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Origins: Green Gravel

DigiTrad:
GREEN GRAVEL


Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 04 - 02:54 PM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Apr 04 - 03:57 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 04 - 04:58 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 04 - 05:09 PM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Apr 04 - 05:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 04 - 06:06 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 24 Apr 04 - 06:48 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 24 Apr 04 - 07:08 PM
masato sakurai 24 Apr 04 - 09:28 PM
masato sakurai 24 Apr 04 - 09:40 PM
masato sakurai 24 Apr 04 - 10:14 PM
LadyJean 24 Apr 04 - 11:40 PM
Keith A of Hertford 25 Apr 04 - 04:40 AM
Keith A of Hertford 25 Apr 04 - 04:46 AM
masato sakurai 25 Apr 04 - 05:05 AM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Apr 04 - 01:20 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 25 Apr 04 - 07:10 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 25 Apr 04 - 07:38 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 06 May 04 - 02:15 PM
GUEST,SueSantore 08 Sep 11 - 02:02 PM
GUEST,Guest 09 Nov 13 - 09:05 PM
Mary Humphreys 10 Nov 13 - 09:44 AM
Mary Humphreys 10 Nov 13 - 09:45 AM
GUEST,David Mills 19 Nov 13 - 04:37 AM
GUEST,Jenny Habbal 01 Sep 17 - 03:49 PM
Joe Offer 01 Sep 17 - 10:28 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 02:54 PM

I am opening a thread on this song in the hopes of getting more versions, especially any that connect the children's rhyme with the Freemasons. Macha (another thread) called this one of the 50 worst songs; making it a surefire candidate for Mudcat. One version in the DT.

Lyr. Add: Green Gravel
(Ozarks)

A. Green gravel, green gravel,
The grass is so green,
Free meshin, free meshin, ashamed to be seen,
O Lizzie, O Lizzie, your true love is dead,
I send you a letter to turn back your head.

B. Green gravel, green grave,
How green the grass grows,
An' all the free masons
Are dressed in green clothes.

C. Green gravel, green gravel,
The grass is so green,
The fairest young lady
That ever was seen.

I'll wash her in milk
And clothe her in silk,
And write down her name
With a gold pen and ink.

Above from Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, vol. 3, no. 532, pp. 322-323, with music.

Lyr. Add: Green Gravel
(Brown)

Green gravel, green gravel; our dress is so green;
All over creation you're shamed to be seen.
Dear Margret, dear Margret, your true lover's dead;
He wrote you a letter to turn back your head.

Brown, North Carolina Folklore, vol. 5, The Music of the Folk Songs, p. 510 with music ("The beginning slightly resembles the tune of "Mavourneen").

Lyr. Add: Green Gravel
(Sam Henry)

Green gravel, graan gravel, your grass is so green,
And all you pretty fair maids are ashamed to be seen.
I'll wash you in milk and I'll roll you in silk,
And I'll write down your name with a glass pen and ink.
Green gravel, green gravel, your true love is dead.
He sends you a letter to turn about your head.

Sam Henry's "Songs of the People," p. 10, with music. He explains gravelle, diminutive of grave, being a brighter green because of the fair maids buried there, washed in milk with a winding sheet of silk, and immortal fame written by a pen that could not rust.

Is the version with "free masons" known in Ireland, or is it North American?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 03:57 PM

Number 1368 in the Roud Folk Song Index, and found, it appears, pretty much wherever English is spoken.

Short text with music and description of game:

Bittersweet Volume VI, No. 1, Fall 1978: We've got a Pig in the Parlor: Ozark Play Party Games

Set from Almeda Riddle at the John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection:

Green Gravel


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 04:58 PM

The play-song is mentioned in the musical "The Mulligan Guard Ball," music by David Braham and lyrics by Edward Harrigan, produced in 1879 in New York.
Sheet music was published by Wm. Pond, NY, in 1879. It shows that the Irish had brought the song with them to America at least by that date.

From this musical, "The Babies on Our Block" became a very popular song.
Verse 2 of 3:

Of a warm day in the summer,
When the breeze blows off the sea,
A hundred thousand children
Lay on the Battery;
They come from Murphy's building,
Oh, their noise would stop a clock!
Oh, there's no perambulatory
With the babies on our block.
There's the Cleary's and the Learys
From the sweet Blackwater side,
All royal blood and noble,
All of Dan O'Connell's stock,
Singing "Gravel, Greeny Gravel"
With the babies on our block.
"Oh, Gravel, Greeny Gravel,
How green the grasses grow,
For all the pretty fair young
Maidens that I see";
Oh, Green Gravel Green,"
Wipe your eyes out with your frock";
That's sung by the babies
A-living on our block.

See Harrigan and Hart


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 05:09 PM

According to the Traditional Ballad Index, Alice B. Gomme first printed the song in 1894 (in the two-volume "The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland").
Is a prior record to the Harrigan-Hast mention known?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 05:48 PM

Apart from that 1879 example, the earliest printed version I can think of is in Charlotte Burne, Shropshire Folk-lore, 1883. Several more appear in the 1890s from England, Scotland and Ireland, and soon American forms begin to be published as well.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 06:06 PM

The song appears in W. W. Newell, 1883 (1903, later eds.), "Games and Songs of American Children," No. 15.

"A girl sits in the ring and turns her head gravely as a messenger advances, while the rest sing to a pleasing air-" (music given)

Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so green,
And all the free [fair*] masons (maidens) are ashamed (arrayed?)to be seen;
O Mary, O Mary, your true love is dead,
The king sends you a letter to turn back your head.
[*fair] my suggestion.

Newell believed that the song might be a fragment of a ballad, and compares it with a French round.

Later, as no. 172, he gives a rhyme from Toronto, Canada:
Green Gravel

Green gravel, green gravel,
The grass grows so green,
The fairest of ladies is fit to be seen.

Dear ---, dear ---,
Your true love is dead;
He sent you a letter
To turn back your head.

"Turning the head is a sign of sorrow; in some British versions the game is continued by another in which the lost lover appears, and the dancers, who have all turned about, are one by one made to face the ring; as Miss Burne suggests, I think that "Green Gravel" was meant to receive such continuation." "In this case the lover has gone to war, and the letter announcing his death..."
"I do not now regard the game as the reduction of a ballad."

There seems to have been a schism in meaning- 1. a lover gone to war, and 2. the death and burial of a maiden (or maidens).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 06:48 PM

When I was a little thing, on the schoolyard at recess we girls would walk around to the left in a ring, singing. The girl who was "It" was the name-chooser, a kind of leader, but she walked in the ring as well.

Green gravels, green gravels,
The earth is so green-
All over creation
The same to be seen.
O Lucy, O Lucy
Your truelover's dead-
He wrote you a letter
To turn back your head.

The ring pauses while Lucy turns herself around, facing outward, and joins hands again with the rest. This action is repeated again, with another girl being named, and she turns facing outside. When all names have been used and all are facing outward, the circle with all facing outward runs to the right, faster and faster with much laughing and shouting, until the ring breaks and they all fall in a heap. Just good fun. Nothing solved, but I must say that this falling down at the end usually made us think of another game, and we'd get up and play, "Roman Soldiers"

Have you any bread and wine for we are the Romans?
Have you any bread and wine for we are the Roman Soldiers?

Yes we have some bread and wine for we are the English!
Yes we have some bread and wine for we are the English Soldiers.

And so on, losing an arm, a leg, both arms & legs as verses go by, at last all lying dead in a heap. Nothing solved. Must be a lesson in there somewhere.....


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 07:08 PM

Kytrad, where was your schoolyard? "All over creation" is in the North Carolina version quoted above.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: masato sakurai
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 09:28 PM

There's a bibliographical note to "Green Gravel" in B.A. Botkin's American Play-Party Song (1937; Frederick Ungar, 1963, p. 30, fn. 13):
13 Oklahoma variants. Compare Babcock, pp. 244-245; Broadwood and Maitland (2 versions), pp. 26-27; Dearmer and Shaw, p. 78; Douglas, p. 58; Gardner, p. 100; Gomme (17 versions), I, pp. 170-183; Halliwell, p. 148; Heck, p. 13; Newell, pp. 71, 242; Pound, Syllabus, p. 74; Randolph, pp. 220-221; Shearin and Combs, p. 37; Social Plays, Games, etc., p. 15; Udal, pp. 348-349; Walter, p. 12.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: masato sakurai
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 09:40 PM

GREEN GRAVEL, 4aabb, 4ca: It begins:

Green gravel, green gravel, the grass is so green;
You're the prettiest maiden that ever was seen.

(From: Syllabus of Kentucky folk-songs, by Hubert G. Shearin and Josiah H. Combs, 1911, p. 37)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: masato sakurai
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 10:14 PM

More examples with comprehensive info are in Opies' Singing Games (Oxford, 1985, pp. 239-242).


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: LadyJean
Date: 24 Apr 04 - 11:40 PM

From my friend Emily Sandberg of Charlottesville Virginia:

Green Gravel Green gravel your grass is so green.
She's the fairest young princess that ever I've seen
She rode on a black horse she rode on a gray.
She's locked in a tower, and she can't run away.

This was sung as part of a game like London Bridge or Oranges and Lemons. Two girls held hands and when the line "She can't run away, the hands dropped around the girl between them. Sorry! This isn't much help. My computer's full of gremlins.!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 04:40 AM

The novel Precious Bane mentions this song.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 04:46 AM

Author Mary Webb, 1881-1927


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: masato sakurai
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 05:05 AM

From James Orchard Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England ([first published 1842]; Bodley Head, 1970, p. 241; without tune):
Around the green gravel the grass grows green,
And all the pretty maids are plain to be seen;
Wash them with milk, and clothe them with silk,
And write their names with a pen and ink.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 01:20 PM

Thanks, Masato. I had heard that the project to get Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England, on to the Internet was getting well along.
They have completed the 4th edition, 1846 (447 kb), with the index and contents.
"Around the Green Gravel" is on p. 195 of this edition.
It looks like they are working on the 1st and 5th eds, indices at least may be available in the future.
Nursery Rhymes: Halliwell Nursery Rhymes Index

Masato, do you have the contents of the 1842 edition?
Still looking for more of the "Free Mason" changlings.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 07:10 PM

Q- my schoolyard was in Viper, Kentucky where I was born & raised; SE Kentucky in the mountains, later the coalfields...

I lean towards the word, "creation" as being the earlier if not the 'original' word in the song/game; "freemason" being a corruption of "creation."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: GREEN GRAVEL
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 25 Apr 04 - 07:38 PM

Free Mason also could be a corruption of Fair Maiden. Creation does not seem to appear in England or Ireland, but I will know more when I am able to get to my books and get the Gomme versions. Unfortunately, I lack Opie's volumes.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 06 May 04 - 02:15 PM

Green Gravel:
Directions for playing (any number of children can play). With music harmonized for piano.
From Alice B. Gomme, 1894, "Children's Singing Games With the Tunes to which they are sung." Dover reprint of original printed by David Nutt (only 110 copies of the original, illustrated by Winifred Smith, were printed.

"The children join hands and form a ring. They all walk round, keeping the ring form, and sing the words. When singing the fifth line, one of the children is "named" by the others, and at the end of the sixth line this child "turns her head" by turning round and facing the outside of the circle or ring, and having her back to the inside. She joins hands again with the other players, and the ring walks round singing the words again, another child being named and turning her face to the outside of the circle. This is continued until all the children face outwards, holding hands and walking round. In some places the game ends here; in others, it is continued until all the players have again reversed their positions and face the inside of the ring or circle, as at first.
The words have been given previously, but here they are again so they can be read with the game.

Green gravel, your grass is so green.
The fairest young damsel that ever was seen.
I'll wash you in new milk and dress you in silk,
and write your name down with a gold pen and ink.
Oh (Mary) Oh (Mary) your true love is dead.
He's sent you a letter to turn round your head.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: GUEST,SueSantore
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 02:02 PM

I've never found anyone else who played Green Gravel. It must have been a very local game.   I don't remember any boys ever playing it. We girls held hands in a circle, faced inward, and walked to the left. We sang a lilting song that went like this:

Green gravel, green gravel, The grass is so green,

All over creation, I'm 'shamed to be seen.

Oh, Betty, Oh, Betty, Your true love is dead.

He wrote you a letter, To turn back your head.

The girl mentioned would turn around in the circle and still holding hands, walk with her back to the rest of the girls, facing outward. We continued (if recess lasted long enough) until each girl's name was called.

As I look back, it was rather a gloomy game.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: GUEST,Guest
Date: 09 Nov 13 - 09:05 PM

In Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the early 1960s we sang Green gravels as a skipping game. Two girls would turn a long skipping rope while one girl jumped, and the other girls would stand round and all sing the song. I can't remember all of it, but I think it started 'Green gravels, green gravels, your sweetheart is dead. He sent you a letter....' I can't remember the next bit, but it ended 'turn your back you saucy cat and say no more to me, I know a boy, he's double-jointed, he kissed you and made you disappointed, how many kisses did you give him?' Then the rope was turned much faster, with kisses counted out loud till the skipper tripped up. But I also seem to remember the words 'I'll tell your mother for kissing [boy's name] down in the cellar, How many kisses did you give him?' So maybe I'm confusing two different games.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 09:44 AM

Look at this link. You will find loads of versions of Green Gravel on this website.
I am posting the Cambridgeshire version which was noted by Cecil Sharp in 1911.
http://www.vwml.org/search?qtext=Green%20gravel&ts=1384094508000&collectionfilter=HHA;SBG;JHB;LEB;GB;CC;COL;GG;AGG;PG;HAM;MK;FK;EML;TFO;CJS1;CJS2;FSBW;RVW1;RVW2;AW#record=9


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 10 Nov 13 - 09:45 AM

Sorry - I should have made a clicky thing, but it should work if you copy and paste.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: GUEST,David Mills
Date: 19 Nov 13 - 04:37 AM

Mid Fifties, New Haw County Primary School, (near Weybridge, Surrey) we had a skipping song, snatches of which keep going round my head, which is why I Googled it. Can't remember all the words or the right order of them or how the skip sequence went except it finished up with continuous skips for the participant(s):

Green gravel green gravel your age is sixteen
Green gravel green gravel your young man has been
He sent you a letter concerning the weather,
... something about "caught kissing in the parlour"....
....something about "turn your back you saucy rat and speak no more to me!....
The words finished: How many kisses did you give him! one, two etc until exhausted!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Green Gravel
From: GUEST,Jenny Habbal
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 03:49 PM

I googled it too! In 1967, I was at Shipham Primary School in Somerset> I remembered the older girls playing a skipping song very similar to this one. The words as I remember them from my five year-old self were:

Green gravel green gravel
Your boyfriend is calling
He sends you a message to tell you the weather
Turn your back you saucy cat and say no more to me!
We shall tell your mother for kissing ...(name)..down in the
parlour!
How many kisses did he give you?....etc


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Subject: Origins: Green Gravel
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Sep 17 - 10:28 PM

There's quite an extensive entry on this song in the Traditional Ballad Index:

Green Gravel

DESCRIPTION: "Green gravel, green gravel, Your (bank/grass) is so green; The fairest young damsel I ever have seen." Usually a short lyric of praise for a girl, then a report that the girl's love is dead
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1894 (Gomme); c.1835 (Opie-Game)
KEYWORDS: courting death river playparty
FOUND IN: Britain(England(North,West)) US(MW,NE,SE,So) Ireland Canada(Ont)
REFERENCES (17 citations):
Broadwood/Maitland, pp. 26-27, "Green Gravel"; Broadwood/Maitland, p. 27, "Around the Green Gravel" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Randolph 532, "Green Gravel" (2 short texts plus an excerpt, 1 tune)
Arnold, p. 129, "Green Gravel" (1 short text, 1 tune)
BrownSchinhanV, p. 510, "Green Gravel" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Morris, #130, "Green Gravel" (1 text, 1 tune)
SHenry H48b, p. 10, "Green Gravel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hammond-Belfast, p. 10, "Green Gravel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Flanders/Brown, p. 188, "Green Gravel" (1 text)
Linscott, pp. 10-11, "Green Gravel" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie-Game 54, "Green Gravel" (6 texts, 1 tune)
Newell, #15, "Green Gravel" (1 short text, 1 tune); #172, "Green Gravel" (1 text)
Welsch, pp. 289-290, "Green Gravel" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, GRNGRAVL*
ADDITIONAL: A.F. Chamberlain, "Folk-Lore of Canadian Children" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. VIII, No. 30 (Jul 1895 (available online by JSTOR)), p. 254 "Green Gravel" (1 text) (Toronto, 1893)
James Orchard Halliwell, The Nursery Rhymes of England (London, 1842 ("Digitized by Google")), #277 p. 148, ("Around the green gravel the grass grows green") (1 text)
E. J. Ladbury, "Scraps of English Folklore, VIII. Worcestershire" in The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. XXXV, No. 3 (Sep 1924 (available online by JSTOR)), #7 p. 265 "Green Gravel" (1 text)
Bell/O Conchubhair, Traditional Songs of the North of Ireland, p. 79

ST R532 (Full)
Roud #1368
RECORDINGS:
Pratt family, "Green Gravels" (on Ritchie03)
CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "A Trace-Boy on Ligoniel Hill" (tune)
NOTES: Usually tells of a girl whose young man was slain (in the Napoleonic wars?), but in the Ozarks it's a playparty. The Beers Family sings a version in which the young man survives and returns to the girl -- but I wonder if they didn't write that.
Randolph was told that the song "reflects the Irish Catholic's hatred of the Masonic fraternity," but the only evidence I've seen for this is the mention of "free masons" (or corruptions thereof) in a few texts.
By the time Linscott picked it up, it had become a singing game -- and she reports that it wasn't very popular because "it called for little energy or imagination." She thought it described the process of laying out the dead, but there is no hint of that in her words.
Lowry Charles Wimberly, Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads: Ghosts, Magic, Witches, Fairies, the Otherworld, 1928 (I use the 1965 Dover paperback edition), p. 243, suggests that the green gravel of the song is an abortifacient, pointing out that there is a version of "Tam Lin" [Child 39] in which Janet seeks to use "gravil green" to end her pregnancy. But I've yet to see a version of this song which seems to refer to pregnancy. But he also noted that green was a color associated with death and mourning, so perhaps the green gravel is a sign of the lover being dead.
The "Green gravel" refrain may perhaps be from a nursery rhyme from Halliwell (see Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #326, p.177):
Around the green gravel the grass grows green,
And all the pretty maids are plain to be seen;
Wash them with milk, and clothe them with silk,
And write their names with a pen and ink
- RBW
Are all forms of this song really games and nursery rhymes? Even the "straight versions" that follow the description above may be from a game. Hammond-Belfast describes his version as "a funeral game, a bare and simple acceptance of death and change, a 'ceremony of innocence.'" Broadwood/Maitland says "this dismal little game ... is obviously a dramatic representation of mourning, and the suggested explanation of 'green gravel' as a corruption of 'green grave' ["green grave, O"?] is almost undoubtedly the right one."
Also collected and sung by David Hammond, "Green Gravel" (on David Hammond, "I Am the Wee Falorie Man: Folk Songs of Ireland," Tradition TCD1052 CD (1997) reissue of Tradition LP TLP 1028 (1959))
Sean O Boyle, notes to David Hammond, "I Am the Wee Falorie Man: Folk Songs of Ireland": "Irishmen like to think that the mysterious name ['Green Gravel'] is a folk rationalization of 'An Glas Gaibhlinn,' the name of a fabulous Irish cow whose milk never ran dry." - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
File: R532

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I found one version of the song in the Digital Tradition:

GREEN GRAVEL

Green gravel, green gravel
Your grass is so green;
You're the fairest young damsel
I ever have seen.

I washed her, I dressed her
I clothed her in silk,
And I wrote down her name
With a glass pen and ink.

O Kathleen, O Kathleen,
Your true love is dead,
I sent you a letter
To turn back your head.

From Songs of Belfast, Hammond
note: author describes as "a funeral game"
@Irish @death @love
filename[ GRNGRAVL
TUNE FILE: GRNGRAVL
CLICK TO PLAY
RG





Interesting recording by Fay Hield: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM6z-g_kfBI

Recording by Horslips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwxnLug9ozE

Clancy Brothers & David Hammond: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6Xt1NCuaYA

Some recordings may not play in UK

Reinhard Zierke has a nice page on this song at Mainly Norfolk:


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