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Origins: Bonny Portmore

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BONNY PORTMORE


Related threads:
(origins) Origins: Bonny Portmore (28)
Tune Req: Bonny Portmore (6)
Bonny Portmore (10)
Bonny Portmore by Loreena McKennitt (16)
Lyr Req: Bonny Portmore (from Loreena McKennitt) (3)
Lyr/Chords Req: Bonny Portmore (13)
Chords Req: Bonny Portmore (3)


CE Morgan 23 Nov 99 - 09:56 PM
Bruce O. 23 Nov 99 - 10:07 PM
Bruce O. 23 Nov 99 - 10:18 PM
Mary in Kentucky 23 Nov 99 - 10:33 PM
23 Nov 99 - 11:34 PM
Bruce O. 23 Nov 99 - 11:40 PM
John Moulden 24 Nov 99 - 07:27 PM
CE Morgan 26 Nov 99 - 10:33 AM
Bruce O. 26 Nov 99 - 10:57 AM
GUEST,Orlaith M. 03 Jul 06 - 06:50 AM
leeneia 03 Jul 06 - 11:35 AM
GUEST,Tom/Netherlands 15 Sep 08 - 04:57 AM
JHW 15 Sep 08 - 06:05 PM
Jon Bartlett 16 Sep 08 - 01:02 AM
Jon Bartlett 16 Sep 08 - 05:13 PM
Malcolm Douglas 16 Sep 08 - 06:56 PM
GUEST,Ivan Kraljevic 18 Sep 08 - 02:26 PM
michaelr 18 Sep 08 - 03:17 PM
ard mhacha 18 Sep 08 - 04:41 PM
ard mhacha 18 Sep 08 - 05:01 PM
Rumncoke 19 Sep 08 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Tyrell 01 Oct 08 - 01:54 PM
ard mhacha 14 Jan 09 - 01:09 PM
GUEST 14 Oct 12 - 09:13 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Oct 12 - 12:51 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 14 Oct 12 - 02:07 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Oct 12 - 12:56 PM
GUEST,Chris Robbins 08 Apr 13 - 09:41 AM
GUEST 08 Aug 14 - 09:12 AM
GUEST 08 Aug 14 - 09:35 AM
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Subject: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: CE Morgan
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 09:56 PM

I have two recordings of this song. One, Loreena McKennitt's, says that "Portmore" was a forest in Ireland. The other, "The Lilting Banshee" from 1985, says that "Portmore" was the house, the residence of the O'Neill family of Balinderry. Reading the lyrics, it could go either way.

Does anyone have any further information which would clarify this one way or the other??

Thanks in advance, Cindy Ellen


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: Bruce O.
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 10:07 PM

The original ballad, "The Highlander's Farewell to Bonny Portmore", no later then the 1740's, with both the Irish and Scots tunes, and some notes, is in the Scarce Songs 1 file at Click


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: Bruce O.
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 10:18 PM

If you can figure out what was meant by the 'sale' of Portmore, and when that happened, it would tell us a bit more about the date of the ballad than is known at present. John Moulden can you tell us anything. Incidently, Jeanne Robertson's "Bonny Udney/Paisley" version has more than just the chorus in common with "My Heart's in the Highlands/ Bonny Portmore"


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 10:33 PM

I found this page a couple of months ago after I fell in love with the tune Bonny Portmore which I heard in Barry Taylor's Tunebook. Don't know how accurate the info is. I even tried to watch one of the Highlander TV programs after I read that this song was background music for an episode. http://www.angelfire.com/ca/immie/bonny.html


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From:
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 11:34 PM

That angelfire version is just the short version collected by Sean O'Boyle, who's histroy seems to go back only to 1976 [The Irish Song Tradition, 1976]. That's not a very long history. See the one following that on my website, "The Strong Walls of Derry" in 'The Additional Illustrations to the Scots Musical Museum', 1853.

O'Boyle's history (repeated on angelfire) in his notes doesn't ring true, nothing about the stationing of the highland troops who had to leave when Portmore was sold, and no note of the sale of Portmore, which had to be earlier than 1746. And nothing in O'Boyle's song of the girl the highlander had to leave behind.

We also have a series of borrowings as: "Highlanders Farewell to Bonny Portmore"-> "Bonny Paisley" ->"The Boys of Kilkenny". The possible original for some of these borrowings is the 17th century ballad "Shrowsbury for me" which can be located from the broadside ballad index on my website. [Exclusive of the verse of a ballad of the 1620's in "The Highlander's Farewell".]


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: Bruce O.
Date: 23 Nov 99 - 11:40 PM

Forgot that was me again at blank above.


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: John Moulden
Date: 24 Nov 99 - 07:27 PM

I have a much longer text of this somewhere and probably some information - it appeared in a book by the Belfast Solicitor, Antiquarian, F J Bigger. I'll look it out.

In the meantime, I have saved some information written in a newsgroup by an acquaintance - I don't think he would mind my repeating it here - some of the context is inappropriate but it is posted verbatim.

This then is Tom Faloon's information not mine but it sounds like the horse's mouth to me.

QUOTE
Kate,

The song refers Lord Conway's demesne, and a mansion he built there.

He got gready, or maybe just rose to a challenge, and tried to drain Lough Beg into arable land. He imported Dutch engineers, dug a huge drain known as the 'Tunny Cut' between Lough Beg and Lough Neagh, and erected windmills to pump the water out.

He spent his fortune on this project, but failed, and was forced to sell his property.

He was obviously very hurt about his loss. 'If I had you now as I had you before, all the gold in Europe wouldn't purchase Portmore.
The line about the 'ornament tree' does refer to a great oak tree, which stood near the shore of the Lough. It was blown down on 'the night of the big wind' and was talked about for generations. It was used to build a pleasure boat. That's why the 'Long boats of Antrim came to float it away. (To the boat yard.)

Lough Beg is known locally as 'The Wee Lough' (Beg is Gealic for small.) There is more than one Lough Beg in Northern Ireland. This is the one close to the eastern shore of Lough Neagh.

I grew up in the area. I have known Bonny Portmore as a poem since I was a small boy, but I have never heard it put to music. There is also a poem about the digging of the Tunny Cut.

Best Wishes,

Tom Faloon


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: CE Morgan
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 10:33 AM

Bruce, please give the URL for your website. I tried accessing your member profile, but couldn't get to the page.

Thanks! Cindy Ellen


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Subject: RE: Bonny Portmore: historical background
From: Bruce O.
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 10:57 AM

www.erols.com/olsonw

John, look on your computer for your copy. I sent it via e-mail on Friday, Jan. 16, 1998, and have a copy of that and your e-mail in reply of the same date.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST,Orlaith M.
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 06:50 AM

As far as I know, the great oak went to a ship building yard for the engilsh navy, it went to build warships not pleasure boats. Thats the story I've always heard.The oak forests of Ireland were a principle source of good oak timber for the shipyards of England, and consequently thousands upon thousands of the huge trees were cut down and taken to places like Pourtsmouth and Bristol for that purpose. Not that Englands woods were left alone- far from it, they lost huge tracts of oak woodland too.
I grew up on the North Antrim coast, and still live there most of the time, and some of the folks still talk about it with sadness,even though it happened long ago.
The conservation trust has only started rectifying the damage within the last 40 years or so.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: leeneia
Date: 03 Jul 06 - 11:35 AM

If you would like to add the tune to your repertoire, there is a MIDI at this site:

http://www.fdsoftware.it/mairi/midi.htm

Go to the page and do a search (Cntrl+F) for Bonny


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST,Tom/Netherlands
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 04:57 AM

Hi there!
As far as I can trace it, the story's about the local situation amongst the period of Cromwell.
Portmore castle was erected in 1664 en broken down only 7 years later.
The oak forest was used for warfare (warships)

The catholics in the northern parts were divided in two groups; the original irish population and the lords of old england.

Since the last group stood closer to the english crown, the were offered to get some of the occupied land back. In return they had to brake down Portmore castle and the oak forest (that "price" was their "purchase") The huge oak at the shoreside of the lake is the ornament tree.

Looking at the lyrics, it seems to me that the words must have been coming from the original (northern) irish population from that time, or from the owner of Portmore castle.
On one of the many websites I visited, there was written that there are still some remains of Portmore castle at the original buildingsite

I will use the song, performed by the band "Gregorian" (plse find it at youtube, it's really beautifull) in a theaterperformance about worldpeace, somewhere next year.
As a foreigner to England, Scotland and Ireland, I can only feel sorry for all those who died or suffered any other way, in this battle between religions, that lasted upto the late nineteen-nineties.
Nowadays, not only in Ireland, Scotland and England, but all over the world,unvoluntarely we are confronted with warlike activities in the name of religion. Why, oh why do we want to rule and conquer over others? Why can't we accept differences and live peacefully next to eachother?..........


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: JHW
Date: 15 Sep 08 - 06:05 PM

Eileen McGann recorded it on her 'Journeys' album


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 01:02 AM

I reproduce below two short articles I wrote about this song in our local newsletter, in hopes that this might throw a little more light on the origins of the song:

Three-Quarter Times: The Newsletter of the Vancouver Folk Song Society
Vol XXIII, No. 8: 29 November 1993

The song "Bonny Portmore" is very popular these days, having been introduced to Canadian audiences directly and indirectly by Saskatoon singer Paddy Tutty on her cassette "Paddy Tutty" (1983) and on her second album, of songs of the land, "Who Liveth So Merry" (1986). But where is it from and, precisely, what is it about, with its curious words about the "ornament tree"?

It first appears in print in 1840. Edward Bunting, in his Ancient Music of Ireland (available in more recent years collated with its predecessors of 1796 and 1809 in a volume published by Waltons' of Dublin in 1969) prints the tune as he collected it at Glenoak in Antrim from a blind Ulster harper, Daniel Black, the year the latter died (1796), and he marks it as "very ancient, author and date unknown".

Bunting's headnote locates the site of Portmore ("an old residence of the O'Neills") as on the shores of Lough Beg (to the north, on my map), a small offshoot of Lough Neagh. He says that "on the plantation of this part of the country in 1611, Portmore became the property of Lord Conway, who built a mansion here, of which there are still some traces." The "plantation" was begun immediately following the final defeat of gaelic Ireland by the English. The English land-holding system was transplanted to Ulster and overlaid on the Irish landscape, and those who could not prove title (i.e. those who did not hold English title) were dispossessed, the same system used against the Anglo-Saxons by the Normans after 1066, against North American native peoples since Contact, against the Metis of Manitoba in 1871, against the inhabitants of the West Bank following 1968.

"The air," says Bunting, "is probably as old as the time of the O'Neills, of Ballinderry, to whose declining fortunes there would appear to be an allusion in the first stanza of the English words, which are still sung with it:

Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand,
And the more I think on you, the more my heart warms;
But if I had you now, as 1 had once before,
All the gold in all England would not buy you, Portmore!

This is close to the words sung by Paddy Tutty, and when I wrote to her recently to find her source, she very kindly directed me to Sean O Boyle's The Irish Song Tradition (Toronto, 1975: Macmillan of Canada). She had found the book in Ireland in 1978 and had learned the song from its pages.

O Boyle had the song from Robert Cinnamond, of Aghadalgan in 1952. The tune Cinnarond had sung was, says O Boyle, "an impoverished version" of Bunting's tune, so he re-set it to the 1796 original. But his headnote is curiously at odds with Bunting's. Here is the set as he collected it (p. 50):

Oh! Bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long.
If I had you now as I had once before,
All the Lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.

0 Bonny Portmore I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many's the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.

All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying: "Where will we shelter or where will we sleep?"
For the oak and the ash are all cutten down
And the walls of Bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.

First, he locates Lough Beg to the east, instead of to the north, of Lough Neagh. He has the "castle" (not "mansion") built by Conway in 1661 (surely a long time after the plantation) on the site of a more ancient "fortress". He goes on: "But after his death, Portmore became neglected and finally, in 1761, the castle and other buildings were removed and the only vestige that now remains is a portion of the wall. Among the many trees sold on the breaking up of the estate was the Great Oak of Portmore which was blown down in 1760. This is the oak referred to in the song as the "ornament tree". It was fourteen yards in circumference. A single branch of it was sold for nine pounds; the trunk fetched ninety-seven.

Though there is no hint in the song of the deliberate destruction for military purposes of the woodland surrounding the castle, the final disappearance of Conway's estate is regarded in such the same way as the destruction of Kilcash in the South:

What shall we do for timber
The last of the woods is down.
Kilcash and the house of its glory
And the bell of the house are gone...'

These notes raise more questions than they answer: and O Boyle gives no source in his boot for the new information he brings forward. For instance:
1. If the oak (the 'ornament tree") was blown down in 1761, what are we to make of the text's "woeful destruction"? I note in passing that a tree with a circumference of fourteen yards has
a diameter of just over thirteen feet: a wonderfully huge tree, if the measurement is right;
2. In whose mouth is the song supposed to lie? Hardly an O'Neill, a hundred and fifty years after being dispossessed, nor, surely, a Conway, since Conway the builder clearly had no heirs (but it must have been someone who "had you once before");
3. What are we to make of the "deliberate destruction for military purposes of the woodland surrounding the "castle"? Was this logging to provide timber for ships, and if so, why the overblown language? And why does O Boyle say that "there is no hint in the song" of this? What else can the third verse suggest?

Three-Quarter Times: The Newsletter of the Vancouver Folk Song Society
Vol XXIII, No. 4: 27 May 1998

I promised back in November 1993 to keep looking for more information about the song "Bonny Portmore". I can now report some progress. While looking at books in Don Stewart's bookstore, my eye fell upon a full set of the Ulster Journal of Archeology (Belfast, 1853) selling I think for $400 or so. A quick glance through the index revealed the following information at pp. 250-1 of Vol 1:

On the eastern bank of the little lake of Portmore, an ancient castle of the O Neills occupied a gentle elevation. .... This spot.... is held in veneration by the rustic inhabitants.... In 1664, the castle of Portmore was rebuilt on a scale of great magnificence; and here Lord Conway, now an Earl, continued to dispense his generous hospitalities for nearly twenty years..... When the Lords Conway became extinct, and the new proprietors did not feel inclined to make Ireland a place of residence, the glories of Portmore departed. The castle and other buildings were removed about 1761, and the only vestige that now remains of them is a portion of a wall ..... The beautiful deer park, said to have contained 2000 acres, is now changed to corn and pasture fields; and of the gigantic oaks (FN) , that were the pride of the neighbourhood and the wonder of all who saw them, not one remains.....

(FN)The great oak of Portmore was blown down about 1760. To the first branch from the ground was 25 feet, and the circumference measured 14 yards! A single branch was sold for £9, the stem for £97; and the principal part of the remainder, bought for £30, built a lighter of 40 tons' burthen. Many articles of furniture were made of it, and are held still in great estimation.

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Jon Bartlett
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 05:13 PM

Further:

There are some similar lines in "Bonny Udny" (from Fife, I believe).

Jon Bartlett


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 16 Sep 08 - 06:56 PM

Tom seems to have picked up some pretty anachronistic and over-romanticized ideas from somewhere or other, but that isn't unusual with songs like this one; nor is the fact that he's chosen a rather old discussion to post to. For better information, some of which is repeated by John Bartlett above, see John Moulden's 1999 post earlier in this thread, and other discussions linked to at the top of the page, in particular Origins of Bonny Portmore. The late Bruce Olson had a fair bit to say about the relationship to 'Bonny Udney', 'Shrowsbury For Me' and a whole range of other songs that share phraseology with this one.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST,Ivan Kraljevic
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 02:26 PM

Great information, thanks to all for making it available.

If I may ask about a detail: What does "Bonny" stand for in the Bonny Portmore song? What does it stand for in general (in other songs)?

Thanks in advance,

Ivan Kraljevic


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: michaelr
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 03:17 PM

bonny = lovely, pretty


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: ard mhacha
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 04:41 PM

I remember hearing Robert Cinnamond singing this song on a radio broadcast from BBC N Ireland around the early 1950s, the Cinnamond name is common around the Portmore-Aughgallon area of south Antrim.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: ard mhacha
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 05:01 PM

Two verses referring to Portmore, I don`t have the date for the two verses,

There are no lords in Europe such sights can afford

As the Tunnie, Rams Island and Bonny Portmore,

There are two lakes also for fishing again,

And the Deerpark for hunting the head of all game.


In the Tunnie Island there`d be a great fall,

And thro` Brankin`s Park a stone and lime wall,

And thro` Derryola an open highway,

Before Bonnie Portmore goes all to decay.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Rumncoke
Date: 19 Sep 08 - 11:05 AM

I sang Bonny Portmore at the Woodlands Hotel theamed sings, at Sidmouth.

I sang it as 'A Strange song' as it is both haunting, and doesn't quite make sense.

I sing
The birds of the forest they bitterly weep,
For where can they shelter, where can they sleep?

It is even stranger that in the above version they ask the question - birds around here do not weep nor do they talk.

Anne


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST,Tyrell
Date: 01 Oct 08 - 01:54 PM

I think that it means that they are weeping because the trees are gone. I don't think it means that they quite litterally mean that they are weeping. But that they probably are sad the trees are no longer there so they don't have those homes. Besides the birds might have talked back in the times that this happened.


Tyrell


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: ard mhacha
Date: 14 Jan 09 - 01:09 PM

You could be right Tyrell, I had a budgie a few years ago and he could sing the first verse.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Oct 12 - 09:13 AM

To Malcom Douglas; what i've written is not "my ideas". It's what I found on the web. So why should it be anachronistic?
Why do you call what I write as "over romanticized?
Fact is that the dutch protestant Willem III van Oranje (King Billy) got King James of his throne and dislodged the catholics out of Northern Ireland. The protestants celebrate that victory each year with their Orange marches. Only the protestant Ivan Cooper organized a demonstration to release catholics from prison in Northern Ireland.
That was Bloody Sunday in 1972,during which 14 innocent peolple died. Only in the late nineties things really calmed down. That's not over romanticized that's history.
And yes as a dutchman I feel sorry that Willem van Oranje was responsible for violence that would last untill the late nineties.
As far as that matters I feel some responsibility and was trying to add some information to the history about Bonny Portmore. Looking at your "contribution" I see none of such, only you refering to John Bartlett. Do I take offence?? NO! I can only feel sorry for you that you appearently need to write things like that, not adding anything as information, on a site like this. I wish you good luck. You need it!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Oct 12 - 12:51 PM

I'm afraid Malcolm is far beyond any luck. He died a couple of years ago and is very sadly missed by almost everyone on Mudcat.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 14 Oct 12 - 02:07 PM

Tom

Just to add - Malcolm was one of the most knowledgeable posters in this forum (he edited, along with Steve Gardham, the new edition of Marrow Bones) and if he chose not to add anything in his post, it's because he thought it had already been covered adequately in the posts above and in the (more recent) thread that he linked in his post.

As regards the chronology you imply for the song, if Jon Bartlett's quote from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology is correct, the castle stood from 1664 to 1761 - not the 7 years you said - and it was removed because it had fallen into disrepair - not because it had to be sold as a price for getting back occupied land.

When it came to commenting on British folk song the one thing Malcolm didn't need was luck; he had scholarship instead.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Oct 12 - 12:56 PM

and Tom, you needn't feel bad about coming back in argument at Malcolm. He was a knowledgable, opinionated person, and was often a lively debater, and would have answered you in an argumentative spirit to match your own. We miss him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST,Chris Robbins
Date: 08 Apr 13 - 09:41 AM

On Google Earth, you can see an angular, pale scar in the soil on the northeast side of Portmore Loch. Do you think this could be where the castle once stood? Does anybody know exactly where it was?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Aug 14 - 09:12 AM

I was reading through the threads on Bonny Portmore at mudcat to try to track down some reference books. With further Internet search, I ran across a couple of interesting references that I don't think were mentioned in the posts at mudcat.

One post is at http://www.glenavyhistory.com/ballinderry_UpperSchool.html
It gives an extract from the Ballinderry Parish Magazine dated February 1909. There are three verses listed from Miss Mackinnon, Falkirk. They seem very similar to the Francis Joseph Bigger version mentioned above. It also mentions the lines are "An old traditional song of Ballinderry".

Another post is at
http://anextractofreflection.blogspot.com/2012/10/historical-notices-of-old-belfast-and_11.html
It says:
'Henry Bell, The Grove Cottage, Lambeg, published in 1653 a little volume of thirty pages on Ram's Island and vicinity. It contains a few poems and notes, and the music of the old Irish air "Bonny Portmore."'

If the 1653 date is right and it's the same song, that would make it earlier than Buntings version in 1840. According to Jon Barlett's post at mudcat, the great oak was taken down in 1760 which is after the 1653 date. However, there's no mention of an ornament tree in the Ballinderry Parish Magazine version. Might also be possible that the song was around longer and the lyrics came later. It would be interesting to find out if the song could date back before the tree and if it was revised for the event or if the reference mentioned for 1653 was a wild goose chase.

Wish there was more information. If anyone runs across any further background on how the lyrics may have developed over the years, I'd be very curious to hear about it. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Bonny Portmore
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Aug 14 - 09:35 AM

One more reference that may be of interest:
http://www.lisburn.com/books/glenavy/glenavy-1a.html
from GLENAVY, The Church of the Dwarf 1868 - 1968, Rev. Patrick J. McKavanagh. Looks pretty much the same as the Francis Joseph Bigger rendition listed at mudcat.


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