SongNotes: Irish Street Ballads & Country Songs

Jamie O’Reilly
Ó Lochlainn’s Ballads: A Primer
Jamie O’Reilly & the Rogues
Banks of the Roses, 1986

Colm O’Laughlin’s (English spelling) Irish Street Ballads

Colm Ó Lochlainn’s Irish Street Ballads was first published in 1939. An Irish printer, typographer, collector of Irish ballads and traditional Irish Uilleann piper, Ó Lochlainn was also a member of the Irish volunteers in 1916, the year of the famous Easter Rising. Piper Seamus Ennis collaborated with him on the Irish Street Ballads books.

Irish Street Ballads was a primer to us in our early days as the Irish band O’Reilly’s Rogues. Before the Internet and YouTube allowed easy-access, songs were passed by word-of-mouth, radio, through cassettes and LPs. I found a good deal of material in sheet music from libraries. We had deep affection for medieval music and madrigals, and as a history-lover, I was intrigued by the source of tunes that became popular Celtic and American folksongs. We came upon the Street Ballads book in the early 80s, and from it learned several songs, arranged for solo and ensemble. Among them: Lillibulero, one of the oldest known melodies, Banks of the Roses (title cut of our LP), Doon the Moor, the Newry Prentice Boy, and the Mantle So Green. A friend gifted me another copy last fall, which I treasure.

Musician, critic and folksong arranger Herbert Hughes published a group of traditional Irish country songs for voice and piano in 1909, in a collection I was gifted by my Aunt Dorothy. These were artsong settings, generally performed in the parlor or recital hall. From this gem of a collection I’ve sung a fair number over the years, accompanied by guitar or piano and the band: including A Ballynure Ballad, Down by the Salley Gardens, The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby, Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye, The Leprechaun, Shule Agra, The Next Market Day, and I Know Where I’m Goin’, my signature song.

LIsten to I Know Where I’m Going, Legacy version

Jamie sings accompanied by John Erickson

Next Market Day has me on lead vocal, and the Rogues in four-part harmony. It became a staple late nights singing at the pubs. The chorus was composed by Tom Amandes, who plays tin whistle on this cut.

Jamie O’Reilly & The Rogues

Listen Next Market Day

Next Market Day, lyrics
A maid going to Comber her markets to learn
To sell for her mammy three hanks of fine yarn
She met with a young man along the highway
And that was to cause her dally and stray
Mullarack foldee do fol dee do folderae
Mullarack foldee do fol dee do folderae
She says I’ll go find him by land or by see
Til he learns me that tune called the Next Market Day

Sit down beside me I mean you no harm
Sit down beside me this new tune to learn
Here is three guineas your mammy to pay
So lay by your yarn till the next market day

They sat down together the grass it was green
Sure the day was the fairest that ever was seen
I’ll sit by your side til the next market day

This young maid she went home and the words that he said
The tune that he played her still rang in her head
She says I’ll go find him by land or by sea
Till he learns me the tune called The Next Market Day

Listen to the Mantle So Green, featuring Paul Amandes

LIsten to Doon the Moor, featuring Tom Amandes and Jamie O’Reilly