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Lyr Add: Sarah Jane/Star of Moville (McCurry)

Related thread:
Lyr Req: The Coleraine Regatta (Jimmy McCurry) (22)

Wolfgang 30 May 00 - 06:44 AM
John Moulden 30 May 00 - 07:26 AM
Kim C 30 May 00 - 12:06 PM
Wolfgang 31 May 00 - 06:13 AM
radriano 31 May 00 - 11:13 AM
GUEST,rhj 02 Jun 00 - 08:08 AM
MartinRyan 02 Jun 00 - 02:56 PM
GUEST 24 Oct 02 - 02:04 PM
GUEST 14 Jun 09 - 10:20 PM
Joe Offer 15 Jun 09 - 02:50 AM
Richard Mellish 20 Sep 19 - 10:49 AM
Vic Smith 20 Sep 19 - 12:16 PM
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Subject: Sarah Jane
From: Wolfgang
Date: 30 May 00 - 06:44 AM

Yes, I know there's already a Sarah Jane in the database, but the song here is completely different sharing nothing but the title. I know it from Frank Harte and from the Voice Squad. The notes below the song are from Frank Harte (CD Daybreak and a candle-end).



One day for my amusement,
it being on a Thursday the first of June,
as the sun passed o'er the meridian,
it being in the afternoon,
near the dwelling of a gentleman,
short time I did remain,
but little I thought that I might be caught,
in the snares of Sarah Jane.

As I sat forninst yon hawthorn fence,
I had scarce commenced my thought,
when the north wind breeze my ear did please,
as distant footsteps brought
to me she cried when passing by
and how I felt the pain,
but she made me curse then the pain felt worse,
when I met with Sarah Jane.

I was much surprised and I could not rise
When she gave to me her hand.
I my heart I thought hard is your lot
To plough through such rough land.
Though the pay is not much for gathering scutch,
short time I did remain,
then she bade me adieu and from me flew,
and away went Sarah Jane.

It was on that spot where I was deep in thought,
I had scarce commenced my woe,
when a blackbird spoke from a bower stalk,
my mind he seemed to know,
saying if you could fly just the same as I,
your wings and your voice you would strain,
for you'd be whistling shrill on the window sill,
surmising Sarah Jane.

When the skylark sings well her wings she spreads,
then I commenced to make my moan,
and the landrail out from her grassy bed
seemed with me to intone.
Though her voice was coarse and grating,
still her notes they were sharp and plain,
saying you might as well go home and sing your poem,
for you'll ne'er wed with Sarah Jane.

Well if I had yonder valley and diamonds,
I would leave them at her command,
or if I had Aladdin's wondrous lamp,
it would shine supremely grand,
or by building castles in the air,
great pleasure I might obtain,
but I'd prefer to spend my days in happy ways
in the arms of Sarah Jane.

But now the pain it is decreasing daily,
and a roving she may go,
she can call at Liza Kealey's
as she passes through Myroe,
she can drink from a bottle of the best,
and drink unto the poet's name,
and I hope always she'll have happy days,
the maid called Sarah Jane.

(Frank Harte's notes:) This is one of Eddie Butcher's lovely local ballads. I have never heard anybody else but Eddie singing it. It is very similar in character to the 'Coleraine Regatta' or 'The Star of Moville'. It was the strange meter of this song that first appealed to me as well as the inclusion of words that are not usual in such songs...'As the sun passed o'er the meridian' or 'The land-rail out from her grassy bed'; the land-rail, of course, being another name for the corncrake. I like too the way the bird tells the lover 'You might as well go home and sing your poem'. There is a line in the last verse that may confuse the listener. Liza Kealy's is a pub in the town of Myroe, County Derry.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: John Moulden
Date: 30 May 00 - 07:26 AM

Oddly, all three of the songs - Sarah Jane, Star of Moville and Coleraine Regatta were all made by Jimmy McCurry of Myroe, Co Derry in the last part of the 19th century.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: Kim C
Date: 30 May 00 - 12:06 PM

Thanks! I was wanting that.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: Wolfgang
Date: 31 May 00 - 06:13 AM

You're welcome, Kim. John, I wondered which time the song was from. My guess would have been early 20th century. Thankks for the information.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: radriano
Date: 31 May 00 - 11:13 AM

Thanks, Wolfgang!

I've had a partially transcribed version of this for ages and could never figure out what some of the words actually were.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: GUEST,rhj
Date: 02 Jun 00 - 08:08 AM

Does anyone know the meaning of the word "Forninst," and "Scutch?" I did find the word "Scut," which is the tail of a rabbit or a deer.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
From: MartinRyan
Date: 02 Jun 00 - 02:56 PM

"fornenst" means "opposite". "scutch" nowadays means "rough grass" - but I'll leave it to those further North to nit-pick on it!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane
Date: 24 Oct 02 - 02:04 PM

Hmmmm....just stopping by and read:

"she can call at Liza Kealey's
as she passes through Myroe,"

I always heard:

"She can call out lies at ceilidhs
As she passes through my row"

David de la Barre

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Subject: RE: Sam Henry's Songs of the People
Date: 14 Jun 09 - 10:20 PM

Hello! I am looking for The Star of Moville. Can anyone help? Kathleen

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Subject: Lyr Add: The Star of Moville (James McCurry)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Jun 09 - 02:50 AM

Hi, Kathleen-
Can you tell us what you know of the song? Sam Henry doesn't really say much about it.
Since these two songs are by the same songwriter, I thought I'd move the request here and post "Star" here.

(James McCurry)

You folk of this nation that hear my oration,
Come listen with patience and I won't keep you long,
There is no false pretension in what I here mention,
It is now my intention for to sing you a song.
I belong to a village where boatmen have knowledge
Of rowing and sailing, experience and skill,
They all took their places, as yearly the case is,
To witness the races this day at Moville.

My notion was bent, so to Blackburn's I went
To obtain his consent for a sail o'er Lough Foyle,
My friends and my neighbours had ceased from their labours
To obtain the day's pleasure, forsaking their toil.
My petition he granted, I got what I wanted,
He freely consented and said nothing ill,
He says, 'Get you ready and keep yourself steady,
Beware of your conduct this day at Moville.'

Without further warning, for the morning was charming,
I set out on my journey, to the waters I strayed,
When I came to the Run, I found the boat it was gone;
Till another would come, with Montgomery I stayed.
I soon left the spot, when I got in a cot,
There I knew my conductor would drive her with skill,
Though the water was low, to the boat I did go
Where the crew had their frigate prepared for Moville.

I need not narrate, they began to debate;
For a damsel I waited, but she kept her word,
And when they viewed her, as soon as they knew her,
A party went to her and brought her on board.
No storm seemed to tease us, but all seemed to please us
With soft gentle breezes our sails for to fill,
From Blackburn's that morning, with Davis and Torrens
The fiddler and Margaret, set sail for Moville.

We did not sail free till we passed the Black Gwee,
When I thought I could see to the opposite shore.
Some sails at a distance in the sunbeams did glisten,
Which seemed to extend from the Point to Culmore.
As we drew nearer, the scene became clearer,
The lough with boats crowded like sheep on a hill,
As fast as a streamer we passed by the steamer,
And shortly our vessel was moored at Moville.

I profess not to show it, for indeed I don't know it
To tell you in plain how the races were run,
Suffice it to say, about twelve in the day
The boats went away like the shot of a gun.
Some cheering for Allen and others for Blackburn,
Some for McCormick with cheers loud and shrill,
Surprised as by thunder, my heart leapt like wonder
When I met with Mary, the star of Moville.

My senses were frisky by means of some whiskey.
Says I, 'My fair lassie, how sweetly you sing.'
Some swaggering and roystering while others kept cursing,
Sly Cupid kept whispering, 'Slip round her your wing.'
Says I, 'Ma'am, excuse me and do not refuse me,
A wee drop of whiskey your sorrow would kill.'
She freely consented, so I was contented
When I had gained Mary, the star of Moville.

I says to my pet, 'Let us now have a wet,
Let us never forget that I play and you sing,
For that we'll not quarrel, for the poor of the world
Had always a winter before they have spring.'
She said, 'Sir, to cheer you, my name is called Mary,
From sweet Carndonagh I ramble at will.
Therefore excuse me my speech, don't abuse me,
I sing to gain pence on the streets of Moville.'

Then her I enlisted and of her requested
A promise of marriage to give me her hand.
'If on me you'll smile, we'll cross o'er Lough Foyle
And reside in the village called Ballymacran.'
She said, 'I've consented if that's all that's wanted.'
Says I, 'I'm contented for good or for ill;
In my heart I'd be willing to share the last shilling
And spend it with Mary, the star of Moville.'

I supplied her with pence to meet her expense,
And to taste we commenced, for her throttle was dry.
She entered a shop where she did not long stop
Till she came with a drop where I waited hard by.
She said, 'Sir, don't slight me and do not deride me,
Some people would slight me, of me would speak ill.'
She was brown as a berry, her lips like the cherry,
Then I kissed Mary, the star of Moville.

She was not neglected, but highly respected,
For a coach was erected to bear her away,
'Mid parlours and cellars, 'mid equals and fellows
She was requested some time for to stay.
To explain I'm not able how grand was the table,
Well covered with nothing her joys to fulfil.
With my senses afloat I went to the boat
To lament for my Mary, the star of Moville.

So now to conclude and to finish these verses,
I hope an offence I have given to none,
But I wish I could fly or the ground would rise high,
Or the waters would dry, I might reach Innishowen.
I'll promise you here, if you're over next year
At Elizabeth's or Jacob's your glasses to fill,
And like a canary I'll sing loud and cheery,
If you bring me Mary, the star of Moville.

Source: Sam Henry's Songs of the People, page 276 [H68: 28 Feb 1925]

Singer: Matthew Quinn, 84, fiddler (Bellarena)
Author/Composer: James McCurry, blind fiddler (Myroe)

Played on the fiddle by Matthew Quinn, whose hands were twisted with rheumatism. He learnt the air and words from the author and composer.

[tune available on request, but not tonight]
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Star of Moville, The

DESCRIPTION: The singer sails to Moville to watch the races. Enlivened by whiskey, he meets Mary, "the star of Moville." He courts her, and buys her a drink. The girl, after spending some time, rejects him and goes home. He wishes that someone would bring her to him
AUTHOR: James McCurry
EARLIEST DATE: 1925 (Sam Henry collection)
KEYWORDS: love courting racing rejection drink music
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (1 citation):
SHenry H68, pp. 276-277, "The Star of Moville" (1 text, 1 tune)
Roud #7968
Notes: A long and highly complex mix: Is it a boat-racing song, a courting song, a rejection song, a drinking song, a song of getting delayed along the shore? I'm not sure. - RBW
File: HHH068

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Bibiography
Go to the Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2007 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane/Star of Moville (McCurry)
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 20 Sep 19 - 10:49 AM

I've just been revising this song, having not sung it out for some time. Looking back at this thread I see that no-one has ever suggested what seems to me an obvious minor tweak to the words. Instead of
"When the skylark sings well her wings she spreads"
I sing
"When the skylark sings she spreads her wings"
thus restoring the internal rhyme and improving the metre.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Sarah Jane/Star of Moville (McCurry)
From: Vic Smith
Date: 20 Sep 19 - 12:16 PM

Good point, Richard. I sing this song but I missed that line. I will change it in future

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Mudcat time: 13 August 8:47 AM EDT

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