Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold

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  • Teideal (Title): Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853905.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 553.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 09/10/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

It’s about a woman who went into the navy to be near her boyfriend, she dressed herself up as a sailor… And this is no mean… story about a girl, and she saw the sailor lad passing her window. Now whether it be love at first sight, or something, but at least she tried out – and the love lasted! She went- They went through a lot together on the sea, and finally her father relented, and let her marry him… And ‘Caroline and her Young Sailor Bold’ is not the best song in the world, but it’s an example of what women could do, you see, in times when people thought they were doing nothing only staying at home.

It’s of a nobleman’s daughter
So handsome and comely was she
Her father possessed a large fortune
Of forty five thousand in gold
He had but the one lovely daughter
Caroline was her name we are told
One morning through her drawing-room window
She spied a young sailor bold.

His cheeks were as red as the roses
His eyes was as black as the jet1
Caroline took her departure,
Went out and young William she met
She said, ‘I’m a nobleman’s daughter
Possessing some thousands in gold
I’ll forsake my father and mother
And wed with the young sailor bold.’

She dressed herself up as a sailor
In a jacket and trousers of blue
Three years and a half on the ocean
She spent with her young sailor bold
Three times her true love got shipwrecked
Each time to him she proved true
Her duty she did as a sailor
In a jacket and trousers of blue.

Her father he wept and lamented
The tears from his eyes often rolled
Until they arrived safely in Galway
Caroline and her young sailor bold
Caroline went home to her father
In a jacket and trousers of blue
Saying, ‘Father, dear father, forgive me
I own that I have troubled you.’

Saying ‘Father, dear father, forgive me
Deprive me of silver and gold
But grant my request, I’m contented
To wed with my young sailor bold.’

Her father embraced young William
And addressed him in sweet unity
Saying, ‘Your life shall be spared until morning
Together and married you’ll be’
They got married on Caroline’s portion
Of forty-five thousand in gold
And now they live happy together
Caroline and her young sailor bold.


1. Joe corrects himself here – the line should be ‘his hair was as black as the jet’.

Joe tells Lucy that this song ‘was very very well-known’ in his family, and then talks about how all the children went to school together. He doesn’t say what the school had to do with his learning the song, or with it being widely-known in his family; but if the children were taught it in school, both facts might be explained. If Joe learned it in school, he was not the only one; at least one recording of this song exists in the archives of Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Roisín na Mainiach, Carna, as sung by a local informant.

Joe’s remarks to Lucy are also interesting for the light they shed upon his approach to a concert, the close attention he pays to the mood of this listeners, and how his choice of song may be dictated by what he thinks they are in the mood for.

Joe’s air, which generally goes by the title ‘Rosin the Bow,’ is a fine, swinging tune with nothing of the ornamental sean-nós style about it.