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Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife

toadfrog 06 Sep 10 - 01:23 PM
Matthew Edwards 06 Sep 10 - 04:40 PM
toadfrog 06 Sep 10 - 06:49 PM
GUEST,John Moulden 07 Sep 10 - 05:18 AM
toadfrog 07 Sep 10 - 04:37 PM
GUEST,^&* 07 Sep 10 - 04:47 PM
toadfrog 08 Sep 10 - 09:00 PM
GUEST,^&* 09 Sep 10 - 04:01 AM
Matthew Edwards 09 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM
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Subject: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: toadfrog
Date: 06 Sep 10 - 01:23 PM

I ran into this song by accident. It interests me because it is a very powerful song, and I don't think I fully understand it. Looking on line, I could find only one cursory reference identifying it as a political song where a woman "changes from the Orange party . . .to the Green." [See below.]

I am no expert on things Irish, but I understand that the 12th of July was a time for provocative marches by Protestants, often through Catholic neighborhoods, which did (or do) "create anger and strife" as indicated. I also understand that a "ribbon man" is a Fenian. O.k. so far.

But there is more here than politics. In keeping with folk traditions, a man might strangle a sister who who goes over to the Enemy. But men do not commit suicide for political reasons–not in Europe, anyway. In Child Ballads, a man might kill himself if he made his sister pregnant. And the following song looks to me as if it was re-worked from an older incest ballad into a political song, or the suggestion of incest is being used as a political slur, or the idea is to wish a particularly bad death on a hated enemy. If anyone actually knows, I would be interested in hearing.

Much of the force of the song comes from its tune and delivery, which I lack the skills to reproduce in writing. But I'm sure many of you must know it. Any comments?

BOLD RIBBON-MAN'S WIFE

On the twelfth of July, with joy, my sister would roam,
And parade by the side of my drum,
She was ready and willing to create [?] anger and strife,
But she now wears the green,
Has become a bold ribbon man's wife.
                                                                                
I'll go down to yon oak tree and there end my life.
Hang myself to the tree with my sigh,
For she now wears the green, has become a bold ribbon-man's wife.

So he hung from the tree, and his face it turned black,
And fell down with a terrible cry.
If they'd only let him bide, he'd wear the green
Like a bold ribbon man's wife

"RIBBON MAN'S WIFE, THE - "On the 12th of July - with joy my sister would roam" - she changes from the Orange party, marching beside the drum, to the Green -- Frank CARD of Dungannon, Co Tyrone rec by PK, Belfast 18/8/53: RPL 19359/ FTX-435"

JWM


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 06 Sep 10 - 04:40 PM

Is the tune related in any way to 'The Red Haired Man's Wife'? It looks as if the song might possibly be based on that.

I'd forgotten the Folktrax archive had been restored online: Peter Kennedy's notes for the Folktrax cassette Slieve Gallon Brae - Voices Raised in Ulster - FTX 435 state that Frank Card learned this, and another song 'Moira Ni Kelly', from his grandmother Mary Waits of Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Both were recorded by Peter Kennedy and Sean O'Boyle from Frank Card in Belfast on 18 Aug 1953 on BBC RPL 19359.

Steve Roud's index lists this song as No. 9651, and 'Moira Ni Kelly' as No. 9710. There are no other entries for either song in the Roud Index.

I don't know quite how to interpret the song, but I wonder if Frank Card is the same Proinsias MacAirt who was active in the Troubles?

Matthew


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: toadfrog
Date: 06 Sep 10 - 06:49 PM

Well, thanks Matthew Edwards!

I appreciate your help. I have the Kennedy disk, which was mislablled and sent me by mistake. I am quickly out of my depth in talking about things Irish.

I listened a few times to the tune of "The Red Haired Man's Wife" in the digitrad. It does have a similar Mixolydian sound, it is sufficiently indistinct so that I could not sing it, and cannot say whether it is the same or not.

The words to "Red-Haired Man's Wife," in English, just sound dumb to me. Lyrical poetry often does not translate well, and I suspect I'd probably be more impressed if I could read the original. I do not think it is the same song, but I may not understand how songs evolve in Ireland.

In any case, thanks for spending some time on my question.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 07 Sep 10 - 05:18 AM

This is part of a much longer song versions of which can be found on ballads sheets. http://bodley24.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/acwwweng/ballads/image.pl?ref=Harding+B+25%2869%29&id=09267.gif&seq=1&size=0 The longer text makes it clear that it is a satire. Comments about it being based on the form of "The red-haired man's wife" are soundly based.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: toadfrog
Date: 07 Sep 10 - 04:37 PM

Well done, Guest John Moulden! That sounds exactly right.

I was much impressed by the song as Card sang it. I see he made it sound like a better song than it is, which I guess is a singer's greatest accomplishment.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 07 Sep 10 - 04:47 PM

Bean an Fhir Rua - a sean-nós, traditional version of the original Irish song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: toadfrog
Date: 08 Sep 10 - 09:00 PM

Thanks, Guest Carat Ampersand Asterisk! I had heard of U-Tubes, but never seen one before. I am not sure I would have recognized the tune as the same, but Stephanie Makem sings it wonderfully well!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: GUEST,^&*
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 04:01 AM

Have to say, I preferred Meataí Joe Sheamais' version, myself.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bold Ribbon Man's Wife
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 09 Sep 10 - 11:59 AM

Many thanks to John Moulden for pointing to the full broadside text in the Bodleian. It looks like a well-crafted satire, but the humour is rather harsh.

Toadfrog, I can understand your perplexity at the English lyrics of 'The Red-Haired Man's Wife'. I did recently enjoy listening to Chris Miles sing it in English; she sang it so convincingly that it didn't matter in the least that it doesn't make much sense! However the Irish novelist William Carleton wrote in 'Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry' that his mother, Mary Kelly, a very fine singer, "had a prejudice against singing the Irish airs to English words...I remember on one occasion, when she was asked to sing the English version of that touching melody "The Red-haired Man's Wife", she replied, "I will sing it for you; but the English words and the air are like a quarrelling man and wife: the Irish melts into the tune, but the English doesn't.""

Matthew


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