Barbary Ellen

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  • Teideal (Title): Barbary Ellen.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781509.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 54.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): 84.
  • 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): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): February or March 1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert / seminar.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Mike Seeger.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘Twas early in the month of May, when the small birds they were singing
A young man from the north country fell in love with Barbary Ellen.

He sent his servant out one day to the place where she was dwelling,
‘My master wants a word with you, my bonnie Barbary Ellen.’

‘One word from me he’ll e’er shall have, nor any young man living
No better, no better, he’ll e’er shall have, for I know his heart is breaking.’

‘Oh, rise up, rise up,’ her mother cried, ‘and go and see this young man.’
‘Oh mother, oh mother, don’t make me go, for I do love no one.’

But slowly, slowly, she got up, and slowly she put on her
And slowly, slowly to the sick man’s bed: ‘Young man, I hear you’re dying.’

‘I’m dying in this very bed, the death lies in my bosom
One kiss from you would restore my health, my bonnie Barbary Ellen.’

‘No kiss from me you’ll e’er shall have, nor any young man living
No better, no better, you’ll e’er shall have; young man, I know you’re dying.

‘Do you remember last Saturday night, you were in the alehouse drinking
You drank the health of all the girls, and you slighted Barbary Ellen.’

‘Oh, I remember last Saturday night, I was in the alehouse drinking
I drank the health of all around, but my love was for Barbary Ellen.’

He turned his pale face to the wall, his friends all gathered round him
‘Adieu, adieu,’ he bade them all, ‘but be kind to Barbary Ellen.’

As she made her wayward home, she heard the small birds singing
And with every note they seemed to say, ‘Cruel-hearted Barbary Ellen.’

‘Oh Father, oh Father, dig my grave, make it long and narrow;
Young Willie died for me tonight, and I’ll die for him tomorrow.’

He was buried inn the old churchyard, Barbara was buried beside him;
From William’s grave grew a red, red rose, from Barbara’s a green briar.

They grew to the top of the old church wall till they could grow no higher;
They knotted and entwined in a lover’s knot, the rose around the briar.


This song was recorded during a concert with Mike Seeger while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.