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History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)

DigiTrad:
THE LAKES OF COL FIN
THE LAKES OF COL FLYNN


Related threads:
Lyr Req: The Lake of Coolfin (30)
(origins) Deep and false water... (22)
Lyr Req: The Lakes of Coolfin (5) (closed)


radriano 29 Oct 99 - 12:04 PM
Snuffy 04 Aug 00 - 06:33 PM
GUEST,Bruce O. 04 Aug 00 - 07:48 PM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Aug 00 - 11:10 PM
GUEST,Tburch@earhtlink.net 15 Jul 05 - 01:18 AM
GUEST,leeneia 15 Jul 05 - 11:26 AM
GUEST,jbc446@yahhoo.com 14 Apr 06 - 03:02 PM
GUEST,AR 14 Apr 06 - 06:21 PM
Malcolm Douglas 14 Apr 06 - 06:40 PM
Toenails John 15 Apr 06 - 01:41 PM
Peace 16 Apr 06 - 01:10 AM
GUEST,Kilkennyjohn 24 Feb 14 - 08:20 PM
meself 25 Feb 14 - 12:48 AM
MartinRyan 25 Feb 14 - 03:21 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Feb 14 - 03:30 AM
GUEST 25 Feb 14 - 07:45 AM
Jim Carroll 25 Feb 14 - 08:06 AM
GUEST,Iain 25 Feb 14 - 08:53 AM
GUEST 25 Feb 14 - 11:31 AM
MartinRyan 27 Oct 14 - 12:41 PM
Tattie Bogle 27 Oct 14 - 03:49 PM
GUEST 05 Feb 16 - 04:24 AM
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Subject: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: radriano
Date: 29 Oct 99 - 12:04 PM

Hello, everybody:

I have seen numerous version of this song. First of all, what is the correct spelling of the title - is it "Coolfin" or "Col Fin"? The Bodleian site has one broadside called the "Lake of Cold Finn"! I know the song also goes by the title "Willie Leonard".

One version in the Digital Tradition shows the following footnote:

"From The New Green Mountain Songster, Flanders et al., collected from Mrs. E.M. Sullivan, VT....Flanders thinks this is a degenerate form of ballad in which a young man is taken by a water witch who desires him. Variation known as the Lakes of Champlain."

I would like to track down this reference of water witches. Anybody got any ideas about this?

I would greatly appreciate any help I can get.

Regards to all,
radriano


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Subject: Lyr/Tune Add: THE LAKE OF COOLFIN
From: Snuffy
Date: 04 Aug 00 - 06:33 PM

THE LAKE OF COOLFIN

It was early one morning Willie Leonard arose,
And straight to his comrade's bedchamber he goes,
Crying,"Comrade, loyal comrade, let nobody know,
'Tis a fine summer's morning, and a-bathing we'll go".

To the Lake of Coolfin the comrades soon came
And who should they meet but the keeper of game.
"Turn back, Willie Leonard, do not venture in,
There are deep and false waters in the Lake of Coolfin."

But Willie jumped in and he swum the lake round,
He soon reached an island, 'twas soft, boggy ground,
"Oh comrade, loyal comrade, don't follow me in
There are deep and false waters in the Lake of Coolfin."

It was very soon after, Willie's sister awoke
And unto her mother all sadly she spoke,
"Oh I dreamt a sad dream about Willie last night
He came to my room in a shroud of snow white."

Willie's mother arose, and she went to the lake,
She called her son's name, and she wept for his sake.
"Oh, sad was the hour when my Willie plunged in,
There are deep and false waters in the Lake of Coolfin."

Oh, to see Willie's funeral, it was a grand sight
There were four-and-twenty young men, they were all dressed in white.
There were four-and-twenty young maids, they were all dressed in green.
Just to show that he was drowned in the Lake of Coolfin.

VRH

Sung by the Grehan Sisters on "On the Galtymore Mountains, Transatlantic TRA160, 1967. The sleeve notes say:
The Lake of Coolfin is a traditional ballad also known as The Ballad of Willie Leonard. It is a song that the Grehans have been singing since they were knee-high. They say that they have never heard it sung anywhere other than the West of Ireland.
There are American versions of this in the DT collected in Vermont (Lakes of Col Fin), and the Catskills (Lakes of Col Flynn), each with a different tune

MIDI file: COOLFIN.MID

Timebase: 480

Tempo: 110 (545454 microsec/crotchet)
Key: D
TimeSig: 3/4 18 8
Name: Lake of Coolfin
Start
0000 1 69 127 0239 0 69 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 66 127 0479 0 66 000 0001 1 62 090 0239 0 62 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 66 090 0239 0 66 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 69 127 0479 0 69 000 0001 1 74 090 1919 0 74 000 0001 1 74 090 0239 0 74 000 0001 1 74 090 0239 0 74 000 0001 1 71 127 0719 0 71 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 71 090 0479 0 71 000 0001 1 69 127 2399 0 69 000 0001 1 69 090 0239 0 69 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 66 127 0479 0 66 000 0001 1 62 090 0239 0 62 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 66 090 0239 0 66 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 69 127 0479 0 69 000 0001 1 74 090 1919 0 74 000 0001 1 74 090 0479 0 74 000 0001 1 71 127 0719 0 71 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 71 090 0479 0 71 000 0001 1 69 127 2399 0 69 000 0001 1 66 090 0239 0 66 000 0001 1 67 090 0239 0 67 000 0001 1 69 127 0479 0 69 000 0001 1 74 090 0479 0 74 000 0001 1 71 090 0239 0 71 000 0001 1 74 090 0239 0 74 000 0001 1 69 127 0479 0 69 000 0001 1 66 090 0479 0 66 000 0001 1 62 090 0479 0 62 000 0001 1 67 127 0719 0 67 000 0001 1 69 090 0239 0 69 000 0001 1 71 090 0479 0 71 000 0001 1 69 127 2399 0 69 000 0001 1 62 090 0239 0 62 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 66 127 0719 0 66 000 0001 1 66 090 0239 0 66 000 0001 1 66 090 0479 0 66 000 0001 1 69 127 0479 0 69 000 0001 1 67 090 0479 0 67 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 64 127 0479 0 64 000 0001 1 62 090 0479 0 62 000 0001 1 61 090 0239 0 61 000 0001 1 64 090 0239 0 64 000 0001 1 62 127 2399 0 62 000
End

This program is worth the effort of learning it.

To download the March 10 MIDItext 98 software and get instructions on how to use it click here

ABC format:

X: 1
T:Lake of Coolfin
M:3/4
L:1/8
K:D
AG|
F2 DE FG|A2 d4- |d4 dd|B3 G B2|A6-|A4 AG|
F2 DE FG|A2 d4- |d4 d2|B3 G B2|A6-|A4 FG|
A2 d2 Bd|A2 F2 D2|G3A B2|A6-|A4 DE|
F3 F F2|A2 G2 EE|E2 D2 CE|D6-|D4||

Wassail! V


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lake of Coolfin
From: GUEST,Bruce O.
Date: 04 Aug 00 - 07:48 PM

The lake is 'Colfin' on a broadside issue by Haly of Cork on the Bodley Ballads website. In 3 other copies it is 'Shelin'. These can be found by searching on 'Leonard'. Two copies, late and a bit corrupted can be found by searching on 'lake', and these give the lake as 'Cold Finn'. I think the Haly issue is the earliest (and called a new song).

I don't have good dates for Haly's broadside publications, but think most were in the 2nd quarter of the 19th century, but some may have been later. If anyone has better information on Haly I would be most happy to have it.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Lake of Coolfin
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Aug 00 - 11:10 PM

The song is generally considered to be of Irish origin, but it was by no means restricted to that country, and has been found in Scotland (Jeannie Robertson, Belle Stewart) and the South of England (for example, The Lake of Colephin, collected by the Hammond brothers from George Hatherhill of Bath in 1906).  As mentioned above, there are two American versions on the DT:

The Lakes of Col Flynn
The Lakes of Col Fin

Laws Q33
DT #541
@death @lake

Other titles:

The Cruel Lake of Wolfrinn
(Lament for) Willie Leonard
Willie Lennox
The Lakes of Shallin/ Shilin/ Shillin
The Loch of Shallin
Young Willie

There are apparantly also American versions localised to Lake Champlain.

There is an entry at  The Traditional Ballad Index:
The Lake of Cool Finn (Willie Leonard)

There is a version at Lesley Nelson's  Folk Music  site:
Lake of Coolfin  which gives a related tune with a quite different lyric, but some useful background information.

As Bruce mentions above, there are broadside versions at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads.  Particularly worth looking at are:

A new song, called William Leonard  Printed by Haly (Cork) 18-
The Lakes of Cold Finn  Printed between 1863 and 1885 by H. Such of London.
Willie Leonard  Printed between 1850 and 1899 by T. Pearson of Manchester.

Bruce also has some references at his website:  Some Irish Folk Songs in Journals  to versions published in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society.

Peter Kennedy (Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, 1975) gives a version collected by Seamus Ennis from Mary Reynolds of Mohill in Co. Leitrim, in 1954:  The Lakes of Shallin.  From the notes:

"The anglicisation of what must have been a Gaelic name has resulted in many different names for the lake in which Willie Leonard was drowned, and therefore many different titles of the song...
Sam Henry's... version (Willie Lennox), from Co. Derry, throws more light on the situation; the lake is Loughinshollin.
It is a most interesting point in topography that the hero of the song was drowned in the lake (no longer on the map) which gives its name to the Barony of Loughinshollin (the Lough of the Island of the O'Lynns).  The O'Lynns (originally O'Flynns -the F, being aspirated, is not sounded) were a powerful sept who, in the 6th. century and from A.D.1121 onwards, occupied a territory comprising the modern baronies of Lower Antrim, Lower Toome, Lower Glenarm and Kilconway, on the east side of the River Bann.  The lough was probably an expansion of the river not far north of Lough Beg."

Malcolm


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST,Tburch@earhtlink.net
Date: 15 Jul 05 - 01:18 AM

Hi, They say that I am a decendant of "Willie Leonard" and his song. But I figure he lived about 1800 or so in the area of Ennislillen, Co. Fermanagh. Do you have more info?


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 15 Jul 05 - 11:26 AM

I spent much of my life in Wisconsin, a state with many rivers and lakes, including huge Lake Michigan. To me, this song has a goal which has nothing to do with witches.

The song has to do with youth taking chances in water and drowning. That's something I have encountered far too many times - whether it's a kid foolishly trying to swim to the breakwater in Milwaukee harbor

or diving off a river bank near a bridge and breaking his neck on an abandoned car

or having a few beers and tipping over a canoe, the dangers are always there.

Once I saw a young woman's letter to Dear Abby. She wrote that people are always warning teenagers about drinking and driving, but nobody teaches them the dangers of drinking and swimming. Her brother had just died that way. (I realize, of course, that drink doesn't come into the story in the Lake Cool Finn.)

BTW, the version I have heard has the words "dark and cold waters" not "false waters."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lake of Coolfin / Col Fin
From: GUEST,jbc446@yahhoo.com
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 03:02 PM

Where can I find the sheet music for the "Lakes of Coolfin"

Thanks, jbc


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lake of Coolfin / Col Fin
From: GUEST,AR
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 06:21 PM

About 'water witches' - ballads such as 'Clerk Colven/Colvill/etc' and 'George Collins' might be worth thinking about, although I don't think they're related to the Willie Leonard song.

Al


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lake of Coolfin / Col Fin
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 14 Apr 06 - 06:40 PM

Not in the slightest; anyway, the question about "water witches" was made more than six years ago (check the dates). Helen Hartness Flanders was a very important collector and scholar, but some of her notions are a little eccentric by today's standards. This is one such.

This old, long forgotten thread was revived by somebody wanting "sheet music" for Lakes of Coolfin. In answer to that question, we must ask: "which version of it?" There are a great many, as I thought we had already made reasonably clear.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lake of Coolfin / Col Fin
From: Toenails John
Date: 15 Apr 06 - 01:41 PM

To my knowledge this is a factual song about the accidental drowning of a man called Willie Leonard, who was some desccription of a soldier. Coolfin is located just outside village of Portlaw in County Waterford, Ireland, and there are indeed lakes in the area, which even now, regardless of the song, are regarded as highly dangerous to swim in. For anyone familiar with this territory, Coolfin Lakes are located between Portlaw & Kilmacthomas. Many of the new housing estates bare names such as Coolfin meadows etc, to justify it's existence! Coolfin itself is only a small country area, and is generally regarded as part of Portlaw.

With the strong local knowledge of the song, anyone from around the area instantly rcognises it as a being from this area, and given the blatant evidence, I've never really had to question it.

Thats my 2cents on it anyway. hope it puzzles you further! Always the way isn't it. 10 different answers!

Tj


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lake of Coolfin / Col Fin
From: Peace
Date: 16 Apr 06 - 01:10 AM

More info here.


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST,Kilkennyjohn
Date: 24 Feb 14 - 08:20 PM

I am from County Kilkenny and my mother knew this song. Her aunts brought a version of this song to America, Boston area in the late 19th/ early20th century. We believe it was based on an incident near Portlaw in neighbouring County Waterford. I have heard people singing it in Waterford city.
No doubt there are stories of other drowning's in other places recorded in folksongs. These may have got mixed up borrowed whole or piecemeal. In Waterford the folk memory is strong of this death occurring at a known location; though no lake now exists there.


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: meself
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 12:48 AM

It is in oral-tradition in the Kinisota area of Manitoba, if no longer much sung.


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: MartinRyan
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 03:21 AM

Nice to see this old thread pop up again, with its examples of how people are convinced that THEIR local version is the original!

Malcolm Douglas quotes above from Sam Henry:
It is a most interesting point in topography that the hero of the song was drowned in the lake (no longer on the map) which gives its name to the Barony of Loughinshollin (the Lough of the Island of the O'Lynns). The O'Lynns (originally O'Flynns -the F, being aspirated, is not sounded) were a powerful sept who, in the 6th. century and from A.D.1121 onwards, occupied a territory comprising the modern baronies of Lower Antrim, Lower Toome, Lower Glenarm and Kilconway, on the east side of the River Bann. The lough was probably an expansion of the river not far north of Lough Beg."

A week or two ago, I was flicking through some old maps in a Dublin bookshop and happened to spot "Loughinsholinn" along the Bann in one of them!

Regards


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 03:30 AM

We've just annotated the song in preparation for putting our collection up on our county website:

Lake of Coolfin – Tom Lenihan Recorded in singer's home, July 1976
Romanticism, largely based on the writings of American ballad scholar Phillips Barry, has attributed to this song deep mythological significance involving magically disappearing islands and lethal mermaids luring unwitting mortals to their doom, but much of this can probably be put down to what A.L.Lloyd described as "the afterthought of some folklorising enthusiast".   "The Lake of Coolflynn, Coolfin, Cold Finn, Shallin, or the many other names it is known by, has survived, not as a myth, but rather as a beautifully concise account of a drowning tragedy.
Sam Henry places the probable location of the events described as; The River Agivey at Inisholeen, north of Garvah, Co. Derry.   According to the version given in Songs of The People, the drowning took place on 12th July, though he doesn't give a year (there is no evidence which in any way upholds this claim, which is more than likely a piece of local folklore).
Reference.
Folk Music Journal (English).              1973.
Sam Henry's Songs Of The People.   Gale Huntington (ed.).

Phillips Barry is a researcher I have always admired, but I found his comments on this song both romantic fantasising and particularly offensive to the people who made and circulated these songs.

"FROM Lilith, the wild woman of perilous love, and Morgain la Fee, to the mood of a street ballad about one of the many Irish youths who have lost their lives in fresh water, is a long leap. But "The Lakes of Col Fin" takes it. Irish singers un¬derstand the lore of the ballad perfectly: Willie was not "drowned"; he was taken away to Tir fa Tonn, "Fairyland-under-wave," by a water woman who had fallen in love with him. Legends of similar content are frequent in Middle Irish literature and have survived into modern popular tradition. We may compare Motherwell's, "The Mermayden," whose "bower is biggit o' the gude ships' keels, and the banes o' the drowned at sea"—a grim picture of the supernatural woman's cruelty in love, which the poet nicely caught—and Leyden's "The Mermaid of Corrievre-kan," with a happy ending wrought by a clever hero who inveigles the mermaid into taking him back to bid farewell to his former love, "the maid of Colonsay." Both poems were based on local traditions and legends.
Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not de jure: the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the "folk" which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention is the function of the folk.
"The Lakes of Col Fin" was first printed by Dr. P. W. Joyce in 1872, in a version, with the air, obtained from a County Limerick singer. A full history of the ballad and of the folk tradition pertaining to it is in FSSNE, Bulletin No. 8, pp. 9— 12.
Mrs. Flanders met this ballad as "The Lakes of Champlain" while talking about old songs with Mrs. Herbert Haley of Cuttingsville, Vermont. Mrs. Haley sang the words to the tune of "The Dying Cowboy" and had been told that the drowned boy was "Willie Lanard," well known to the person who gave her the song."
New Green Mountain Songster, Yale Univ Press, 1939

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 07:45 AM

Worth a look--my fourth try to post this:

Click here

------------------ Blue clicky added. Mudelf-------------------


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 08:06 AM

Thanks guest - that really is a good, comprehensive cover of the song.
One quibble; I do wish people who go to this much trouble would pick better examples of the song - one fairly run of the mill traditional version, two virtually identical folkie versions and another ok folkie version
There are better examples of this to be had.
Apart from that - thanks - great link
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST,Iain
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 08:53 AM

Another interesting link on the origins of the song:

http://mainlynorfolk.info/nic.jones/songs/thelakesofshilin.html


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Feb 14 - 11:31 AM

No offence, Iain, but that is the link I posted to which Jim responded.

------Think I caused the confusion by inserting "blue clickie"! Swings and roundabouts. Mudelf -----------------------


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: MartinRyan
Date: 27 Oct 14 - 12:41 PM

There's a mention earlier in the thread (by Malcolm Douglas) of an American version based round Lake Champlain. There's a recording now in The Goilín Song Project as sung by Sara Gray - though she only does harmonies on the verse ends.

Click here

Regards


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 27 Oct 14 - 03:49 PM

Call me ignorant if you like, but the only time I ever heard this song it was done very nicely by English singer Johnny Coppin. Now listening to other versions on Youtube!


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Subject: RE: History of Lake of Coolfin (Col Fin)
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Feb 16 - 04:24 AM

For years I was told that this song Willy Leonard is about an ancestor of mine from Ireland long long ago. Now I'm starting to wonder if this guy Willy was ever a real person?? Does anyone know?


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