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Deep and false water...

16 Jun 97 - 12:13 AM (#6893)
Subject: Deep and false water...
From: Dick Wisan

I have a song on tape from a radio. I have no idea who's the woman singing it. I can make out most of the words, but not quite all. The story is about a boy drowned in a lake. I'm not sure of the lake, but the tag line at the end of each verse is:

There's deep and false water in the lake of...

If it's not Champlain, it rhymes with it. The style of the verses sounds old, maybe 18th Cent or not too far into the 19th, but of course it might be pseudo-old.

Couldn't find the words in the DT, searching for [deep and false water] or [false water] --those words take me mightily-- and I'd be grateful for the name of the lake, a full set of words, info about the provenance of the song, guesses about the singer, anything...

16 Jun 97 - 02:13 AM (#6897)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Barry Finn

Check the DT for The Lakes Of Col Fin Barry

16 Jun 97 - 10:54 AM (#6912)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: dick greenhaus

Hi- Col Fin did emigrate to the US, Where it did become Champlain. Sarah Gray sings it.

16 Jun 97 - 07:23 PM (#6946)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Dick Wisan

Yep. Thanks. "Lakes of Col" found it, & it's obviously the same song, a little evolved in the tape I have.

20 Jun 97 - 11:01 PM (#7151)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Virginia Blankenhorn

I have no idea who (what?) Col Fin Barry might be, but... this song is also called "The Lakes of Coolfin" or "Willie Leonard." We're hunting for it in some of the books we have here in the house...Stay tuned if you're still interested.


Virginia Blankenhorn

19 Jan 03 - 04:27 AM (#869801)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Felipa

I heard Máire Ní Chathasaigh singing the Lakes of Champlain learned from Vermont singer Margaret McArthur. The lyrics are very close to those of the Lakes of Coolfin, and the man who drowned is also called Willie Leonard.

19 Jan 03 - 04:35 AM (#869803)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Felipa

see also much more information at Coolfin thread

One version in the Digital Tradition shows the following footnote:

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

I've also heard of an Irish version called the Lakes of Sheelin

19 Jan 03 - 05:07 AM (#869812)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: nutty

This broadside from the Bodleian Library has the title as The Lakes of Cold Finn

Bodleian Broadside

19 Jan 03 - 05:37 AM (#869818)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Snuffy

Typing Coolfin in the 'Lyrics & Knowledge Search' box at the top of the page will get you a couple of dozen messages about this song.

19 Jan 03 - 06:21 AM (#869835)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: masato sakurai

The thread is Lyr Add: Lake of Coolfin.

19 Jan 03 - 06:38 PM (#870136)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Snuffy

I'm sure that in ca 1980 I heard a version of this on a recording by an East Anglian singer, (from Yarmouth/Lowestoft if I remember correctly)

20 Jan 03 - 12:47 PM (#870640)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Mary Humphreys

I have been singing a version of this song for more years than I care to remember. I think it came from the Moore collection, and is probably in Bronson. I have always called the young man Willie Lennon. Harry Boardman had a verse about 4 and 20 young maids all dressed in white and 4 and 20 young men all dressed in green that I have added to the end of the song.My tune is very reminiscent of Buncloddy.
I haven't any idea who was the East Anglian singer - wish I did!. Scan Tester was recorded singing a version in Sussex. It is on 'The Voice of the People' Volume 3. Well worth a listen.

20 Jan 03 - 01:00 PM (#870652)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Malcolm Douglas

Possibly George Ling (living in Croydon, but originally of Blaxhall, Suffolk), whose singing of The Lakes of Coolfin appeared on Topic's Singing Traditions of a Suffolk Family (12TS 292) back in 1977.

24 Mar 03 - 06:35 PM (#917445)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Peaches

I a copy sung by catherine Robert, sung in 1994 British young Trad award winner.

24 Mar 03 - 07:06 PM (#917467)
From: Deni-C

Lovely song. this is the version I sing

Loughinsholin (Lakes of Coolfin)
(? spelling)

Well it was early one morning young Willie he arose
and straightway to his comrades bedchamber he did go
saying arise my loyal comrade and let no-one know
'tis a fine summer's mornin and a-bathin we will go.

Well they journeyed on together till they came to a long lane
and the first that they met was a keeper of the game
saying turn back young Willie and turn back again
for your fate it is to die in the Loughinsholin

Well Willie Leonard he jumped in and swam the lake around
until he reached the island it was soft and boggy ground
crying comrade, loyal comrade do not venture in
For there's deep and false waters in the Loughinsholin


24 Mar 03 - 09:57 PM (#917557)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: GUEST,leeneia


"Flanders thinks this is a degenerate form of ballad in which a young man is taken by a water witch who desires him. "

Who is Flanders and who gave him (her?) the right to call other people's songs degenerate?

Hey, maybe he's a captain in the Folk Police.

24 Mar 03 - 11:29 PM (#917586)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Malcolm Douglas

No, no, that isn't a value judgement. Don't let's drag the mythical "Folk Police" into this, please. It's a technical term, as you ought to know; and simply shorthand for what was written in the notes to the set of the song printed in The New Green Mountain Songster, 1939, which was precisely as follows:

"From Lilith, the wild woman of perilous love, and Morgan la Fée, to the mood of a street ballad about one of the many Irish youths who have lost their lives in fresh water, is a long leap. But The Lakes of Col Fin takes it. Irish singers understand the lore of the ballad perfectly: Willie was not "drowned"; he was taken away to Tir fa Tonn, "Fairyland-under-wave", by a water-woman who had fallen in love with him. Legends of similar content are frequent in Middle Irish literature and have survived into modern popular tradition. We may compare Motherwell's The Mermayden, whose "bower is biggit o' the gude ships' keels, and the banes o' the drowned at sea" - a grim picture of the supernatural woman's cruelty in love, which the poet nicely caught - and Leyden's The Mermaid of Corrievrekan, with a happy ending wrought by a clever hero who inveigles the mermaid into taking him back to bid farewell to his former love, "the maid of Colonsay". Both poems were based on local traditions and legends.

"Popular tradition, however, does not mean popular origin. In the case of our ballad, the underlying folklore is Irish de facto, but not de iure; the ballad is of Oriental and literary origin, and has sunk to the level of the "folk" which has the keeping of folklore. To put it in a single phrase, memory not invention, is the function of the folk.

"The Lakes of Col Fin was first printed by Dr P. W. Joyce in 1872, in a version, with the air, obtained from a County Limerick singer. A full history of the ballad and of the folk tradition pertaining to it is in Folk Song Society of the Northeast, Bulletin No. 8, pp. 9-12.

"Mrs. Flanders met this ballad as The Lakes of Champlain while talking about old songs with Mrs Herbert Haley of Cuttingsville, Vermont. Mrs Haley sang the words to the tune of The Dying Cowboy, and had been told that the drowned boy was "Willie Lanard", well known to the person who gave her the song."

-Helen Hartness Flanders, Elizabeth Hartness Ballard, George Brown and Phillips Barry: The New Green Mountain Songster: Traditional Songs of Vermont, 1939; reprinted Folklore Associates, Pennsylvania, 1966.

Now, as it happens, this kind of romantic tendency to attribute "ancient" and supernatural origins to traditional songs without an atom -apparently- of real evidence was still pretty common in those days, though we tend to be a little more sceptical nowadays. It may well be that whoever wrote the above (perhaps Mrs Flanders, a rather well-known and respected folk song collector and folklorist) might see it differently if she was writing today; perhaps not. I don't pretend to know. Certainly I'd question the relevance of the references to Scottish literature. She was also unaware, it seems, of the numerous broadside printings of forms of the song that pre-date Joyce (but not by a great deal; there seems to be no evidence that it is older than the 19th century); but again, she is not to be blamed for that. Scholarship and technology have moved on, and today resources are easily and trivially available to us which were often unknown to scholars of the day.

In case there is still any doubt, I had better explain that the use of the term "degenerate" in this context (though it was Felipa's gloss, not actually used in the book referred to) simply implies that a song has lost elements that might originally have belonged to it; and, along with them, part of its original meaning. In that sense it might properly be said to be "degenerate", but this doesn't imply any aesthetic criticism; just an objective observation.

I'm inclined to doubt that Mrs Flanders (if it was she) was right about this one, but that's just my opinion; which, though moderately well-informed, enjoys the benefit of hindsight which was not available to her. I won't ever know, or understand, as much about folk song as she did; and I doubt that any of the other contributors to this discussion will, either.

25 Mar 03 - 05:50 AM (#917736)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Deni-C


Lots there to chew over!!!!

26 Jul 09 - 11:28 AM (#2687337)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: GUEST,Mick West

I only have my copies of "Folksongs of the British Isles"Kennedy, on vinyl and can't play them. Does anyone have the words to The Lakes of Shellin from those recordings by Mary Reynolds of Mohill Co Leitrim?
Much obliged if you can help.Mick

26 Jul 09 - 12:40 PM (#2687375)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: BB

Taken from 'Folksongs of Britain and Ireland' ed. Kennedy, collected from Mary Reynolds in 1954:


It was early one morning Willie Leonard arose
And straight to his comrades' bed-chamber he goes
Saying: Arise, royal comrades, and let nobody know
For it is a fine morning and a-bathing we'll go

They walked and they talked, till they came to a lane
And the first man they met there was the keeper of game
He advised them to turn back and not venture in
For there's deep and false waters on the lakes of Shallin

Young Willie stripped naked and he swam the lake round
He swam foreign islands but not for dry ground
Saying: Comrade, royal comrades, I am now getting weak
And these were the last words Willie Leonard did speak

It was early that morning his sister arose
And straight to her mother's bed-chamber she goes
Saying: Mother, dear mother, I had a sad draeam
That young Willie was floating on a watery main

It was early that morning his mother went there
With a-wringing her fingers and a-tearing her hair
Saying: Where was he drowned, was nobody there
That would venture their lfe for my one only boy?

It was early that evening his uncle went there
He rode round the lake like a man in despair
Saying: Where was he drowned or did he fall in?
My cursed life for ever on the lakes of Shallin

The day of the funeral it was a sad sight
Four-and-twenty young men and they all dressed in white
They bore him on their shoulders and to rest him did lay
Saying: Farewell to you, Willie, and they all walked away

26 Jul 09 - 12:43 PM (#2687377)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...

Thanks BB much obliged.Mick

26 Jul 09 - 12:53 PM (#2687385)
Subject: RE: Deep and false water...
From: Richard Bridge

There is a Nic Jones version too.