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CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink

DigiTrad:
CARRICKFERGUS


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(origins) Lyr Add: Carrickfergus (full version?) (11) (closed)
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Seige of CarrickFergus-Capture of Carrickfergusby (11)


Big Tim 11 Feb 01 - 01:23 PM
Matt_R 11 Feb 01 - 01:30 PM
Sandy Paton 11 Feb 01 - 02:07 PM
Margaret V 11 Feb 01 - 02:20 PM
Matt_R 11 Feb 01 - 02:23 PM
Margaret V 11 Feb 01 - 02:24 PM
Noreen 11 Feb 01 - 03:03 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 11 Feb 01 - 06:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 11 Feb 01 - 06:26 PM
Liz the Squeak 11 Feb 01 - 08:01 PM
Sandy Paton 11 Feb 01 - 08:59 PM
menzze 12 Feb 01 - 03:26 AM
Dave (the ancient mariner) 12 Feb 01 - 03:39 AM
Big Tim 12 Feb 01 - 05:22 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Feb 01 - 06:04 AM
menzze 12 Feb 01 - 06:26 AM
GUEST,JTT 12 Feb 01 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Dita (at work) 12 Feb 01 - 08:37 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 12 Feb 01 - 10:01 AM
Big Tim 12 Feb 01 - 10:04 AM
Noreen 12 Feb 01 - 11:17 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 12 Feb 01 - 04:13 PM
Fergie 12 Feb 01 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,Annraoi 12 Feb 01 - 08:12 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Feb 01 - 08:13 PM
Big Tim 13 Feb 01 - 02:29 AM
GUEST,Sean McCartan 15 Apr 04 - 06:12 PM
michaelr 15 Apr 04 - 07:43 PM
Hrothgar 16 Apr 04 - 12:27 AM
Bob Bolton 16 Apr 04 - 01:50 AM
Big Tim 16 Apr 04 - 03:15 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 16 Apr 04 - 03:22 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 16 Apr 04 - 03:25 PM
GUEST,Sean McCartan 16 Apr 04 - 03:46 PM
Big Tim 17 Apr 04 - 03:21 AM
GUEST,robbie in wolverhampton 28 Nov 04 - 07:25 PM
Malcolm Douglas 28 Nov 04 - 07:42 PM
Fergie 28 Nov 04 - 08:36 PM
RobbieWilson 30 Nov 04 - 09:49 AM
Big Tim 30 Nov 04 - 10:55 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 30 Nov 04 - 03:00 PM
Rapparee 30 Nov 04 - 10:39 PM
Big Tim 01 Dec 04 - 04:00 AM
GUEST,John in Brisbane 01 Dec 04 - 07:33 PM
RobbieWilson 02 Dec 04 - 06:30 AM
GUEST,John in Brisbane 02 Dec 04 - 07:07 AM
RobbieWilson 03 Dec 04 - 09:10 AM
GUEST,JTT 03 Dec 04 - 07:05 PM
GUEST,guest 31 Jan 07 - 06:26 PM
GUEST 31 Jan 07 - 06:56 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Jan 07 - 07:03 PM
Big Al Whittle 31 Jan 07 - 09:05 PM
GUEST,billbunter 01 Feb 07 - 01:55 PM
McGrath of Harlow 01 Feb 07 - 02:04 PM
Big Al Whittle 01 Feb 07 - 07:47 PM
Big Al Whittle 02 Feb 07 - 05:05 AM
McGrath of Harlow 02 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM
Scrump 02 Feb 07 - 11:23 AM
Big Al Whittle 02 Feb 07 - 01:27 PM
Doc B 21 Jun 07 - 11:30 PM
Barry Finn 22 Jun 07 - 12:24 AM
GUEST 23 Jun 07 - 11:43 PM
GUEST 18 Jun 09 - 02:37 PM
GUEST,wolfy 1 18 Jun 09 - 02:40 PM
meself 18 Jun 09 - 03:06 PM
GUEST,Mesmee 21 Nov 10 - 06:08 AM
GUEST,Mesmee 21 Nov 10 - 12:41 PM
GUEST,Desi C 21 Nov 10 - 01:09 PM
GUEST,Desi C 21 Nov 10 - 01:25 PM
GUEST,Alexander, Sofia, BG 13 Dec 10 - 04:00 AM
GUEST,Alexander, Sofia, BG 13 Dec 10 - 07:00 AM
GUEST,Desi C 13 Dec 10 - 08:07 AM
Midchuck 13 Dec 10 - 10:39 AM
Gurney 13 Dec 10 - 05:12 PM
Gurney 13 Dec 10 - 05:20 PM
Don Firth 13 Dec 10 - 05:43 PM
Girl Friday 14 Dec 10 - 11:55 AM
GUEST,Learaí na Láibe 17 Dec 10 - 05:17 AM
GUEST,Alan Whittle 17 Dec 10 - 06:02 AM
GUEST,Desi C 17 Dec 10 - 07:28 AM
An Buachaill Caol Dubh 17 Dec 10 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Jon 07 Jan 11 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Harry 03 Mar 11 - 06:58 PM
MartinRyan 04 Mar 11 - 03:33 AM
harmonic miner 04 Mar 11 - 08:20 AM
GUEST,Desi C 04 Mar 11 - 04:49 PM
GUEST 04 May 11 - 05:07 PM
michaelr 04 May 11 - 05:25 PM
GUEST 08 May 11 - 11:40 AM
GUEST 09 May 11 - 11:11 AM
michaelr 09 May 11 - 12:33 PM
GUEST 09 May 11 - 01:47 PM
MartinRyan 09 May 11 - 01:59 PM
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GUEST,Mesmee 23 Aug 12 - 02:46 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Aug 12 - 05:56 PM
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Subject: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 01:23 PM

This line from "Carrickfergus" has mystified me for decades. Anyone know what it means. Recently I heard a version of the song by Sean O Se which places it in Castlecomer (Co Kilkenny. As this was a coalmining town might it have something to do with this. And where is Ballygrand or Ballygran?


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Matt_R
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 01:30 PM

I've always wondered the same thing! Another thing that puzzled me is what the guy who sings the song is SO interested in having a HANDSOME boatman? I mean...if he REALLY wants to get over to his love and die...wouldn't any old boatman do?


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 02:07 PM

One text for "Peggy Gordon" includes:

I wish I was in Pennsylvania,
Where the marble stones are as black as ink.

So I'll vote for "coal." Sandy


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Margaret V
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 02:20 PM

Well, I always assumed this was a reference to a gravestone of black marble, on which the epitaph of his love was carved. Within the text of the epitaph was a reference to their relationship, in which he had supported her with gold and silver... Margaret


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Matt_R
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 02:23 PM

Hmmm...bit of a stretch...I never would have thought of that.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Margaret V
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 02:24 PM

Oh, and Matt, I've usually heard it sung "handy boatman," but either way I take it to mean a boatman who knows how to do his job well, one who is skilled in the handiwork of piloting. Still, I like your nuance! Margaret


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Noreen
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 03:03 PM

For discussion and fascinating information on this lovely song, click: Help: Origins of Carrickfergus

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 06:12 PM

My version of Peggy Gordon, copped, I think, from Helen Creighton's Nova Scotia collection a long time ago (see Sandy Paton's message above) has a slightly different line:

I will go down into Spencervania, Where the marble stones run black as ink...

Note those stones are running, and ink is liquid, too. As a native Pennsylvanian, anthracite all the way, I figure coal is a good guess...but I'm wondering whether it might not be oil, another "Spencervanian" gift to the world???

On the other hand, "Peggy Gordon" and its cousin "Sweet Primroses" are Nova Scotian, Irish and English by origin, so that could throw the question back toward Carrickfergus and clear across the Big Water.

Maybe the destination wasn't Pennsylvania originally but somewhere in Britain?

.... No firm answers. Just noodling on a line that's always been one of my favorite mysterious bits of crazy sense too.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 06:26 PM

Kilkenny is famous for it's black marble. The idea of it being his loves gravestone is fascinating. But I've always taken it that his mind is starting to ramble a bit with the drink.

And handsome can mean skilled, handy. "You made a handsome job of it!"


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 08:01 PM

Purbeck in Dorset is also famous for black marble. The caves are supposed to be the abode of the devil so the marble can only be used in churches or as gravestones.

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Sandy Paton
Date: 11 Feb 01 - 08:59 PM

Great godamighty, folks! Is that the real BOB COLTMAN up there, joining us at last? I hope so, and I hope you all will give him the enthusiastic welcome he deserves.

We heard a Creighton recording of "Peggy Gordon," Bob, from Nova Scotia, and thought her informant was singing "PennSLAvania." Was it Amos Jollimore? Anyway, I don't recall that the marble stones were "running," although we could have rationalized it as Caroline was learning it.

Sandy


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: menzze
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 03:26 AM

It just means what it says: black marble stones, black as ink, from Kilkenny,Ireland. Though I've been there 20 years ago I missed to see it and had to go to Hannover to the EXPO last year to find it in the Irish Pavillion. If ya like stones ya shure'll like that one with its amazing pictures and twisted forms in it.

A great recording of it from the seventies is from Five Hand Reel: Dave Gaughan,Bobby Eaglesham,Tom Hickland,Barry Lyons and Dave Tulloch on the record For A' That issued by Black Crow Records,Midgy Ha,Sharperton,Morpeth,Northumberland Ne65 7AS Tel.Rothbury (0669)40252


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Dave (the ancient mariner)
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 03:39 AM

The term "handsomely" is used by seafarers to mean fast or swift. A "Handsome cab" was used for transport. I think the term Handsome (in the song) means swift in this instance. Marble stones as black as ink refers to Headstones. Yours, Aye. Dave


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 05:22 AM

Hi folks, just woke up here in Glasgow, Scotland. Thanks for contributuions, getting some where, glad that it seems there is no glaingly obvious meaning that I've overlooked for all these years. I've got the Five Hand Reel version, glad to see Bobby Eaglesham get a mention, a folk singer of the finest kind. Heard him sing Carrickf live here in Glasgow about a month ago at Celtic Connections festival, supporting Mary Coughlan. He says he got the song from a Clancys songbook when he was 19, he had no money so he cut the relevant page from the book in Biggars Music Shop in sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, with a razor blade, thus is the folk tradition continued.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 06:04 AM

It's "Hansom Cab" - as beloved by Sherlock Holmes and GK Chesterton especially.Invented by Aloysius Hansom of York who lived from 1803 to 1882.

Mind, they were handsome vehicles as well - two wheeled cabs with the driver sitting up aloft behind the passengers with a litle trapdoor to communicate with them.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: menzze
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 06:26 AM

Hi Big Tim

First time I heard the song was in 1979. I was on the way hitching from Germany to Scotland and we had break for some days in Appleby(?) in the Lakes where I met to Scots guys on their way to the south. I had my guitar with me, they had a bottle of Grouse and a good smoke and we had a wonderful campfire party this night. When we parted one of them gave me a tape with Five Hand Reel on it which I had never heard before but loved it from this very second.

Back in Germany a horrible accident occured after I had watched like the apple of my eye during the whole trip: the tape fell into a can of milk.

It took me about 8 or 9 years of searching until I found the records(see: there was no mudcat at the time:-))

Yeah, that's really the way folk is spread around and therefore can never die!

take care menzze


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 07:50 AM

In my childhood it was always sung "a *constant* rover from town to town".

Hansom, not handsome, cab. Though maybe they were handsome too, everyone to their own taste.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Dita (at work)
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 08:37 AM

Thanks for the info Big Tim, I'd always wondered what had happened to that page when I bought the Clancy's book. Next time I see Bobby in the "Oak" I'll ask for it back.
love,john.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 10:01 AM

Hi, Sandy, Caroline, and all...

I'd be the last one to insist my "marble stones run" is correct. I'm sure this has gone through my own folk processing (sorta like multiprocessing run backwards and inside out).

Best I can say is, I must have run across the Creighton in a library in the late 50s. The only written copy I have is one I typed up to go vagabonding with in summer 1959. Must have thrown away my original...

Talk about fluid, as in ink, oil, marble, and so on: the way songs slither and change in my head is a good definition of fluid.

So "run" may well be my kink, and, having now had the benefit of checking out the wonderful Carrickfergus thread, and new messages above, I think the black marble of Kilkenny, per menzze above, has to be it.

So, how do the black marble stones get to Pennsylvania? In Nova Scotia, miners or miners' friends, thinking of the mines of Pa., substitute it for Kilkenny. There was a lot of moving around in those 19th century coal years, looking for good work. I know a lot of miners came to Pa. from Wales especially, and elsewhere in Britain looking for good-paying jobs. Maybe the Nova Scotia originator of my version of the line was thinking that work in Pennsylvania might be a good way to get out of a more restrictive society and earn better money? "Where the pretty little girls they do adore me, And never care what I say or think," etc. Or... (your theory here) -- Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 10:04 AM

Guest, Ditta Next time you see Bobby ask him how he liked the Ewan MacColl tape of Burns songs I sent him, and let me know. Noreen, thanks for the thread on Carrickf origins. If John Moulden doesn't know then I think we've had it. All the best.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Noreen
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 11:17 AM

Cheers, Big Tim. I read the origins thread through again after linking to it here, and is surprised me- I remembered that there had been more final conclusions drawn.

Noreen


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 04:13 PM

P.S. to foregoing:

Flagging Sandy Paton:

By the way, Sandy, please check my Lyrics Request "I Am a Vaquero," if you haven't. Strikes me that you, if anyone, might be able to answer that one.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Fergie
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 08:04 PM

Yes , Kilkenny is known as the Marble city, the medeavil buildings are made from a very dark type of limestone and this is what is meant by the line in the song "and in Kilkenny it is recorded on marble stones there as black as ink".


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Annraoi
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 08:12 PM

I was always mystified about black marble until I spent a week in Kilkenny some four years ago. I took the usual tourist tour round the city - I'm no snob, it was my first visit - and the information was volunteered that, after some exposure to the weather, Kilkenny limestone turns black, hence the reference.
Don't ask me to explain; I'm not a geologist.
Annraoi


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Feb 01 - 08:13 PM

Mind you, when sung in coal country the singers could very well be thinking of coal, especially that hard shiny anthracite that can be carved into fantasticallty delicate statues, often by laid-off miners.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 13 Feb 01 - 02:29 AM

Annraoi, thanks, Kilkenny has to be one of the nicest towns in Ireland, or anywhere else. McGrath of H it was anhracite they mined in at Castlecomer. The town was captured by Father John Murphy's rebels in 1798. The miners joined hus band but later deserted and betrayed him to the gov forces at Kilcumney Hill, east.


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Subject: RE: Help: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Sean McCartan
Date: 15 Apr 04 - 06:12 PM

The first two lines of the second verse of 'The Young Sick Lover', collected in 1902 reads:

I wish I had you in Carrickfergus,
agus ní fada ón áit sin baile cuain

Outside Castlecomer is the village of Coon. In early manuscripts this area is referred to as Cuan and Cuain. There was a castle there which was tossed around 1840.

Sean


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: michaelr
Date: 15 Apr 04 - 07:43 PM

...and "agus ni fada on ait sin baile cuain" means what, please?

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Hrothgar
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 12:27 AM

I think "handsome" in this instance means "generous" or "nobly acting" as in "Handsome is as handsome does."

In all the information here (including the old thread) I don't think I've seen the other verse that I know, which fits very neatly betwen the standard first verse ("I wish I was...") and the usual last verse ("Now, in Kilkenny..."). I learned this in the 1960s, and I'm not sure where. I think it was something the late Stan Arthur had typed out, but where he found it I don't know.

I lay me down here, beside the water,
Alone I'll rest me in my grief and woe,
Anf if there's no-one who will assist me,
Throughout this country I alone must go.
I'll go a-roving all through this nation,
Through Meath and Connaught and County Down,
Through Clare and Mayo to the County Wexford,
Ah, but I'm weary now, so i'll lay me down.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 01:50 AM

G'day Hrothgar,

Doesn't out there own / use a decent etomological dictionary?

The (Australian) Concise Oxford Dictionary on my work bench gives: "Middle English, in the sense 'easily handled, handy, suitable' from HAND + SOME" - So why do we try to impose our modernisms onto singers who knew what they were saying?

(Much like the "marble stones as black as ink" question ... I worked with a lass from Kilkenny and asked her - she said Kilkenny was famous for its black marble - as Fergie noted well above and more than three years ago.)

Regards(les)s,

Bob Bolton


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 03:15 PM

"Young Sick Lover" looks like it could be an interesting avenue to explore: can anyone supply the fulls lyrics?

Sean O' Se's version, which I mentioned 3 three years ago, is sung mustly in Irish and he sings of "Baile cuain" too. Surely this means "the homestead, or town, or townland, or possibly even castle, of Coon". Coon literally translates as "recess" which is not much help. Could Ballycuain have come down by oral transmission as Ballygran(d)? Bit of a stretch!

It's looking like the song may be closer to Kilkenny than to Antrim, so how does Carrickfergus fit into all of this?


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 03:22 PM

Big Tim, you'll have to look at some of the other threads on Carrickfergus, as they were supplied in one or another of the Origin discussions of this song.

I'm no expert on Irish, but in Scottish Gaelic, it would seem to say literally:

And will make long from place this town Cuain.

In more colloquial English, And time will make from this place, the town of Cuain

Hopefully Phillipa or one of the Irish folk can be more accurate.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 03:25 PM

Checked, Big Tim, and it is this thread: Origins of Carrickfergus


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Sean McCartan
Date: 16 Apr 04 - 03:46 PM

F.J. Byrne in 'Irish Kings and High Kings' names a dozen by the name of Fergus. They are well spread out but two were in Leinster.

There were also saints in Ireland by the name of Fergus. Many years ago I researched a site in a townland called Killybawn (White Church). I later discoved that in early times it was dedicated to Saint Fergus. That was in county down, but the point I am trying to make is:

There were many Kings and Saints called Fergus. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Fergus must have figured prominently in early placenames which have been lost and forgotten in the mists of time.

Sean


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 17 Apr 04 - 03:21 AM

Thanks George: fascinating thread.

The Fergus of Carrickfergus is traditionally given as Fergus Mor, the founder, or perhaps the son of the founder, of the Scots/Irish Kingdom of Dalriada in the 6th C AD. Carrickfergus was originally Knockfergus (both prefixes mean approx the same "rock"). The Castle was built in 1180 by John de Courcy, tho there was an older settlement there. A 1540 map, printed in Bardon's Hist of Belfast, spells it as Kragfargus.

Coan is located 4 miles SE of Castlecomer. From the Irish - An Cuan ("recess"). Also there are two separate adjacent townlands bearing the name; 1. Coan East. 2. Coan West.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,robbie in wolverhampton
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 07:25 PM

I have always been intigued by the lines about kilkenny because there seem to be to main versions of the lyric which alter the tone of the whole song.

First, and the version I sing, " ....In Kilkenny it is reported THERE'S marble stones as black as ink. With gold and silver I WOULD support her......" a song of a man unfulfilled in life going back to Carrick fergus to die"

Second
"... In Kilkenny it is reported ON marble stones as black as ink. With gold and silver I DID SUPPORT HER......." a story of a man pining for his love who has died before him.

Either story makes sense to me although some people sing a hybrid version ( there's stones but I did support her), including Van Morrison on Celtic Heartbeat.

I would be really interested to find old versions of the words to try and work out the original story. Love to hear anyone elses thoughts.
x Robbie


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 07:42 PM

I wouldn't pay any attention to what Van Morrison sings; he doesn't, so you'll get no worthwhile answers there. Read through this discussion, and the others listed at the top of the page. If there's anything you don't understand after you've done that, let us know.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Fergie
Date: 28 Nov 04 - 08:36 PM

In Kilkenny can be found a very dark grade of limestone that when polished has the appearancce of black marble, most of the older buildings are constructed from this material. It was also favoured as an easily engraved stone very suitable for making tombstones.

Fergus


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 30 Nov 04 - 09:49 AM

Good advice, Malcolm. The thread on the origins of the song is fascinating reading but still does not resolve my dilemma; Is the song regretting an unnfulfilled love(...WOULD support her) or looking back on a partner who is already in the grave(.... DID support her). One contribution suggests that both may part of the story and that our bold hero had a true love who fell for another,from Clare, and moved on to marry someone in Kilkenny who he wished to see under the marble stones so that he could go back and try again with his true love.

An added confusion for me is that the old versions all seem to say "...with gold and silver I WILL support her.

How do other singers picture this song?


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 30 Nov 04 - 10:55 AM

Look up the "Young Sick Lover", on another Carrickfergus thread: that contains the heart of the song. Over the years, others have added bits and pieces, confusing the issue and making understanding of the whole thing difficult.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 30 Nov 04 - 03:00 PM

Big Tim, referring back to your message about Knockfergus where the knock meant rock, I wonder if it might have been Cnoc Ferguis or something equivalent. Cnoc in Gaelic is a knoll or hillock.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Rapparee
Date: 30 Nov 04 - 10:39 PM

To toss in the opinions of one who used to make tombstones:

Most people can't tell the difference between marble and granite. Both come in a wide variety of colors: here are some black granites and here's American Black from Rock of Ages. We used to use Swedish Black until the boss became disgusted, he said they'd started quarrying with dynamite instead of black powder and the resulting microfractures ruined the stone.

I didn't see black stone buildings in Kilkenny, but then again I wasn't looking. Could well be, could very well be.

Marble is just another form of limestone.

I always took the line to mean that there were black gravestones in Kilkenny. Having made some, I had no problem with the concept.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Tim
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 04:00 AM

George: this from Flanagan's "Irish Place Names."

CARRICKFERGUS, Antrim. "Carraig Fhearghasa - rock of Fergus".
"Cnoc means anything from a hill to a small mountain".

In Carrickfergus meaning, it may signify instead "fortress, castle": in the sense of solid, strong, permanent as a rock. (My opinion, not "official" from Flanagan)

Kilkenny black marble was also used for other purposes, notably in the construction of fireplaces. The Behan family had one, and it is interesting that Brendan's biographer, Michael O'Sullivan (1997), says that Brendan and Dominic learned "Carrickfergus" from the singing of their mother, Kathleen. This was long before Peter O'Toole came on the scene. Personally, I suspect the O'Toole story is a tall one.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,John in Brisbane
Date: 01 Dec 04 - 07:33 PM

I can never know the true intentions of the original author (was the Kikenny verse added by another?), but in future I will interpret it this way:

"I'm a native of Carrickfergus and because I'm living overseas I'm very sentimentally attached to the place. I yearn to get a free boat trip there via the speediest boat available.

I used to be keen on a girl in Kilkenny that I splahed some money on in order to impress her. I'm always moving about and left her behind. I've just heard that she has since died and is buried in Kilkenny. I'm unemployed and quite depressed, so I'll continue to drown my sorrows in the booze."

OR

"I'm a fairly pathetic pisspot who hasn't held a steady job since I left Ireland. To escape reality I get on the turps andI fantasize about my childhood and a prostitute from Kilkenny - I was her best customer until my money ran out. I've just heard that she died of syphillis. I need another shot."

Regards, John


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 06:30 AM

Dear John,
(always wanted to start a letter like that)
I quite agree that it is generally impossible to have a writers original thoughts in your head and you have to construct your own picture. You seem to go along with the did support her line of his love being dead. I favour the black stones being merely a local feature of Kilkenny and this sad individual lamenting missed opportunity( the would or will support her version)

Any way up, sing it like you believe it.
Robbie


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,John in Brisbane
Date: 02 Dec 04 - 07:07 AM

Dearest Robbie,

How charming of you to write. For better or wosre Carrickfergus has been my signature tune for the last twenty years, but I've always struggled with the ambiguity of the lyrics. Henceforth i'll be singing 'did support' and will feel a lot happier about the feel of the lyrics.

Coincidentally, I can't think of any other maudlim song where the writer so honestly admits that he has a drinking problem.

Affectionately yours,
John


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: RobbieWilson
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 09:10 AM

Dear John, I'm sure ther must be lots; Tom Paxton's Bottle of Wine springs to mind, but perhaps that should be a different thread.
All the best
Robbie


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 03 Dec 04 - 07:05 PM

The lines I've known since childhood are:

a) "And in Kilkenny, it is reported/The marble stones are as black as ink"

(referring to the black, red-veined, beautiful marble that they have there)

and

b) a *constant* rover from town to town.

The "handsome" version arrived later; either it was a mis-hearing by singers or else they were awfully fond of themselves.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,guest
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:26 PM

I love this place! I was recently given a recording with the sean o'se version and have been trying to decipher his words since. The note about "The young sick lover" is a godsend, that is very close to the line o'se uses in his second verse.

ni fada on ait sin (gu?) baile cuain

I would love to see an irish speaker post a transcription, if they could...I haven't seen it on any of the carrickfergus threads. I don't speak myself, but as a singer, it drives me up the wall to not "know"!

On a personal note, I do some occasional rummaging on session.org, and it is so pleasant to read a thread that's not full of bile and venom. I have my own strong feelings about music, art, and culture, and I can't stand that people feel the need to denegrate one another when they argue their points.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 06:56 PM

Sorry, just found the transcription on the "origins" thread...I can only say, it's a terribly long thread :)


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 07:03 PM

People trying to make a coherent story out of this seem to me to be missing the point. No doubt there is a song at the back of it which does have a coherent story - but the essence of the song as it's sung, in all it variations, seems to me to lie in its rambling imprecise nature.

Incoherent, defiant, sentimental, a wreck of a song, most effectively sung by a singer who is somewhat wrecked themselves, but still in good voice.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 31 Jan 07 - 09:05 PM

MacGrath I believe you have some of it. I've always thought of it as a death song. His life as a rootless drunk, trading in his youthful good looks is wearing thin. Drink makes him inert, he cannot cross over.

Anyway if he crossed to his true love, he is not the same man she loved. Drunk today and seldom sober, the marble stone is what he will lie under before too long.

The Clancys used to introduce this song with a poem that made the meaning very clear. i wrote to Liam and he told me it was by a man called Naylor and from Oxford book of Irish verse.

The poem and the song fitted beautifully.

A haunted song like Robert Johnson Stones in my Passway.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,billbunter
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 01:55 PM

Handsome is often used in old texts about both men and women. In this kind of context it surely just means appropriate, dignified, lusty, an equal, an adjective used as in the Homeric type of use? For example, WINE DARK sea. The adjective always appears before sea just as handsome would almost always appear before any man or woman who you thought fitting. Although that 'swift' and 'handy' has an appeal too.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 02:04 PM

Anyone got a copy of the Oxford Book of Irish Verse handy to gve us that poem mentioned.

And I think that's a way of understanding the song I'd wholly agree with, and it's beautifully put there by weelittledrummer. By that I mean it'd be a great one to keep in mind when singing it.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Feb 07 - 07:47 PM

I got the guys name wrong - not Naylor - don't know where that came from. I went to Liam's website ten minutes later someone posted this message. I kept thinking James Naylor - but that's Quaker saint.


HIGH AND LOW

He stumbled home from Clifden fair
With drunken song, and cheeks aglow.
Yet there was something in his air
That told of kingship long ago.
I sighed -- and inly cried
With grief that one so high should fall so low.

He snatched a flower and sniffed its scent,
And waved it toward the sunset sky.
Some old sweet rapture through him went
And kindled in his bloodshot eye.
I turned -- and inly burned
With joy that one so low should rise so high.

-- James H. Cousins


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 05:05 AM

I will say that though I learned this song from Val doonican, he really used to irritate me every week when he came on telly in his jumper and told us, with evident self satisfaction, that he was a handsome rover from town to town.

Alan Bennet's lovely essay about Louis MacNeice and his beautiful poem about his home town, made me think about the song. and watching the Clancy's on video really sold it me.

I'm sure Val is a terrific guy, by the way, its just that bit that got on my tits.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 11:18 AM

Here's a YouTube clip with Liam Clancy singing the song - and Tommy Makem saying the poem.


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Scrump
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 11:23 AM

I'm sure Val is a terrific guy, by the way, its just that bit that got on my tits

And that feckin' awful rockin' chair he used to sit in - how lazy can you get?


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 02 Feb 07 - 01:27 PM

Pretty cool!


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Doc B
Date: 21 Jun 07 - 11:30 PM

This response is beyond tardy, since I just found the thread. Hope it's not too late. I ran across this video a couple months ago, but damned if I can find it now. Has it been taken off by Clancy and Makem or has it just ran it's course? So much for bookmarking. Sure loved this particular performance though. The poem seems to fit the lyrics perfectly amd make sense of the general story behind them.

    Does anyone know where I can find this
particular video?

Doc


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Subject: RE: Meaning: 'marble stones as black as ink
From: Barry Finn
Date: 22 Jun 07 - 12:24 AM

Pennsylvania was not only known for their coal but also for their slate. Munson slate is about the highest North American quality slate in this country. Highly prized for roofing & flooring even used it commands a high market price as supplies & outlets are dwindlling. Black Munson is still available but very costly & is the best quality of slate to be found nationally.

Barry


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Jun 07 - 11:43 PM

Apparently my last post was not clear. I was referring to the You Tube Clip cited by weelittle drummer on 02 feb o7 - 1:18 AM, which is no longer there.

Doc


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 02:37 PM

my old granda tommy once told me of the song carrickfergus [gods country]


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Subject: author
From: GUEST,wolfy 1
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 02:40 PM

american not irish


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: meself
Date: 18 Jun 09 - 03:06 PM

This thread is becoming as enigmatic as the song itself ..


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Mesmee
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 06:08 AM

In song, the effect of the words and their relation to the music make their own meanings.

I'm thinking of how I perceived 'The Mountains of Mourne' and 'The Galway Shawl' before I saw them written down. The words with the music are not literal as they are without. They rather support a mood for a narrative.

Obscurity adds resonance, mystery and and romance to this song. It doesn't matter literally about the stones of Kilkenny, which create a beautiful, remote and nostalgic image. They could be a rambling thought, an inconsequential memory which is sorrowful and uplifting simultaneously. He is dying, he will never see them again.

I like Sean O Se's version best, it makes more sense of the drunken ramblings theory, 'With gold and silver I paid for porter', but in relation to the gaelic version 'Did support her' is probably more authentic

Final imaginative idea, 'With gold and silver could relate to an abandoned sweetheart left with a child, and he a feckless father stricken with maudlin guilt.

In the end I think Menzze (Feb 2001) got it dead right, and he said it so much more simply than I


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Mesmee
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 12:41 PM

Hi again
I meant Menzze's post 3.26am, not the later one.
Mesmee


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 01:09 PM

Well, I can give you the definitive answer on this, as I was born in the town of Castlecomer, in county Kilkenny. Referred to in the song. castlecomer was indeed a mining town up to the early 70's when the mines closed. But the 'marle stone there as black as ink. relates not to a grave as such. Kilkenny city is built on the finest limestone resource in Europe, and many of it's 55 pubs and Churches feature very fine marble floors and frontages, often black marble. and indeed many graves in local cemetaries are built of black marble, as black as ink indeed

The story of the song Carrickfergus I've heard a few times from local Kilkenny musicians. They tell of an Englisman, a rover, something of a wandering minstrel and a playboy. possibly from the north, who would go on his travels down the country, no doubt romancing the ladies on the way. Kilkenny was apparently his last stop and there he fell in love with a lady who he promised to return and marry. The story goes vague from there but the gist of it seems to be he wandered off again and if he did return it was too late, for the lady had died in the famine most likely. Whether it's true or just another Irish folk tale, well who knows. There's also something of a mystery as to who wrote it and when. The tune very likely is and old trad one, but as a song most research has Dominic Behan as the Writer in the 1960's. Either way Kilkenny is a marvellous town and well worth a visit. Best examples of the Black Marble is The Marvel City Bar in the High St, and The ancient Black Abbey off Parliament St. I'd also highly recomend Ireland's longest runnng trad sessions, every Momday night in the World famous Cleeres Bar

Desi C
The Circle Folk Club
UK West Mids
WV14 9JH
For info mail crc778@aol.com


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 21 Nov 10 - 01:25 PM

Further to my last post and after reading others it's worth adding a couple of points. Couple of people rightly point out that the term 'Handsome' long ago oftenmeant not good looking but very good or adept, growning up in Castlecomer In can recall a particularly good musician being referred to as 'a handsome fiddler' and the fiddler in question being far from good loooking.

A few other people refer to the song Peggy Gordon as a possible source of the 'Marble stone as black as ink' I think that's very doubtful. Firstly I'm fairly sure Peggy Gordon is of Scottish origin, secondly the late Luke Kelly in his own words is attributed as discovering in while visiting a Folk club in wolverhampton around 1967 (just 3 miles from where I am now) and brought it back to Ireland and popularised it, so much so it's often classed as an Irish song there. And finally as one who performs Peggy Gordon often, I've never seen a line mentioning Marble stone. Of course there are other versions I might not have seen. By the way there is now a very fine mining museum in Castlecomer with a fascinting, often moving virtual reality tour, proud to say many of my family worked down in the infamous mine


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Alexander, Sofia, BG
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 04:00 AM

Incredibly beautiful song, indeed!

Can someone please explain to me the meaning of "only for nights in Ballygrant"? I mean just a moment ago he says "I wish I was in Carrighfergus" and then suddenly [he wants to be?] in Ballygran?

Sorry if this is a dumb question but English is not my native language... :) PLEASE someone explain this to me it really bothers me that I can't get the meaning of this line :)

Interestingly - I also thought (like Margaret) that the marble is for her tombstone.

And regarding the "handsome boatman": in many traditional slavic songs (Russian, Bulgarian, Serb) describing the moment of a hero's death or funeral the lyrics describe them being surrounded by beautiful/handsome people (be it male or female). I just drew a parallel between these songs and the "handsome boatman" above: I suppose in folk songs this is just a means of making -- an otherwise -- sad and even ugly event a little more acceptable...


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Alexander, Sofia, BG
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 07:00 AM

oh could it be "only four nights"..? Not that this make a lot more sense...


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 08:07 AM

The Story of this song I heard in Kilkenny a few years ago from a cousin of Christy Moore. The rover in question was it seems and English man, a bit of a wandering minstrel, possibly had seved in the army in the north. He would of on his travels each year winding his wawy down through the country usually finishing up in Kilkenny. (hence the various place names) There he fell in love with a local woman and promised he'd come back to settle down with her.

The story seems to end there, presumably he died or she did, more likely him. The Marble stone as Black as ink, most likely refers to the fact that Kilkenny county lies on the finest Lime stone deposits in Europe and is famed for it's black marble, mostly manufactured in my home town, nearby Castlecomer (no longer produced) and much of the architecture in Kilkennny particularly the great Kilkenny pubs, feature fine examples of black marble, the churches. Whether it's a true story, well? It's a well known one in Kilkenny and I like to think it might be true. A very fine song though


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: Midchuck
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 10:39 AM

"Marble stones as black as ink".

Champlain Black marble from the Isle La Motte quarry on the island in Lake Champlain, originally developed by the Vermont Marble Company. More often called "Radio Black" because of its use in Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Peter


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: Gurney
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 05:12 PM

Handsome is a word that has changed meaning. It was originally used at sea to mean competent, workmanlike, proven, a good 'hand.'
The sort of man you'd want at the oars.

Makes sense of the old saying, 'Handsome is as handsome does!'


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: Gurney
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 05:20 PM

I missed the best synonym. Seamanlike.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: Don Firth
Date: 13 Dec 10 - 05:43 PM

Sounds reasonable.

Another interpretation that I've heard is that the word is "hansom," not "handsome." A hansom was (is) a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage in which the driver sits above and behind the cab. One could often hire a "hansom cab" in the same way one can now hire a taxicab. Still can in New York City for a pleasant horse-drawn tour through Central Park. Considered very romantic.

So according to this interpretation, a "hansom boatman" is a boatman whose boat is for hire.

Your mileage may vary. . . .

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: Girl Friday
Date: 14 Dec 10 - 11:55 AM

I vote for black marble tombstones, which are commonly engraved in gold or silver.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 05:17 AM

Don, you haven't read all the thread. You're point has already been dealt with.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Alan Whittle
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 06:02 AM

I always thought maybe he got poleaxed with booze in Ballygrant - thus incapacitated - the water seems very wide. Intimidating.

He knows were he to cross, he would not be a very prepossessing sight. thus the water gets wider and more forbidding, and the distance between being the man that his woman fell in love with seems wider.

The void between them - more hopeless and impassable.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 07:28 AM

That may be so, but I assure you the black marble reffered to in Carrickfergus, definitely refers to the Black marble produced in Kilkenny Ireland, I should know, I was born there. It may also as someone has suggested refer to a grave stone as most of the older stones in The main KK graveyard are of Black marble, though the stiry as I've heard it re the songs, goes that he died after promising to return there to settle down with the lady in question.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: An Buachaill Caol Dubh
Date: 17 Dec 10 - 11:31 AM

Re. "Only for nights in Ballygrant.." question. When I first heard this song fully in English (I'd heard Sean O' Se with the bilingual version before), and was able to work out what the words were most likely to be, and recognised the kind of impression of incoherence to which McG of H refers, and then heard several other versions and variations, and long before I'd been told of Mudcat, I eventually came to sing it thus:

"I wish I were (or, "wish I had you") in Carrickfergus:
Only for nights in Ballygrant
I would swim over the deepest water
The deepest water, my love to find.
But this sea is wide, and I can't get over,
Nor have I wings, that I might fly;
Then I will find me a handy boatman
To ferry me over, O my love, to die"

That is, "only for the fact that I'm perpetually drunk, or otherwise occupied, in Ballygrant, I'd do traditional heroic deeds (like swimming "the Suir, or Slaney, or the Shannon any day") in order to meet with my love." The next four lines can be taken either literally - the sea is too wide to contemplate swimming (that's why it's "deepest water" earlier, by the way), so I'll need a boatman in order to cross, or metaphorically, in that the singer's days are over (or numbered) and the sea to be crossed is no earthly one. Obviously, in order properly to bring in an allusion to Charon, the ferryman of Greek myth, it can't be "sea" since we'd be talking of the River Styx or a Celtic equivalent (Lough Derg anyone?), but then of course the words could be altered to "The water's wide.." - ah, but that's another song.

Additionally, how many verses do each of you sing, and in what order after this first one?


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 07 Jan 11 - 07:40 PM

I wandered into this debate years ago now. I hadn't heard the song for years until it surprisingly appeared on the "Nights in Ballygran" episode of Boardwalk Empire (incidentally the best version of the song I have heard, by Loudon Wainwright III).

I think we attach our own meanings to these songs. That's the most important thing. However, it's clear for me that the narrator has probably never been to Ballygran, so it doesn't matter where it is. Ballygran is where the love of his life went to, and where he longs for in his reflections.

I like the idea that the song is about an itinerant worker who left Kilkenny for the North-East in search of work, like so many others. While working in Carrickfergus, perhaps the happiest time of his life, he met a girl who was from, or who left for Ballygran. She was the one that got away. He regrets not chasing her, hence his longing to cross oceans to find her. Did he have a choice to follow her? Was she stolen from him? Who knows. He's old now, and reflecting with a sense of sadness and regret on his life. He never went back to Kilkenny. There's nothing for him there as all his childhood friends and family are now passed away (black marble reference). But he'll sing about the happier times when he's had a drink ... and then when he's had one too many ... he'll probably sing Carrickfergus again :)

Carrickfergus could be anywhere, Ballygran could be anywhere, Kilkenny could be anywhere ... it really doesn't matter that much. Carrickfergus is as nice a place as any for such a beautiful song.

Jon


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Harry
Date: 03 Mar 11 - 06:58 PM

The line Handsome boatman and in the last verse " come all ye young men etc ). I do not understand the ambiguity in the lyrics.
The singer is a man so why ask for these. Male singers usually change them to a" Handy boatman " and " come all you Maidens "
The rest of the lyrics suggest that he is not homosexual.
There is also a reference in the main wikipedia article of the translation of the Irish lyric to " There was a Noblewoman "
I am still perplexed.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: MartinRyan
Date: 04 Mar 11 - 03:33 AM

GUESTHarry

"There was a noblewoman" is a literal translation of the title of a set of verses in Irish which is sometimes sung as a separate song to the same air. The earliest definite evidence of "either" seems to be a macaronic (two-language) song called The Young Sick Lover. See THIS THREAD for more than enough about the song!

Can't help with the gender-bending aspect...

Regards


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: harmonic miner
Date: 04 Mar 11 - 08:20 AM

"Now in Kilkenny it is reported
On marble stones as black as ink.
That with gold and silver I did support HER.
But I'll sing no more now till I get a drink."

Who is HER? It could be Kilkenny.

Was he some sort of benefactor to the cityor county of Kilkenny? Is there a monument somewhere in Kilkenny acknowledging his contributions?


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 04 Mar 11 - 04:49 PM

No Jon Kilkenny couldn't be anywhere, and the writer I know definitely had been there many times, Dominic Behan. It's the old Medieval capital of Ireland and the only inland city. Beautiful city in the heart of Leinster in the south east. It's famed for it's black marble stone (hence the mention in the song)which fronts many of the city's pubs and churches, and most of the older stones in KK graveyard are made of Black marble which used to be mined in the nearby town of Castlecomer where I was born. Also the Rover in the song as the story has always been told locally was a Wandering minstrel, an English man from the north (not from KK) who made kk his last stopon his yearly rambles through the south, he hell in love with a KK lass and promised to return for her, it's unclear whether he didn't return or did return only to find her grave stone of Black Marble


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 04 May 11 - 05:07 PM

If you look at geography, the 'mysteries' of 'Carrickfergus' are really simple and quite straightforward. Carrickfergus is a port on the north Irish Sea. Ballygrant is a village on Islay in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, about a day's sail north from Carrickfergus. Less than a mile from Ballygrant is the parish church and burial ground of Kilmeny.

Given the vague oral tradition of the song, Kilkenny is likely a mis-hearing - in both time and distance, Kilkenny is three times farther from Carrickfergus than Kilmeny, and has no association with a place called Ballygrant, nor is Kilkenny anywhere near the sea. So let's apply Occam's Razor to the song, and go for the simplest explanation:

'Carrickfergus' is simply the song of a man and his memories of a love across the sea at Ballygrant in Islay - a love now recorded on a 'marble stone as black as ink' in the burial ground at Kilmeny.

Here's my guess as to what the lyrics to Carrickfergus should be like:

                I
I wish I was in Carrickfergus,
Only for nights in Ballygrant.
I would swim over the deepest ocean
To lie beside her, in Ballygrant.
But the sea is wide, I cannot swim over,
And neither have I wings to fly.
If I could find me a handy boatman,
I'd ferry me over to my love, and die.

                II
My childhood days, bring back sad reflections
Of happy times spent so long ago.
My boyhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on now, like melting snow.
So I spend my days in endless roaming.
Soft is the grass, and my bed is free.
Ah, to be back now, in Carrickfergus,
On that long road down to the shining sea.

                III
Now in Kilmeny, she is recorded
On a marble stone there, as black as ink.
With gold and silver, I did support her.
But I'll sing no more now 'til I have a drink.
I'm drunk today, and I'm seldom sober,
A lonesome rover from town to town.
Ah, but I'm sick now, and my days are numbered.
So come all you young men, and lay me down.

-- Jack Maloney --


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: michaelr
Date: 04 May 11 - 05:25 PM

Jack Maloney -- thanks for that. If your information is correct, it makes much sense that Kilkenny could be a red herring.

Are there any versions we know of where "Kilmeny" is sung?


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 08 May 11 - 11:40 AM

Information on Ballygrant and Kilmeny church can be found here:

http://www.islayinfo.com/ballygrant.html
http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1856958

"The water is wide" between Carrickfergus and Ballygrant, and the Ballygrant burial ground "in Kilmeny" has "marble stones as black as ink." Seems pretty straightforward.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 11 - 11:11 AM

Another note: Ballygrant was the center of an active lead and silver mining industry in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. There were at least four productive mines in the area. In 1880, mining came to an end there with the production of 38 tons of lead and 1,214 ounces of silver.

Might the original line be "With lead and silver I did support her"? It could make more sense and help date the song. Just a thought...


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: michaelr
Date: 09 May 11 - 12:33 PM

I'd still like to find a sung version that uses "Kilmeny". That would raise it above an intriguing speculation.


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST
Date: 09 May 11 - 01:47 PM

Considering that most of the versions sung today seem to have emanated from a single source - Peter O'Toole via Dominick Behan - I expect that "Kilkenny" will be consistent (and, methinks, consistently wrong). It would be great to come across a published version prior to 1960, so we wouldn't have to rely on one man's memory of what he might have heard.

Meanwhile, I'll put my money on "Kilmeny," which clearly makes sense, rather than "Kilkenny," which just as clearly does not. ;-)


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 May 11 - 01:59 PM

Sorry - hadn't noticed these recent postings.

'Kilkenny' is in the earliest printed versions we have i.e. the broadside "The Young Sick Lover" referenced in O'Muirithe's book on macaronic songs. No sign of Ballygran in any shape or form

Regards


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: MartinRyan
Date: 09 May 11 - 02:14 PM

Our best attempt at this song's history is in THIS "Origins" thread.

Regards


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: GUEST,Mesmee
Date: 23 Aug 12 - 02:46 PM

Yes. You have interpreted the meaning of songs and poetry in general. I still think it is the tale of fecklessness, sentimentalism and ruin, but still beautiful. How? I'll think some more.... have another drink...


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Subject: RE: CarrickfergusMeaning:marble stones as black as ink
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Aug 12 - 05:56 PM

Since the song seems to have come to us through Peter O'Toole, here's a clip of the man himself singing it with Richard Harris. "Fecklessness, sentimentalism and ruin, but still beautiful" seems to sum it up well enough.


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