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Lyr Req: My Boy Willie (from The Irish Rovers)

GUEST,Mysha 24 Mar 06 - 09:14 PM
Malcolm Douglas 24 Mar 06 - 09:45 PM
GUEST,Mysha 24 Mar 06 - 10:59 PM
GUEST,J C 25 Mar 06 - 04:12 AM
GUEST,J C 25 Mar 06 - 04:18 AM
GUEST,J C 25 Mar 06 - 09:27 AM
GUEST,Mysha 26 Mar 06 - 06:29 AM
GUEST,J C 26 Mar 06 - 11:53 AM
GUEST,Mysha 26 Mar 06 - 01:30 PM
Malcolm Douglas 26 Mar 06 - 02:55 PM
GUEST,J C 27 Mar 06 - 04:52 PM
GUEST,Mysha 24 Sep 06 - 02:11 PM
GUEST,Anonymous 07 Sep 12 - 08:51 PM
GUEST,s 01 Jul 14 - 01:31 AM
GUEST,Michael Kelly Cavan 05 Mar 15 - 11:15 AM
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Subject: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Mysha
Date: 24 Mar 06 - 09:14 PM

Hi,

I'm trying to determine the words to My Boy Willy, as sung by the Irish Rovers. It's a song of the Butcher Boy family, with more or less that melody, and I can write out most of the text, but I'm stuck on a few words, and probably misheard a few, which is why I ask for help.

I make it:

It was early, early* in the spring
When my love Willy went to serve the king.
And all that vexed him or grieved his mind
Was the leavin' of his dear girl behind.

Oh, father dear, built me a boat
That on the ocean I might float.
And view** the ships, as they pass me by,
And to inquire, of my sailor boy.

She had not sailed long in the deed(?)
When a fine ships crew, she changed to meet
And of the captain she inquired to (?)
Does my love Willy sail on board with you?

What sort of lad, is your Willy fair?
What sort of clothes does your Willy wear?
He wears a coat of royal blue,
and you'll easily know him, for his heart is true.

If that's your Willy, he is not here,
I doubt he's drowned, as we do fear
't was (garble***) as we passed by
It was there we lost a fine sailor boy.

****Oh, dig my grave long, wide, and deep.
Put a marble stone at my head and feet,
And in the middle, a turtle dove,
So the whole world knows, that I die(d) for love.


* Judging from the male version - "Early in the spring" - the reason for that double "early" is that it originally was "It be-ing early".
** I'm not sure mere "view"ing will serve her purpose. If that's indeed the word, I think I'd rather use "hail".
*** Sounded something like "at yonder green night lang", as I recall.
**** This verse appears to run in the family.

Anyone who can help out?
                                                          Mysha


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 24 Mar 06 - 09:45 PM

This one doesn't belong to the Butcher Boy family, but to the Sailor's Life group. They occasionally share a verse or two (in this case the final one).

Did the "Irish Rovers" credit their source for the song? That would help a lot.


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Subject: Lyr Add: MY BOY WILLIE (from The Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Mysha
Date: 24 Mar 06 - 10:59 PM

Pardon my ignorance regarding the relation. To me My Boy Willy and Butcher Boy are part of one large continuum. And after all, the melodies of the two are nearly identical. But if there's a non-arbitrary distinction, I'd like to know.

The song was on what was apparently a live LP/Album, recorded in the United States. As I recall it the introduce it as: "The words of this next song, were being song around the city of Belfast well over a hundred years ago, and we've come up with a tragic little love song; about lost love."


Aarg, I've done it again: It turns out the song is called "My Boy Willie". It was on the Album/LP "The Irish Rovers", which as a CD is now called "The First of The Irish Rovers".

Several other wordings of the song are on the net, among which is http://ingeb.org/songs/itwaeaea.html:

It was early, early all in the Spring,
That my boy Willie went to serve the King,
The night was dark and the wind blew high;
It was then I lost my dear sailor boy.

2. The night is long and I can find no rest,
The thought of Willie runs in my breast,
I'll search the green woods and village wide,
Still hoping my true love to find.

3. "Oh, father, father, give me a boat,
Out on the ocean that I may float,
To watch the big boats as they pass by,
That I might enquire for my sailor boy."

4. She was not long out upon the deep,
When a man-o-war vessel she chanced to meet,
Saying, "Captain, captain, now tell me true,
If my boy Willie is on board with you."

5. "What sort of boy is your Willie dear,
Or what sort of a suit does your Willie wear?"
"He wears a suit of the royal blue,
And you'll easy know him for his heart is true."

6. "Oh, then your boy Willie, I am sorry to say,
Has just been drowned the other day,
On yon green island that we pass by,
'Twas there we laid your poor sailor boy."

7. She wrung her hands and she tore her hair,
And she sobbed and sighed in her despair,
And with every sob she let fall a tear,
And every sigh was for her Willie dear.

8. "O, father, make my grave both wide and deep,
With a fine tombstone at my head and feet;
And in the middle a turtle dove
That the world may know that I died of love."

9. Come all you sailors who sail along
And all you boatmen who follow on.
From the cabin-boy to the mainmast high
Ye must mourn in black for my sailor boy.


This version has the gaps in the lyrics filled with verses I didn't know. As a result it also show more relation to the land-based versions. But important for me: it shows the garbled word to be "island". The version of the Irish Rovers apparently doesn't make much sense there, which would explain why I never guessed. Unfortunately, this second version has other bits that don't quite fit. Further digging will apparently be necessary.

                                 Mysha


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 25 Mar 06 - 04:12 AM

There are numerous traditional versions of the song which, as has been pointed out, is usually known as 'A Sailor's Life' If The Irish Rovers' version doesn't make sense, why not try one of them?
The garbled line is sometimes given as 'On yon green island as we passed by we lost nine more and your sailor boy'(or 'Willie boy'.
The last verse is a 'floater' which appears in many songs.
The tune to which the song is sung is irrelevent, certainly as far as traditional singers are concerned. Quite often, particularly if they learned the song from a ballad sheet, they will use whatever tune that fits. I met a couple of elderly brothers in the West of Ireland who had a couple of dozen songs between them but only used about six tunes.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 25 Mar 06 - 04:18 AM

Sorry, forgot to add
The 'Butcher Boy' is a different song altogether and usually deals with a girl who has been made pregnant, is abandoned and then hangs herself. Other songs in this genre include 'There is An Alehouse In The Town', 'Died For Love' and ' the American 'Wild Goose Grasses'.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 25 Mar 06 - 09:27 AM

Sorry again,
First thing in the morning is no time to be writing letters!
The last posting should read "The 'Butcher Boy' is a different song altogether and usually deals with a girl who has been made pregnant, is abandoned and hangs herself.
Other songs with similar themes, where the woman merely wishes for death are to be found under the titles 'There is An Alehouse In The Town', 'Died For Love' and 'the American 'Wild Goose Grasses'


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Mysha
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 06:29 AM

Thanks for pointing me to A Sailor's Life more insistently. The variation in Butcher Boy being so wide, I didn't realize the former would be so close, all the more so because the name suggests something like a donkey-ride shanty.

I know "dig my grave ..." appears in many songs, but I have the impression it's more of a marker; they all seem to be related, even if not everybody realizes they are. Eg "I died for love" doesn't have that verse floated in, I believe, but is a version of Butcher Boy that centers on the note written before she died; hence the "wish". Anyway, that's why I asked.

I'm not sure what to do with the text for My Boy Willie, though. It's Willie having been lost to the sea that gives it its mood. But it appears this is actually a later addition that doesn't make sense as it is here. I do not think dropping the drowning in favour of the battle at see and/or the burial would be as strong, though. Much as I like original texts, I'm tempted to create my own verse/ion here.
                                       Mysha


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 11:53 AM

There's a nice version in The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs if you have access to it and we recorded a very full version from an Irish Traveller - if you want it I'll be happy to put it up put the text up.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Mysha
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 01:30 PM

I get the impression The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs is a key publication; it's mentioned in several threads. I would have to order it, though, assuming it's recent or at least still in print.

Today I tried lyrics mostly as I posted them, but I'm not entirely happy with them, as I know they don't fit. (You should have seen me dance when I first found a version of Scarborough Fair that actually made sense!) So, there's no hurry, but when you find the time to, I would indeed like to see the version you recorded.
Thanks,
                                     Mysha


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willy (as by the Irish Rovers)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 02:55 PM

The original material from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs relating to Sailor's Life appears in thread Penguin: A Sailor's Life, together with links to further information and a mixture of texts from traditional and revival sources.

Note that the posts may not appear in their correct order, due to a server crash here last year. Selecting the "printer friendly" option at the top of the page should correct this. Note also that, having looked further into the subject in the ensuing years, I now believe that the American song Black is the Color derives directly from Sailor's Life rather than just borrowing from it; though such opinions are always subject to revision in the light of new information.

The 'Penguin' material was posted here some years ago, at a time when there seemed no likelihood that that influential book (originally published in 1959 and often re-printed, but then out-of-print since 1990) would ever be re-issued. It turned out, though, that, Penguin no longer wishing to carry it, the rights devolved to the English Folk Dance and Song Society, from whose Journals the songs had been selected by A L Lloyd and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

At the end of 2003, EFDSS republished the book as Classic English Folk Songs, revised and corrected, and with additional material on the songs and their singers added. The second impression (itself with some further additions and corrections made) can be ordered online at http://folkshop.efdss.org/, while there is a small set of webpages providing errata, addenda and associated material at http://www.folk-network.com/miscellany/penguin/index.html.


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Subject: Lyr Add: SAILOR'S LIFE and EARLY IN THE MONTH...
From: GUEST,J C
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 04:52 PM

Penguin Book version along with Mikeen McCarthy's

A SAILOR'S LIFE
(Laws K12) (Roud 273)
A sailor's life is a merry life.
They rob young girls of their heart's delight,
Leaving them behind to sigh and mourn.
They never know when they will return.

Here's four and twenty all in a row.
My sweetheart cuts the brightest show;
He's proper, tall, genteel withal,
And if I don't have him I'll have none at all.

O father, fetch me a little boat,
That I might on the ocean float,
And every Queen's ship that we pass by,
We'll make enquire for my sailor boy.

We had not sailed long upon the deep,
Before a Queen's ship we chanced to meet.
'You sailors all, come tell me true,
Does my sweet William sail among your crew?'

'Oh no, fair lady, he is not here,
For he is drowned, we greatly fear.
On yon green island as we passed by,
There we lost sight of your sailor boy.'

She wrung her hands and she tore her hair,
Much like a woman in great despair.
Her little boat 'gainst a rock did run.
How can I live now my William is gone?'

From the singing of Henry Hills, Lodsworth, Sussex 1899
The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

EARLY IN THE MONTH OF SPRING   
(Laws K12) (Roud 273)
Rec from Mikeen McCarthy (Traveller) Cahersiveen, Kerry

It was early, early in the month of Spring
When my love Willie went to serve the king,
The night was dark and the wind blew high.
Oh, that parted me from my sailor boy.

Oh then, father, father, build me a boat,
It's on the ocean I mean to float
To watch those big ships as they pass by,
Have they any tidings of my Willie boy.

Oh, she was not sailing but a day or two
When she spied a French ship and all her crew.
Saying, captain, captain, come tell me true,
Oh does my boy Willie sail aboard with you?

What colour hair has your Willie dear?
What kind of clothes do your Willie wear?
He've a black silk jacket and it trimmed all round,
And his golden locks they are hanging down.

Oh indeed, fair lady, your love is not here,
For he is drownded I am greatly feared,
In yon green island as we passed by
Oh, we lost nine more and your Willie boy.

Oh, she wrung her hands and she tore her hair,
She was like a lady all on despair,
She dashed her small boat against the rocks,
Saying, what will I do if my love is lost?

Oh father, father, dig we my grave,
Dig it long, both wide and deep,
Put a headstone to my head and feet,
And let the world know it was in love I died.

A.L.Lloyd the English folk-song scholar, in his note to a Sussex version of this song, which it entitled   "A Sailor's Life", pointed out that it is often combined with "Died For Love", although he held them to be two different songs.   Mikeen's last verse makes this such a hybrid.


Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willie (as by the Irish Rovers
From: GUEST,Mysha
Date: 24 Sep 06 - 02:11 PM

Malcolm, thanks for the directions.
Jim, thanks for lyrics version.
The traveller version is interesting. "Black silk jacket", rather than "coat of royal blue"; sailors are often described as wearing royal blue - I take it this was a sailors' uniform, and hence, not really identifying? Then again, "French ship" doesn't seem to fit, except if it stems from a sea-battle version.

Well, it answered my original request. Of course, each version has its weaknesses. But considering that current popular music writers see no problem in writing lyrics that are inconsistent, I maybe shouldn't demand more from folk songs. Still ...

OK, I'll try to fit it together to what makes the most sense. And of course, find out when "in the month of Spring" actually is.
Thanks,
                      Mysha.


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Subject: Lyr Add: MY BOY WILLIE (from The Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Anonymous
Date: 07 Sep 12 - 08:51 PM

I don't know if the original poster is still around, but based on her lyrics to fill in some of my blanks, and filling in some of hers with what I know, here is what I have come up with:

1. It was early, early in the spring
When my love Willie went to serve the king.
And all that vexed him or grieved his mind
Was the leavin' of his dear girl behind.

2. Oh, Father dear, build me a boat
That on the ocean I might float.
And view the ships as they pass me by,
And to inquire of my sailor boy.

3. She had not sailed long in the deep
'Till a fine ship's crew she chanced to meet
And of the captain she inquired to:
"Does my love, Willie, sail on board with you?"

4. "What sort of lad is your Willie fair?
What sort of clothes does your Willie wear?"
"He wears a coat of the royal blue,
And you'll eas'ly know him, for his heart is true."

5. "If that's your Willie, he is not here,
I doubt he's drowned, as we do fear
'Twas on yonder green island as we passed by
It was there we lost a fine sailor boy."

6. "Oh, dig my grave long, wide, and deep.
Put a marble stone at my head and feet,
And in the middle, a turtle dove,
So the whole world knows, that I died for love."


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willie (from The Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,s
Date: 01 Jul 14 - 01:31 AM

everyone should visit the Celtic Mound in Germany. I wish I could send this to all. The story was taken from Irish by English. Her name was Katherine and the battles her man was in were because the Spanish settlements in Florida were successful many years before any English were in the Americas. It was easy to find Irish soldiers to fight the English but where they were to go was hard to track.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Boy Willie (from The Irish Rovers)
From: GUEST,Michael Kelly Cavan
Date: 05 Mar 15 - 11:15 AM

i've been singing this song for years and regarding the garbled line about the "island"
I have always sing it as..
...'twas a gunner at the Rhineland as we passed by....
Make sense to me.

Michael Kelly Cavan


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