Maid of Sweet Gurteen, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Maid of Sweet Gurteen, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 903909.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3025.
  • 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): Kenneth Goldstein.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): Unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): probably at the University of Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, I think it would be better for me if I sang a song about this poor man who was deprived of marrying the girl he loved because her parents reckoned… she wasn’t good enough for him, they said, because she was a servant girl. And they locked her up because she wanted to see him, and they sent her away. And he, of a broken heart, wrote this song about her. And the song is called ‘The Maid of Sweet Gurteen.’

Come all you gentle1 muses, combine and lend an ear
Whilst I unfold the praises of this comely lady fair
‘Twas the curling of her yellow locks that stole away my heart
And it’s death I’m sure will be the cure if she and I must part.

The praises of this comely maid I am going to unfold
Her hair hangs o’er her shoulders in lovely links of gold
With the carriage neat, and her limbs complete, it fractured quite my brain
And her skin more fairer than the swan that swims on the purling stream.

‘Twas of her cruel father, the cause of all my woe,
He locked her in a closed room and would not let her go
It’s often I watched her window, thinking she might be seen
In hopes to get another sight of the maid of sweet Gurteen.

And two or three days after a horse he did prepare
He sent my darling away from me to a place I know not where
I may go and view my darling wherever she may be
For here in pain I can’t remain for the maid of sweet Gurteen.

My father he did come to me and this to me did say
‘Oh son, dear son, be advised by one, don’t throw yourself away
To marry a poor country girl whose parents are so mean
So stay at home and do not roam but along with me remain.’

‘Oh father, dearest father, don’t part me from my dear
I would not part my darling for ten thousand pounds a year
Was I possessed of William’s crown, of her I’d make my queen
Of a high renown I’d wear the crown for the maid of sweet Gurteen.’

So now to conclude and make an end I’ll take my pen in hand
John O’ Brien it is my name and Flowereel2 is my land
My days are spent in merriment when my darling first I’d seen
I’m here alone living near the road in a place called sweet Gurteen.


1. Joe actually says ‘gentile,’ although it seems clear that ‘gentle’ is what he means.

2. In the text of this ballad contained in Colm Ó Lochlainn’s collection Irish Street Ballads, the place-name is given as ‘Flower Hills’ (p. 44–5).

Joe told Lucy Simpson that this song was very popular in Carna when he was growing up; his father had it, as did ‘another old man in the village, too, who used to come in and every time he came in he sang that song, too’ (UW85-39.2). He said that there were two places named Gurteen (Ir. Goirtín; a small field), one in Sligo and the other outside Roundstone in Conamara; he thought the Sligo location was the more likely setting for the events of the song.