Going to Mass Last Sunday

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  • Teideal (Title): Going to Mass Last Sunday.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853904.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 454.
  • 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): 11/09/1979.
  • 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.

‘I’m going to do a song called ‘Going to Mass Last Sunday.’ I haven’t a clue why it’s called that name, but that’s the name I heard it called. That’s the name I’m going to give it until somebody else… gives it a better name, or tells [me] the reason why it should have a different name. It’s… nice little love song, that wasn’t so loveable at the end – they had to part.

And courting is a pleasure between my love and I
And it’s down in yonder valley I will meet her by-and-by
It’s down in yonder valley she is my heart’s delight
It’s with you, lovely Molly, I’d spend to the broad daylight.

While going to Mass last Sunday, my love she passed me by
I knew her mind was altered by the rolling of her eyes
I knew her mind was altered to a lad of a higher degree
Oh, Molly, lovely Molly, your looks are haunting me.

I put my hand into my pocket, and a bottle I pulled out
‘Drink this, my lovely Molly – our courtship is at its height’
She said, ‘Drink you of the top; leave the bottom unto me,
For there’s money made and wagers laid that married we’ll never be.’

Farewell to all my loyal friends, likewise to sweet Bann shore
Farewell unto the lovely hills I’ll never see no more
Americay lies far away, the place I’ll go and see
For blessed is she – and cursed are they that parted my love and me.

Now if you should meet a dark-haired girl with a blue and rolling eye
Just take her in your arms – don’t tell her the reason why
Just take her in your arms ’til you cause her heart to yield
For a faint-hearted soldier never won on a battle-field.


Joe tells Lucy that he learned this song at home. When he recorded it for Lucy in 1979, he said that he hadn’t sung it in years. When he went to the University of Washington, however, it became a staple of his teaching repertoire, and the Joe Heaney Collection contains a number of recordings where Joe is leading a large room-full of people through the song in chorus.

The song is clearly of northern origin, if the reference to the river Bann is to be believed. It is included, to the same air, in Peter Kennedy’s Folksongs of Britain and Ireland, and Kennedy lists a number of early recordings made from Belfast singers in the 1950’s. Two versions were published by Sam Henry in The Northern Constitution as ‘Dark-Eyed Molly’ (H625) and ‘Farewell Ballymoney’ (H615); see Huntington et al., Sam Henry’s Songs of the People, pp 342-3. A number of versions have also been collected in the United States and Canada, presumably brought there by Ulster settlers. Other titles include ‘Loving Hannah’, ‘Charming Molly,’ ‘Black-Eyed Mary,’ and ‘Meeting is a Pleasure.’

On another occasion, Joe discusses uses the first two stanzas of this song as the basis for a discussion of ornamentation with Jim Cowdery. He also says that, but for Jim calling his attention to the song, he would only have known the first two verses of it – suggesting that Jim may have supplied a fuller text to Joe to supplement what he may have learnt at home.

Air: ‘The Lowlands of Holland’.