Old Woman of Wexford, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Old Woman of Wexford, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841417.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 183.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): Q2.
  • 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): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

There are certainly different kinds of love. And the man who can describe love – I suppose his mother hasn’t been born yet. Well, my grandmother had a great explanation for love, because when I was growing up, I thought I fell in love ten times each day. And she called me aside one day and she said, ‘Remember,’ she said, ‘love is blind – but marriage can be a great eye-opener.’ And that advice, you know, has kept ringing in my ears all these years. But it’s an awful coward who didn’t make an attempt, anyway.

Well, this lady was in love, and it was the most contrary love I ever heard of in my life. She wanted to make her husband blind, and nobody knew why. But people were saying she was up to no good, anyway. And she wasn’t young, either – she was like myself, getting on in years and facing very little future. And she said- She went to the doctor, but she forgot the doctor was a friend of the old man. And she said, ‘Doctor, give me something to make the man blind.’ What an awful thing she had up her sleeve! And the doctor, as I said before, being a friend of the old man, he told her to give him something that would make him strong. Then he wrote the old man a letter, telling him what the old lady was up to. ‘And whatever you do – play into her hands! Pretend you’re blind!’ Now, this is what happened:

There was an old woman in Wexford, and in Wexford town did dwell
She loved her husband dearly, but another man twice as well.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And one day she went to the doctor some medicine for to find
She said ‘I want something for to make me old man blind.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

‘Oh, feed him eggs and marrow-bones, and make him suck them all
It won’t be so very long after ’til he can’t see you at all.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.
But the doctor wrote a letter, and he sealed it with his hand
He sent it to the old man just to let him understand.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

She fed him eggs and marrow-bones and made him suck them all
It wasn’t so very long after ’til he couldn’t see the wall.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’d go and drown myself, but that would be a sin.’
She said, ‘I’ll come to the water’s edge and help to push you in.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And they jogged and jogged and jogged along ’til they came to the water’s brim
She said, ‘You came here to drown yourself, and me to push you in.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And the old woman stepped back a bit for to push him in;
The old man quickly stepped aside and she went tumbling in.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

How loudly did she yell and how loudly did she bawl!
‘Arra, hold your whist, dear woman’ he said, ‘sure I can’t see you at all.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

She swam and swam and swam around ’til she came to the farther brim
He grabbed a sally wattle and he pushed her further in.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

Now eggs and eggs and marrow-bones may make your old man blind
But if you want to drown him you must creep up close behind.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And the ending of the story was – the blind man he could see!

Notes

This song appears on The Road from Conamara, the CD compiled from recordings made by Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger in 1963, when Joe was living in London.

In his review of this compilation, Tom Munnelly suggests Joe may have learned it from Séamas Ennis or the Clancy Brothers, as ‘it does not appear in Clár Amhrán Bhaile na hInse, Ríonach Ní Fhlathairtaigh (Uí Ógáin)’s exhaustive index of songs collected by the Folklore commission in Ballinahinch, Joe’s part of Connemara’.