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Origins: Ballynure Ballad

GUEST,Bob Coltman 29 Jul 09 - 09:27 AM
Jim Carroll 29 Jul 09 - 10:14 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 30 Jul 09 - 11:20 AM
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Subject: Origins: Ballynure Ballad
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 09:27 AM

I noticed DT has no background on "Ballynure Ballad (As I Was Going to Ballynure)."
Below is what little I know about this song. Can anyone add more about its origins before 1925?

Like Waly Waly and Weel May the Keel Row, it's a folk song that started out in tradition, then was spread in the art song world before becoming more widely known among folk singers.

The Ballad Index says "A Ballynure Ballad"'s first known publication was in 1925 in H. Richard Hayward, Ulster Songs and Ballads of the Town and Country.

From there it was picked up by the enormously popular lyric tenor John McCormack (1884-1945), who debuted it on record sometime during his recording career—he recorded for Victor between 1904 and 1942. The recording does not appear among McCormack's audio files at Internet Archive, but I see it has been reissued on CD. However, I've not been able to learn when it was first recorded.)

Folksingers in America and elsewhere first heard it from Richard Dyer-Bennett, who recorded it as "As I Was Going to Ballynure" for Asch / Stinson around 1949-1950. Dyer-Bennett is likely to have learned it from the McCormack recording.

Since 1950 the song has been recorded by a number of folksingers from Ireland and elsewhere. But it is its earlier history I am asking about.

I don't have access to the Hayward Ulster collection. Does anyone? Can you furnish any details from Hayward re the original singer, or the song's history?

And do any of you know any other pre-1925 source for the song apart from Hayward?

Bob Coltman

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Subject: RE: Origins: Ballynure Ballad
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 Jul 09 - 10:14 AM

Got the Hayward collection - no notes, not even a source.
The earliest reference I can find is in volume 1 of Herbert Hughes' Irish Country Songs (1909) - again no notes except to say it was from Co. Antrim and is 'a fragment of an old ballad'.
It also appears in Vol 7 of the Greig Duncan Collection.
Roud give only these 3 references, but I do remember it being sung by The McPeakes
Sorry, no more than that.
Jim Carroll

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Subject: RE: Origins: Ballynure Ballad
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 30 Jul 09 - 11:20 AM

Perhaps because both "The Ballynure Ballad" and "The next Market Day" ("A maid going to Comber...") are fairly short, McCormack recorded both together, I'd guess some time in the 1920s, and this practice, if not "tradition", I've heard followed by at least two other singers, one male, one female; who they were I can't recall. McCormack's recording of "Ballynure" ends with a remarkable example of his characteristic "swing of the octave" (as he termed it), where the singer carries the final note, with very rapid Portamento, up to the octave above, then suddenly descends again with an abrupt, almost Parlando, "sign-off". Not dissimilar to his mid-1930s recording, for an American wireless programme, of "The Star of the County Down", where the last three syllables are sung not on the same note (as is usual), but with the middle one sung Forte on the octave above, i.e., "I met in the Coun-TY Down". In a spoken introduction, the Count states that this is how he and Herbert Hughes heard it from the singer from whom they collected it.

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