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Origins: Happy Happy Were The Days

GUEST,Millie 15 Aug 12 - 02:46 PM
GUEST,Millie 26 Aug 12 - 10:57 AM
Owen Woodson 26 Aug 12 - 12:03 PM
GUEST 26 Aug 12 - 01:51 PM
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Subject: Origins: Happy Happy Were The Days
From: GUEST,Millie
Date: 15 Aug 12 - 02:46 PM

Apologies if this song has already been talked about but i did a search and couldn't find it anywhere..
I'm interested in a song called Happy Happy Were The Days and it's on Peta Webb's album, The Magpie's Nest. Does anyone know anything about it?
The lyrics are:


Last night as I lay on my pillow
No rest there could I find
For thinking on my own true love
Since I've been left behind
He's my love, my one and own true love
My love wherever he be
If I had my will I would be still
In my love's company

Happy happy were the days
And pleasant were the hours
I spent in my love's company
Beneath those shady bowers
I spent in my love's company
When old Ireland's fields were green
Oh may God be with those happy days
Will they ever again be seen?

An old man he came courting me
He had lands and money too
My parents advised me "marry him
And shun my old love true
I know his wages are too small
But I'll work and toil for more
For I'd rather live on a meal a day
With the boy that I adore

Happy happy were the days…

Some people they talk about my true love
Whilst others may talk about me
So let them all be talking
I'll keep my love's company
And when the war is over
And my true love comes home
I will lead him to the altar
Oh never again to roam.

Happy happy were the days…

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Subject: RE: Origins: Happy Happy Were The Days
From: GUEST,Millie
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 10:57 AM

Does no one have any info on this song? :-)

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Subject: RE: Origins: Happy Happy Were The Days
From: Owen Woodson
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 12:03 PM

There's quite a lot of songs about young girls being forcibly married to old men and, as far as I can remember, Peta said she learned that one from the landlady of a pub in Ireland (Kerry, I think).

It's not a very commmon song at all, and the only other version I can bring to mind is one which Jeannie Robertson of Aberdeen used to sing as 'The Moon Shined On My Bed Last Night'. Indeed, Steve Roud's Folksong Index has just seven entries for this song, all of them from Jeannie.

Even so I'm pretty certain it's Irish and there may be a lot more Irish versions out there. Steve himself will tell you that his index is nothing like as comprehensive, regarding Irish sources, as it should be.

Why do I think it's Irish? Well, it's partly because of the tune and partly because of the song's subject matter. In Ireland, up until fairly recently, economic circumstances encouraged arranged marriages between young girls and older men - often much older men, who had had to delay marrying until they inherited the family farm.

I don't know of any recent work which has been done on this phenomenon, but Arensberg & Kimball's study, Family and community in Ireland is still regarded as authoritive. Also, IIRC, Arensberg, The Irish Countryman has something to say on the subject.

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Subject: RE: Origins: Happy Happy Were The Days
Date: 26 Aug 12 - 01:51 PM

Thanks for this info Owen! Much appreciated

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