Red-Haired Mary

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  • Teideal (Title): Red-Haired Mary.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853914.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): 02/06/1980.
  • 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.

As I was going to the Fair of Dingle,
One fine morning last July,
Walking down the road before me,
A red-haired girl I chanced to spy.

Says I to her, ‘My fair young damsel,
My old donkey, he will carry two.’
She looked at me, her eyes a-twinkle
And her cheeks they were a rosy hue.

‘Thank you kindly, sir,’ she answered
Then she tossed her bright red hair
‘Seeing that you have a donkey,
I will ride with you to the Dingle Fair.’

When we reached the Fair of Dingle,
I took her hand to say goodbye.
When a tinker man, he stepped up to me,
And he belted me in my left eye.

Keep your hands off Red-Haired Mary,
Her and I are to be wed.
We’ll see the priest this very morning,
Tonight we’ll lie in our marriage bed.

I was feelin kinda peevish,
My poor old eye was feeling sore,
So I hit him gently with my hobnails
He flew in through Murphy’s door.

Chorus

Then he went and got his brother,
The biggest man I ever did see,
He tapped me gently with his knuckles,
And I lost my two front teeth.

Chorus

Then a peeler came round the corner,
Told me I had broke the law
But a donkey kicked him with his hind legs
He fell down and broke his jaw.

Chorus

But the red-haired girl, she kept on smiling,
‘I’ll go with you, young man’ she said.
‘We’ll forget the priest this very morning,
And tonight we’ll lie in Murphy’s shed.’

Keep your hands off Red-Haired Mary,
Her and I are to be wed.
We’ll forget the priest this very morning,
Tonight we’ll lie in Murphy’s shed

Through the fair we roved together
My black eye and her red hair
Smiling gently at the tinker –
Begod we were a handsome pair!

Keep your hands off Red-Haired Mary,
Her and I are to be wed.
We’ll forget the priest this very morning,
Tonight we’ll lie in Murphy’s shed!

Notes

Despite Joe’s doubts, this song was indeed composed by Seán Mc Carthy (1923–90), from Listowel, County Kerry. Mc Carthy was a prolific songwriter and radio host.

The mention of the red-haired woman sets Joe talking about the bad luck associated with red-headed women and with rabbits, especially to sailors, and he appears to be arguing that the song may be an old one because its subject is a woman with red hair. He overlooks the fact that the song doesn’t actually refer to such superstitions — although there may be some implication of bad luck, given the narrator’s black eye and missing teeth.