?eternal] punishment, in Judaism, and the Prince of these infernal regions is often identified with some angel with a name like Asriel(?). This Prince ushers souls into Gehenna, and whoever later added this part, he clearly expected his contemporaries to understand the allusion, however they might interpret it. I doubt if there would be such knowledge today. Hope this will be of some interest; no doubt there's more could be made of this detail, but I'm still going to sing "Vienna". Goodnight.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: JeffB
Date: 14 Jun 20 - 06:47 AM

Your and Lighter's posts above convinced me that the Prince of Gehenna was indeed intended to be Metternich, and Gehenna is what I would sing if I could (someone else in my regular singaround does the song, so it's off limits for the foreseeable). 'Vienna' and 'Gehenna' are close rhymes and a contemporary would of course have twigged the connection immediately. Obviously the writer was an ardent Bonapartist. However, bringing Bonaparte's young son into the same line is still a puzzle for me.

Gehenna was, and is, a real place - a small valley in east Jerusalem which is easily found on Google Earth. It seems that in biblical times there was a community of Phoenicians in the area who practiced their reprehensible custom of child sacrifice by fire here. It is mentioned in several places in the bible. The aerial view seems to show an industrial estate - a blandly prosaic fate for a place of revolting horror.

I believe the valley is called Hinnom nowadays. Nearby is a road called Gihon.

Ain't the Interweb wonderful.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Jun 20 - 07:40 AM

What makes the word choice so deft is that the "Prince of Gehenna" could thus apply to both figures at the same time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 02:15 PM

Interesting information about Hinnom and Gihon, JeffB.

With regard to the words about "Prince of Gehenna" and the likelihood of this later addition being intended to have exactly this "resonance", I do think it's important to recognise Ambiguity in Watt's own verses, especially when being aware of the political situation in Britain generally, and in Scotland particularly, at this time. The so-called "Radical War" isn't as familiar as, say, the contemporaneous Peterloo Massacre, but the repressive and coercive nature of the British State is not in doubt.

Put bluntly; it would be a very dangerous thing at this time, the time from which the original verses definitely come, to compose, to sing, let alone to publish a song which was openly pro-Bonapartist. Consider carefully these verses; get away from the modern assumption that this song is clearly sympathetic to Napoleon, and adversely critical of the "Victors' Justice" that saw him exiled to a remote rock with a notoriously unhealthy climate.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 02:28 PM

Interrupted by a clumsy finger! (Perhaps someone knows how to combine this post with that immediately preceding, and of course remove these two sentences)

Read, recite, or sing Watt's own original verses with the kind of admonitory tone implied by the verse about those who stand in high degree, and may fall as Boney has done. In fact, imagine how a fervent Bourbonniste would declaim them; no more the fallen Emperor will appear at his palaces in great splendour, no more like Alexander will he march off to War with his "crouds" of - as the Marshals were seen at the time by supporters of L'Ancien Regime - brigands and regicides. Only one thing, in fact, other than the pathos which is certainly the dominant mood to a modern understanding, makes it more likely than not that this song was intended to be sympathetic to Napoleon, and that is the Radical tradition in Paisley. It would, as I've argued, be a dangerous step openly to evince pro-Bonapartist views; but, crucially, the original song depends upon ambiguity, indeed Irony, to allow of "plausible deniability".

ABCD.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Lighter
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 07:01 PM

Speaking as one with no special interest in Bonaparte, or knowledge at the time of any British support for him, when I heard Mary Black's performance forty years ago, it left no doubt in my mind that the song was sympathetic to Napoleon and painted him as a tragic figure - the latest prominent victim of Fortune's wheel.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: JeffB
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 07:49 PM

ABCD - I take your point that men of Watt’s class who had Bonapartist sympathies needed to express themselves with great care and circumspection, although whether Watt was one is still unproven. And I admit that the way the political complexion of the times would have affected writers in particular had not occurred to me. (As well as wanting to avoid the attentions of police spies, they obviously depended on the goodwill of publishers and patrons to earn their livings). Partly, that was because the English songs of the early 19th century that I know may speak of hardship but not of political discontent, so if Watt had camouflaged his primary subject, it succeeded with me. And it was partly too that I am woefully ignorant of the depth of Scottish political dissent and its relationship to the French Wars.

It would be easy at this point to get sidetracked into a discussion of dissent on both sides of the border (let alone Ireland!) for the forty years or so following the 1790s. Tempting, but I think it would be wise to avoid that, at least in this thread, mainly because as far as folksong is concerned it would not necessarily have much to do with Bonaparte (ie. the ideals which he generated in the minds of some of the people of Great Britain). In that regard, The Isle of St Helena seems to be a rare example. I can think of others – parallels concerning other foci of political upheaval such as My Bonny Moorhen (another text by a Scottish poet – is that a coincidence?), and I am sure there are many Irish examples which others would be much better qualified to discuss. "Disguised Political Dissent in the Folksong of the British Isles" could make an interesting thread, or indeed thesis. No doubt at least several undergraduates have tried it. Just for fun (or mischief) I throw it out there – are there songs of the early 19th century which speak of political dissent? I don’t mean ephemeral ditties about candidates for local elections, but songs of substance which survived until Sharp and his friends came knocking on doors.

Would you mind clarifying your sentence with “ … get away from the modern assumption ...” which seems to contradict the previous sentence. And I cannot resist carping that NB had only himself to blame for being exiled to a remote rock; unreasoning ambition drove him to leave a comfortable berth in the Med. and get a few more tens of thousands needlessly killed or mutilated. Serves him right! says I


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 09:14 PM

Certainly, glad to clarify the thoughts about the "assumption that the song is clearly sympathetic to Napoleon". First, I wrote "modern" to draw a distinction between how the song immediately appears to listeners now, and how the words themselves do not allow any such confidence about the position/attitude/view taken by or attributed to the narrator/commentator/singer. The view of the song and its sympathies given by Lighter was exactly mine, too, only the recording was Frank Harte's. Of course a singer's interpretation will be consistent with what that singer makes of the poet's intentions, and in many cases there wouldn't be any doubt about mood and so on. But when considering a song dealing with a controversial contemporary figure at a time of coercion, repression, popular discontent and indeed attempted, if abortive, uprising, then the kind of "care and circumspection" you mention becomes part of the analysis. In short, while I think it very likely that the maker of the song was sympathetic to Napoleon, nevertheless the words themselves, as printed in Stirling soon after Napoleon's second Abdication, leave the poet's own attitude in doubt. That is, "plausible deniability", one of those carefully considered expressions that reveal just how busy some officials are at doing really useful composition.

following this thread, however, in particular the images of nineteenth -century printings posted on 30th May by MartinNail,


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 15 Jun 20 - 09:34 PM

This accursed machine is scrolling up and down uncontrollably at times, and that's another premature Submission.

I'll leave it here (agree with you about the potential developments that could be made of some related material, and a post-graduate thesis might well treat of the period with the emphasis you suggest), except to add that the images posted on 30th May by MartinNail, in particular the five verses with Scots orthography in the earliest printing, that from Stirling, have led to my thinking to learn the song properly (as distinct from being broadly familiar with it) and finding out what it sounds like when the words are given as Watt would himself have heard them, or as close as may be.

The air itself, of course, is another issue entirely, and Jim McLean's research is of course invaluable. If I ever dare give this one publicly, I doubt if the diction will have the kind of perfection displayed by Alma Gluck, way back when singers always had a frying-pan of rashers hissing in the background.

Hope this makes some sense (it's not easy to treat a subject seriously and in some depth without sounding all "academic") with regard to my own thoughts on the work.

ABCD.
Are the violets blooming still?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 16 Jun 20 - 11:32 AM

Just to clarify that the melody sung by Alma Gluck was printed first in 1821 and so not the "Braes o Balquhidder" tune that Watt put his words to.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 16 Jun 20 - 03:50 PM

No, I did get that from your earlier notes! Just having a laugh, but thanks for ensuring that in seeking "authenticity" I didn't go astray. Good Luck.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: MartinNail
Date: 19 Jun 20 - 12:38 PM

Jim

Earlier you said:
"I have a printed music sheet dated 1810 of Tannahill's Braes O' Balquhither to the tune he set it to, The Three Carles o Buchannan."

Is this (or any other copy of the Three Carls music) available online anywhere? I'd interested to compare it with the Irish soldier's tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Isle of St Helena
From: Jim McLean
Date: 19 Jun 20 - 06:08 PM

You can see the music in R A Smith's Scottish Minstrel Vol IV, second edition, page 89.
The song is listed as the Braes o' Balquhither but the tune is listed as Three Carls o' Buchanan.
It's exactly the same as my 1810 copy. The 'old soldier song' is derived from this.


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