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Lyr Req: The Ballad of Grace Marks

23 Jun 98 - 01:45 PM (#31199)
Subject: the ballad of grace marks
From: tom barden

I'm looking for any info I can find on the ballad that Margaret Atwood opens her new novel ALIAS GRACE with. Any info at all will help.

23 Jun 98 - 08:02 PM (#31228)
Subject: RE: the ballad of grace marks
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Tom - give us what you know of the song, and maybe we can help.
-Joe Offer-

24 Jun 98 - 10:18 AM (#31273)
Subject: RE: the ballad of grace marks
From: Rockaday Johnnie

Doesn't Grace Marks play for the Cubs?

30 Sep 09 - 10:08 PM (#2735491)
From: Jim Dixon

There seems to be a complete copy of Margaret Atwood's novel "Alias Grace" available as a PDF file: Click to download.

I copied the ballad from that file:


1. Grace Marks she was a serving maid,
Her age was sixteen years,
McDermott was the stable hand,
They worked at Thomas Kinnear's.

2. Now Thomas Kinnear was a gentleman,
And a life of ease led he,
And he did love his housekeeper,
Called Nancy Montgomery.

3. O Nancy dear, do not despair,
To town I now must go,
To bring some money home for you,
From the Bank in Toronto.

4. O Nancy's no well-born lady,
O Nancy she is no queen,
And yet she goes in satin and silk,
The finest was ever seen.

5. O Nancy's no well-born lady,
Yet she treats me like a slave,
She works me so hard from dawn to dark,
She'll work me into my grave.

6. Now Grace, she loved good Thomas Kinnear,
McDermott he loved Grace,
And 'twas these loves as I do tell
That brought them to disgrace.

7. O Grace, please be my own true love,
O no it cannot be,
Unless you kill for my dear sake,
Nancy Montgomery.

8. He struck a blow all with his axe,
On the head of Nancy fair,
He dragged her to the cellar door
And threw her down the stairs.

9. O spare my life McDermott,
O spare my life, said she,
O spare my life, Grace Marks she said,
And I'll give you my dresses three.

10. O 'tis not for my own sake,
Nor yet my babe unborn,
But for my true love, Thomas Kinnear,
I'd live to see the morn.

11. McDermott held her by the hair,
And Grace Marks by the head,
And these two monstrous criminals,
They strangled her till dead.

12. What have I done, my soul is lost,
And for my life I fear!
Then to save ourselves, when he returns.
We must murder Thomas Kinnear.

13. O no, O no, I beg not so,
I plead for his life full sore!
No he must die, for you have sworn
You'd be my paramour.

14. Now Thomas Kinnear came riding home,
And on the kitchen floor
McDermott shot him through the heart
And he weltered in his gore.

15. The peddler came up to the house,
Will you buy a dress of me;
O go away Mr. Peddler,
I've dresses enough for three.

16. The butcher came up to the house,
He came there every week;
O go away Mr. Butcher,
We've got enough fresh meat!

17. They robbed Kinnear of his silver,
They robbed him of his gold,
They stole his horse and wagon,
And to Toronto they rode.

18. All in the middle of the night,
To Toronto they did flee,
Then across the Lake to the United States,
Thinking they would scape free.

19. She took McDermott by the hand,
As bold as bold could be,
And stopped at the Lewiston Hotel,
Under the name of Mary Whitney.

20. The corpses were found in the cellar,
Her face it was all black,
And she was under the washtub,
And he was laid out on his back.

21. Then Bailiff Kingsmill in pursuit,
A Charter he did take,
Which sailed as fast as it could go
To Lewiston, across the Lake.

22. They had not been in bed six hours,
Six hours or maybe more,
When to the Lewiston Hotel he came,
And knocked upon the door.

23. O who is there, said Grace so fair,
What business have you with me?
O you have murdered good Thomas Kinnear,
And Nancy Montgomery.

24. Grace Marks she stood up in the dock,
And she denied it all.
I did not see her strangled,
I did not hear him fall.

25. He forced me to accompany him,
He said if I did tell,
That with one shot of his trusty gun,
He'd send me straight to H__l.

26. McDermott stood up in the dock,
I did not do it alone,
But for the sake of her person fair,
Grace Marks, she led me on.

27. Young Jamie Walsh stood up in court,
The truth he swore to tell;
O Grace is wearing Nancy's dress,
And Nancy's bonnet as well!

28. McDermott by the neck they hanged,
Upon the Gallows high,
And Grace in Prison drear they cast,
Where she must pine and sigh.

29. They hanged him for an hour or two,
Then took down the body,
And cut it into pieces
At the University.

30. From Nancy's grave there grew a rose,
And from Thomas Kinnear's a vine,
They grew so high they intertwined,
And thus these two were joined.

31. But all her weary life Grace Marks
Must in Prison locked up be,
Because of her foul sin and crime,
In the Kingston Penitentiary.

32. But if Grace Marks repent at last,
And for her sins atone,
Then when she comes to die, she'll stand
At her Redeemer's throne.

33. At her Redeemer's throne she'll stand,
And she'll be cured of woe,
And He her bloodied hands will wash,
And she'll be white as snow.

34. And she will be as white as snow,
And into Heaven will pass,
And she will dwell in Paradise,
In Paradise at last.

26 Feb 11 - 05:04 PM (#3103227)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Ballad of Grace Marks
From: GUEST,Kirsten

Does anyone know if this ballad has a tune? If so, do you know what it is or where to find it? I would appreciate any help you can give on this.

26 Feb 11 - 07:04 PM (#3103283)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Ballad of Grace Marks
From: LadyJean

I'd be interested in the facts of the case.

27 Feb 11 - 12:03 PM (#3103629)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Ballad of Grace Marks
From: GUEST,Margaret Atwood

Hi Tom: Margaret Atwood here. (No, really, it's me.) I wrote the Ballad myself. In those times, news was frequently conveyed to the general street-level public by balladeers and street singers, who would compose ballads like this one, usually in this form (4-line stanzas), sing them on the street, and sell broadsheet copies. The balladeers and their audiences liked sensational events such as murders, executions, and shipwrecks -- and, later, train wrecks or huge fires.

I based the ballad on the accounts in newspapers of the time -- about the murders, and also the trial.

The late great Studs Terkel tried to find this ballad before our radio interview.

You could sing it to any 4-line, 4-foot/3-foot/4-foot/3-foot ballad tune.

27 Feb 11 - 08:16 PM (#3103931)
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: The Ballad of Grace Marks
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Again I'm amazed at who drops by the Mudcat! Welcome Margaret!