Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Origins: The old oak tree

DigiTrad:
OLD OAK TREE


Related threads:
Folklore: Oak Trees in Folklore (175)
Lyr Req: The Old Oak Tree (4) (closed)
(origins) Lyr Add: Squire McCallian/Old Oak Tree (8)
Lyr Req: The Old Oak Tree (9)


GUEST,Ferg 06 Jul 00 - 02:10 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jul 00 - 02:20 PM
Ed Pellow 06 Jul 00 - 02:21 PM
Ed Pellow 06 Jul 00 - 02:29 PM
Malcolm Douglas 06 Jul 00 - 02:39 PM
Joe Offer 25 Jun 04 - 01:19 AM
GUEST,dgaldas@aol.com 27 Jul 04 - 11:53 PM
Malcolm Douglas 28 Jul 04 - 01:34 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Jul 04 - 02:02 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 28 Jul 04 - 11:08 AM
Joe Offer 29 Jul 04 - 03:49 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 04 - 06:42 AM
GUEST,Paul Burke 29 Jul 04 - 07:16 AM
Joybell 29 Jul 04 - 08:32 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 04 - 12:50 PM
Malcolm Douglas 29 Jul 04 - 03:14 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 04 - 04:23 PM
Malcolm Douglas 29 Jul 04 - 04:47 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 04 - 04:52 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 29 Jul 04 - 04:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 29 Jul 04 - 05:21 PM
Joybell 29 Jul 04 - 10:17 PM
Malcolm Douglas 29 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM
GUEST,sadams at bitstream.net 27 Aug 04 - 11:36 PM
Malcolm Douglas 27 Aug 04 - 11:54 PM
GUEST 28 Aug 04 - 07:59 PM
Fergie 14 Dec 08 - 03:51 PM
catspaw49 14 Dec 08 - 04:20 PM
GUEST 30 Aug 16 - 11:42 AM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:









Subject: The old oak tree
From: GUEST,Ferg
Date: 06 Jul 00 - 02:10 PM

Hi. I've just collected a song from an old woman. It's called the "Old Oak Tree." It begins:

Dark was the night, cold blew the wind, and thickly fell the rain.
Young Bessie left her native home and came not back again.
She left her widowed mother's side and feared not wind or cold,
For she was young, fair to be seen, and love had made her bold.

It's a very long song but if anybody is interested, I'll post the lot. I'm trying to get some history on the song. Can anybody help?
Thanks
Ferg


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jul 00 - 02:20 PM

Actually, this song is already on the DT, here: Old Oak Tree.  There is a little information about it at the Traditional Ballad Index,  HERE.

Malcolm

Old Oak Tree, The [Laws P37]

DESCRIPTION: (Betsy) sets out from home to meet her love and never returns. Her widowed mother, after a long search, dies of grief. The girl's body is found during a hunt with the murderer's knife still there. He confesses the crime and (dies/kills himself)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1921 (Greenleaf/Mansfield)
KEYWORDS: murder suicide gallows-confession
FOUND IN: US(MW) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Laws P37, "The Old Oak Tree"
Doerflinger, pp. 283-285, "The Old Oak Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H207, pp. 417-418, "The Old Oak Tree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Gardner/Chickering 33, "The Old Oak Tree" (1 text plus mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
Greenleaf/Mansfield 55, "Squire Nathaniel and Betsy" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 514, OLDOAKTR

Roud #569
RECORDINGS:
Warde Ford, "Beneath the Old Oak Tree" (AFS 4195 A1; tr.; in AMMEM/Cowell)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Squire
File: LP37

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

The Ballad Index Copyright 2004 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: The old oak tree
From: Ed Pellow
Date: 06 Jul 00 - 02:21 PM

I can't help you on the history, but would be very pleased if you'd post the rest of the song

Ed


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: The old oak tree
From: Ed Pellow
Date: 06 Jul 00 - 02:29 PM

Ooops, I simul-posted with Malcolm...

Thanks for the links, Malcolm

Ed


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 06 Jul 00 - 02:39 PM

Though the Traditional Ballad Index has the first appearance of this song in print as 1927, there are two earlier broadside versions at the  Bodleian Library Broadside Collection; unfortunately the links to the image files are not at present functional.  The documentary details are:

The old oak three [sic] ("The night was dark cold blew the wind and thickly fell the rain ...")
Printer: Brereton, P. (Dublin)
Date: c.1867
Imprint: P. Brereton Printer 1 Lr Exchange Street Dublin
Subject: Murder

The old oak tree ("The night was dark, cold blew the wind ...")
Printer: Nugent, J.F. and Co.? (Dublin?)
Date: between 1850 and 1899
Printer's Series: (5).
Subject: Murder

It would seem fairly clear that the song is originally Irish.

Malcolm


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: LIZA WELLS
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jun 04 - 01:19 AM

Joy suggested this should be posted in the "Oak Tree" origins thread:
    Thread #59852   Message #1211792
    Posted By: Joybell
    21-Jun-04 - 10:15 PM
    Thread Name: Folklore: Oak Trees in Folklore
    Subject: Lyrics add: Liza Wells

    Here is what I think may be a variant of "The Old Oak Tree" as mentioned by Guest dgaldas. It was collected in Binalong New South Wales, Australia, by Rob Willis. It was sung for him, in 1991, by Val Turton (born 1927).

    Liza Wells

    Dark was the night, cold blew the wind, and heavy fell the rain
    When Liza left her dear old home, to never return again.
    She left her dear old mother's side, and she went out in the cold.
    For she was young and sensitive and love had made her bold.

    She heeded not the wind that blew, or the tempest raging o'er
    She drew a mantle 'round herself, and boldly left the door.
    The night passed on and the day passed on and Liza came not home
    Which caused her dear old mother to say, "How can she roam alone?"

    'twas in the scenery of some woods, where the owner of some land,
    Squire Coleman and some of his gentlemen, were hunting with their hounds.
    Over hills and down the dells all gallantly rode they
    Until the hounds they all did stop beneath an old oak tree.

    The hounds began to yelp and bark, and to yelp and bark did they
    And all the whips those hounds did get could not drive them away.
    The gentlemen they gathered 'round and they called for pick and spade
    For they dug the ground and there they found the murdered mystery maid.

    In her side they found a knife, and with a look of shame,
    The gentlemen read on the blade young Squire Coleman's name.
    "Oh gentlemen" Squire Coleman said, "My soul is fit for Hell
    Oh hide me from that cold, cold corpse and the truth to you I'll tell.

    I know she loved me dearly, and from me would not part
    And in my selfish, wicked way I knew I'd won her heart.
    She pleaded me, tormented me, tried me make her my wife
    And the Devil whispered in my ear, "Why don't you take her life?"

    And with that knife found in her side I pierced her snow-white breast
    Oh, gentlemen", Squire Coleman said, "Why need I tell the rest?".
    He knelt down by the cold, cold corpse, and with a look of pain,
    He drew a pistol from his belt and fired it through his brain.

    And where he died they buried him. No Christian grave got he
    No marble stone to mark the place beneath that old oak tree.

    Joy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Help: The old oak tree
From: GUEST,dgaldas@aol.com
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 11:53 PM

I've ran across a handwritten ballad in some old letters called "The Old Oak Tree" between 1880-1899. I'm also trying to find out who wrote it and the original date it was written.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 28 Jul 04 - 01:34 AM

It doesn't seem to vary a great deal textually, except for the occasional garbling of the names, so perhaps hasn't moved very far from print sources. Four years on, I don't really know any more about it, and the image links at the Bodleian still don't work. It was obviously quite popular, and seems to have been the work of a hack broadside lyricist working in a conventional style of the kind used for many such songs throughout Britain and Ireland, presumably in the mid 19th century. The broadside examples we know of are Irish, and it has persisted there. It travelled on to Canada (where it was printed at least twice during the 1940s in the "Old Favourites" column of the Montreal Family Herald & Weekly Star), and thence -a little- into the Northern USA. Evidently it also lurks in Australia!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: ADD Version: Beneath the Old Oak Tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jul 04 - 02:02 AM

Cowell collected the song in California from Warde Ford, 1938, with music.

Beneath the Old Oak Tree (Betsy)

O dark and stormy was the night
And fast did fall the rain
When Betsy left her own dear home
Not to return again.

She left her widowed mother's side,
Not fearing storm or cold,
For she was young and fair to view,
But love had made her bold.

And unto James, her own true love
She'd promised for to be
That very night at ten o'clock
Beneath the oak tree.

The night passed by, the morning came
And Betsy was not home;
And much it grieved her friend to know
Where this fair maid did roam.

The days passed by, she came not home,
Her mother nearly wild,
Said "I'll hunt this kingdom over,
But I'll find my darling child."

The days went by for most a month,
And Betsy was not found,
Until one day the squire went out to hunt
With all his hounds.

And up the hill and down the dale
Went the gallant company,
Until by chance the fox was lost
Beneath the old oak tree.

The hounds stopped there and scratched the ground
And loudly did they bay,
And neither whip nor sharp command
Could drive those dogs away.

The brave young men they gathered round,
They called for pick and spade,
And there they dug, and there they found
The dead and missing maid.

And who it was that did the deed,
The truth seemed very plain;
For O, the dagger in her heart
bore James McCulloch's name.

"I did the deed," the vilain cried.
"The truth I will explain;
For in an evil moment
I had ruined Betsy's name." (fame in text)

"She persevered, I tired grew,
And as it seemed to me,
The devil whispered:
'Take her life- then you will be free'."

"For mercy now I do not ask,
You see my guilt is plain."
He drew a pistol from his belt
And fired it through his brain.

They buried him right where he fell;
No Christian grave got he;
And none there were to bless the ground
Beneath the old oak tree.

American Memory: listed as "Beneath the Old Oak Tree." California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties. Cowell Collection. Two textual and one melodic transcription. Sung by Warde Ford to S. R. Cowell, Boomtown, Shasta County, CA, 1938. Audio under separate listing.
I have copied and will send the pencilled melodic transcription by Mrs. Wells to Joe (not easy to scan, he may do better than I have).

I have corrected line spacing on the verses and one or two mis-heard words. Betsy is very close to "Liza Wells" as posted by Joybell.

There are several 19th c. songs with this general title that are unrelated. Two related (see post by Malcolm Douglas) and one unrelated in the Bodleian Collection. No images yet of the "dark night" texts.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 28 Jul 04 - 11:08 AM

Now that Mudcat is almost working again, the tune was posted for a NFLD version by Malcolm Douglas in thread 53833, "Squire McCallian," linked at top of thread.
The song seems to have been spread rather widely.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD OAK TREE
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 03:49 AM

Here's a Michigan version that's a bit different. It has a few problems - note the repeated line and the two missing lines.
-Joe Offer-

THE OLD OAK TREE
(sung in 1935 by Mrs. Allan McClellan, near Bad Axe, Michigan)

The night was dark, high blew the wind,
And heavy fell the rain;
Young Betsy left her own dear home,
And came not back again.
She left her widowed mother's side,
Not fearing rain nor cold;
She had been young and fair to view,
But love had made her bold.

That very night at ten o'clock
Beneath the old oak tree,
She promised Jimmy, her own true love,
That with him she would be.
She heeded not the drenching rain,
Nor storms, nor tempest roar;
She threw her cloak about her
And quickly left the door.

The night passed on and morning came;
Still Betsy was not home;
She left her parent for to weep
And wonder where she'd roamed.
Her mother went in search of her;
She cried in accents wild,
"I'll search the kingdom over
Until I find my child."

The mother went in search of her;
She searched the kingdom over.
She searched the kingdom over,
But Betsy was no more.
Her mother then returned home,
And on her bed did lie;
And in a few days after
Of a broken heart she died.

Six weeks was spent to no avail
In searching the country round;
Till Squire McCullough rode out one day
To hunt with all his hounds.
And in the shade the fox he strayed
Beneath the old oak tree;
'Twas there the dogs did bark and bite
And there did sniff the clay.

And all that horn or whip could do
Would not drive the hounds away;
The gentlemen they gathered around
And called for pick and spade.
And then they found beneath the ground
The murdered, missing maid.
The body that was once so white
Was black with many blows.

7. . . . .
. . . . .
And from her side the blood did gush
And trickled through her clothes;
And in her side a knife was found
With which the deed was done.
'Twas there they called the guilty man,
In Squire McCullough's name.

"I done the deed," McCullough cried,
"And I am now condemned;
So hide this cold corpse from my eyes,
And I the truth will tell.
O I did love sweet Betsy,
But with my villainous heart
I murdered her that very night
As her and Jimmy did part."

This was his last words on earth, no more,
For here the villain he
Did raise a pistol to his mouth;
He fired it through his brain.
It was no coffin nor a shroud
Nor Christian grave found he,
But they did bury him where he lay
Just at the old oak tree.




source: Ballads and Songs of Southern Michigan, Gardner & Chickering

tune available upon request


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: THE OLD OAK TREE
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 06:42 AM

Sam Henry says several tunes were used. One was a slow "Star of County Down." He reproduces one in which the "air is in the old Irish gapped scale, having neither the note "fa" nor the note "t". Here is the very singable version he gives. Key A.

THE OLD OAK TREE

Dark was the night, cold blew the wind and thickly fell the rain
When Eliza left her own dear home, ne'er to return again.
She left her widowed mother's side, not fearing rain nor cold.
She was young and fair to look upon, but love had made her bold.

That very night at ten o'clock beneath the old oak tree,
She promised James, her own true love, that with him she would be.
She heeded not the drenching rain nor yet the thunder roar,
But threw her cloak around her head, walked quickly from the door.

When night had passed and morning came and she did not return,
It sadly grieved her friends to think that Eliza thus did roam.
At length her mother started off with cries and actions wild,
Saying, 'I will ramble the kingdom through till I find my only child.'

For three long weary weeks she spent in searching the country round,
Her journeys proved of no avail. Eliva ne'er was found.
And now to reach her lonely cot this grief-worn widow tried,
Oppressed with grief, she there lay down -- with broken heart she died.

Near to the scene of all this woe, the owner of these grounds,
Young Squire Cowan went to hunt that way and with him all his hounds.
Up hill, down dale he haughtily rode with a gallant company,
Till, by chance, the fox they lost beneath the old oak tree.

The dogs began to sniff and yelp and tear up the clay,
All that horn or whip could do would not drive those hounds away,
The gentlemen all gathered round, they called for pick and spade,
They dug the ground and there they found the long-lost murdered maid.

The cheeks that once were rosy red were black with wounds and blows,
And from her side fresh blood gushed forth and sprinkled Cowan's clothes,
And in her breast a knife was found, and to his grief and shame,
The gentlemen upon the heft read young Squire Cowan's name.

'I've done the deed,' young Cowan cried, 'my soul is fit for hell,
Pray hide her cold corpse from my sight and I the truth will tell,
It's true I loved Eliza long, but with a villain's art,
I won her by my evil ways till triumph made us part.

With the knife I cut my dinner, with it I pierced her breast,
'Twas with the haft I knocked her down, I need not tell the rest;
From that unlucky hour to this, she stands before my sight,
I think I see her bleeding ghost and view her dying plight.

When I am sentenced, I must die a death of sin and shame.'
He drew a pistol from his breast and fired it through his brain,
And he was buried where he fell, no Christian grave got he,
None could be found to bless the ground beneath the old oak tree.

Sam Henry noted variants "My Love(ly) Nell," "Squire Nathaniel and Betsy," "Eliza Long," "Poor Murdered Woman." Three contributors sang it to different airs. One said he learned it c. 1875.
"The Old Oak Tree, p. 417-418, section C22 "When Death was Near: Deadly love". "Sam Henry's Songs of the People," Univ. Georgia Press, 1990.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: GUEST,Paul Burke
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 07:16 AM

Not Ivor Cutler's version then, which (from memory) runs something like:

The old oak tree.
A nice young man stands by the old oak tree
And his face is red.
His face is red and his temperature's up
Because he's been too long in the sun.

The nice young man.
A girl stands by the nice young man
And her arms are white.
Her arms are white because her bra's too tight
And the blood can not get through.

Plus more in the same vein. I DIDN'T collect it from an old lady, but from an old Ivor Cutler radio program.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Joybell
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 08:32 AM

So we have an Eliza - close to the Liza of "Liza Wells". What puzzles me is that the name "Liza Wells" is much more specific than the other variants with Betsy, Bessie etc. and no surname. Could this ballad be traced to an actual murder I wonder? There's quite a bit of detail. Joy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 12:50 PM

The story has a lot in common with other ever-popular dagget-in-the breast-lust-murder-pay-for-your-sin tales so common in ballad literature (and dear to the heart of Victorian moralists who were also closet sensualists). This one became widespread because of its straight-forward story told in easily remembered verses.

Sam Henry mentioned another name-specific title, "Eliza Long," (see post on his versions) which probably developed from a line of Cowan's confession; "It's true I loved Eliza long ...."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 03:14 PM

That would be the explanation. Roud lists one example of Oak Tree as Eliza Long (Manny & Wilson, Songs of the Miramichi,1968, pp.232-234), but that's a Canadian set that Henry won't have known about. Evidently the same confusion had arisen in some Irish forms of the song. Liza Wells is likely to have arisen similarly.

Henry's references to other songs can mislead if not quoted verbatim. One singer sang The Old Oak Tree to a variant of the tune usually associated with My Love Nell; the songs themselves are not related. My Love Nell, of course, is a variant of the Gilderoy / Lazarus / Clean Contrary Way group of tunes. Cathal McGarvey set his Star of the County Down to a form of it.

Poor Murdered Woman is also quite separate (having been found only in Surrey, and dealing with a local murder that took place just outside Leatherhead in 1834) and is mentioned for purposes of comparison only.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 04:23 PM

Sam Henry's cryptic notes, e. g. his cf. (compare) on "Poor Murdered Woman." To represent as similar" is the meaning of cf., but one of the points raised when things are close enough to be compared is possible relationship. My error in reading too much into a comparison (which I should not do without seeing both texts).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 04:47 PM

It's easily done with Henry's perhaps over-concise marginalia.

Poor Murdered Woman turns out to be in the DT, but transcribed by ear from a record rather than from a published source, and containing some rather noticeable mistakes. Perhaps I should post the whole thing properly (the tune transcription is reasonable, but doesn't do the rather fine melody justice).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 04:52 PM

"Poor Murdered Woman" is in the DT, apparently from the singing of Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band. Called a "song describing a non-event" by Martin Carthy (about a woman's body with a head wound found on the Common, never identified).

The song is in the Contemplator, with midi. Poor Murdered Woman
Malcolm is right, there is no relationship.

The version in the DT has at least two mistakes.
1. "The dogs they throve off" should be "they throwed off."
2. "To the last day of Georgemont" should be "the last day of Judgement."


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 04:54 PM

We were cross-posting. Malcolm, if you have the text of the version in the Journal of the Folk Song Society, that would clear up the errors.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 05:21 PM

The text printed by Lucy Broadwood in 1903 (and reproduced at Lesley's site) was amended. The text in FSJ was as written down by the singer himself in 1897. I'll add it in a separate thread of its own, with Miss Broadwood's full notes.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Joybell
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 10:17 PM

This is such fun. He loved Eliza well then possibly. We might even find Eliza Shortly, Eliza Briefly and Eliza Often mightn't we?
(I am still smiling about a song list from a Furies CD which lists the song "Alice Benbolt"). Sorry to digress.
I do thank you for the insights regarding "The Old Oak Tree" Malcolm and Q. I'm passing them on to the collector here in Australia who found it here. Thanks, Joy


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 29 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM

Original transcription of Poor Murdered Woman now added.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: GUEST,sadams at bitstream.net
Date: 27 Aug 04 - 11:36 PM

Is it the zeitgeist? Is this particular song re-awakening?

There is a version of it collected by Robin Morton in a book of folk songs from Ulster. It does not differ substantially from the versions already noted. He reports that the words were recited to him by a woman (Mrs. Conner) who did not sing, and prints them along with a melody from John Maguire of Roslea, who sings yet another version of the song.

The melody he prints is quite different from the Warde Ford version.

I am working up a minor-key version myself to play with friends.

Sam


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 27 Aug 04 - 11:54 PM

Robin Morton, Come Day, Go Day, God Send Sunday, London: Routledge, 1973, 141-143 (John Maguire) and Folksongs Sung in Ulster, Cork: Mercier, 1970, 24-26 (Mrs Connor).


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Aug 04 - 07:59 PM

Sadams at bistream.net (27th August 2004) is probably right about the "Zeitgeist". Possibly 2 or 3 years ago I posted asking for the words of "The Old Oak Tree" to the tune sung by Robin Morton of "Boys of the Lough" (only some of which I could remember) but no-one was able to help me then (in this version it is Squire McCollum, which is rather close to the Squire McCallian in the NFLD version by Malcolm Douglas posted by "Q" on 28th July 2004 or the Squire McCullough version posted by Joe Offer on 29th July 2004). All these names beginning with Mc are perhaps especially associated with Northern Ireland, though whether (as Robin Morton says in the sleeve notes to the Boys of the Lough 1st album on which this song appears) "Whether this song relates to an actual murder I do not know." However it is a good song (murder ballads usually are, eg Tom Dooley, Poor Ellen Smith, Omie Wise, etc)and I particularly like the last verse on the BOTL version (after Squire McCollum, overcome with remorse, shoots himself):

And they buried him just where he lay
No Christian grave got he
For no-one was found to bless the ground
Beneath the old oak tree

Despite its melancholy sound I don't think it is in a minor key.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: Fergie
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 03:51 PM

Hi All

Just found this thread again, I started it back in 2000 before I became a member. I now realize that I should have posted the entire song verbatim as I collect it from Mrs. Timmins of Rathcoole in Co. Dublin. According to 88year old Mrs. Timmins her family have been singing this particular murder ballad for generations.

OLD OAK TREE.

1 Dark was the night, cold blew the wind
And thickly fell the rain
Young Bessie left her native home
And came not back again.
She left her widowed mother's side
And feared not wind and cold
For she was young fair to be seen
And love had made her bold.

2 That very night at ten o'clock
Beneath the old oak tree
She promised James, her own true love,
That with him she would be.
Then heeding not the drenching rain
Nor the tempest loudly roar,
She wrapped her cloak around her
And walked quickly from the door

3 The night went o'er the day did dawn
And Bessie came not home
Which made her weary friends to think
Where Bessie she had roamed.
At length the mother started out
She cried in exert wild
I'll search this wide world o'er and o'er
To find my darling child.

4 Three long weary weeks she spent
A wandering up and down
Her journey proved of no avail
For Bessie was not found
And then to find her lonely home
The poor old mother tried
But worn out with grief and pain
Of a broken heart she died.

5 Then at the end of all these scenes
The owner of the ground
Young James McCullough came one day
To hunt with all his hounds
Up hill, down dale they nobly rode
In gallant company
Until at last they lost the fox
Beneath this old oak tree.

6 'Twas there the dogs began to bark
And sniff and tear the clay
But all that whip or horn could do
Could not drive those dogs away.
The gentlemen all gathered round
And called for pick and spade
They dug the ground and there they found
The missing murdered maid.

7 The blood it oozed out through her clothes
It was a shocking sight
And worms crept out through her eyes
That once were blue and bright
A knife revealed stuck in her breast
To his grief and shame
The gentlemen read off the haft
Young James McCullough's name

8 "I did the deed" McCullough cried
"My soul is food for hell
oh take her cold corpse from my sight
and the truth to you I'll tell
"I own I did love Bessie well
and for my cunning art
I won her to my cruel laws
And broke her mothers heart

9 I asked her then to meet me here
Beneath this old oak tree
The devil whispered take her life
And then you shall be free
The knife that did my dinner cut
I plunged it through her breast
And with the haft I knocked her down
I need not tell the rest

10 He took one look at her cold corpse
A last sad look of pain
He drew a pistol from his breast
And fired it through his brain
He was buried there in the place he fell
No Christian grave got he
No priest was found to bless the ground
Beneath this old oak tree.

It is interesting to note that stanza 7 has echoes of an old Irish superstition that when the corpse of a murder victim is in the presence of it's murderer it will begin to bleed afresh.

Fergus


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: catspaw49
Date: 14 Dec 08 - 04:20 PM

Origins: The Old Oak Tree

Would an acorn be one possibility?

Spaw


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Origins: The old oak tree
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Aug 16 - 11:42 AM

I'm trying to find the words of the chorus of this song. Can anybody help?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 23 June 10:02 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.