Sunday, March 11, 2012

Irish Ballad: The Maid of Culmore

St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching so this week I'll be posting some Irish related posts along with following the Anne of Green Gables Week and Jane Austen Heroine Week

This ballad is my latest Irish obsession. I'd heard it before but hearing the version on the newest Celtic Thunder venture Voyage reminded me of how much I love this song. It's a sad song but a very beautiful one! 

The Maid of Culmore
Leaving sweet lovely Derry for fair London town,
There is no finer harbour all around can be found,
Where the youngsters each evening go down to the shore,
And the joy bells are ringing for the maid of Culmore.

The first time I saw her she passed me by,
And the next time that I saw her she bid me goodbye,
But the last time I saw her it grieved my heart sore,
For she sailed down Lough (Loch) Foyle and away from Culmore.

If I had the power the storms for to rise,
I'd make the wind blow out and I'd darken the skies,
I'd make the wind blow high and the salt seas to roar,
Till the day that my darling sailed away from Culmore.

To the bad parts of America my love I'll go see (seek),
For it's there I know no-one and no-one knows me,
But if I don't find her I'll return home no more,
Like a pilgrim I'll wander for the maid of Culmore.

Lough Foyle, County Derry, Northern Ireland
History: Culmore is about two miles from Derry city in the north of Ireland, where the Foyle river widens into Lough Foyle. It was a departure point for emigrants. The song tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a young lady from Culmore but she soon leaves Ireland. The young man finally decides to go to the wild parts of America to find his darling the Maid of Culmore. The song probably dates from the later 1800's and is considered a Traditional Irish ballad although I couldn't find much info about it online.

Maps of Lough Foyle & Ireland (the red square indicates where Culmore is located)

Now let's take a look at some lovely recorded versions of The Maid of Culmore:

Celtic Thunder - This is the version that inspired this post. Celtic Thunder is one of my favorite Irish groups and their new album Voyage is a great compilation of old ballads and catchy new favorites. This version features all five members of the group singing together. I really like this version especially since the song lyrics depict a man singing about the woman he loves. And it has that melancholic feel to the music and in their voices. My only complaint is that the song isn't longer! :)

Cara Dillon - Irish lass Cara Dillon sings a sweet version of the song. This was on her debut album which has just celebrated 10 years. Another of my favorite Irish singers though her super sweet voice took a bit of getting used to. I especially like the videos of her live performances.

Caroline Fraher - I'd never heard of her before but I quiet like her voice. She seems to sing at a lot of private functions.

Piano Version - This young man has quite a few home videos on YouTube and I quite like his version of the song even though the video is a bit shaky

Have you ever heard The Maid of Culmore before?
Which of her video versions is your favorite? 

Very Truly Your's,


Anonymous said...

I know this post is from weeks ago...but I just now saw it! I LOVE The Maid of Culmore! It's one of my very favorite songs. Though I did first hear sung by Caroline Fraher and do like her version, I much prefer Celtic Thunder's singing of it (they are one of my very favorite groups). I saw them sing it on PBS a few weeks's better than the CD recording, in my opinion (Ryan sings the first part of the third verse and it very much suits him). :) Anyway! I can't believe I missed all your Irish posts (and the quiz! I'd've aced it!)...grr. Pardon the late comment(s)!

Mary Beth

Debbi R said...

Maid of Culmore is, so far as I know, an Irish traditional song from pre-1900, although not as old as many others. Look for an older recording of it, known as "Maid of Coolmore" by the Bothy Band, on their "Old Hag You Have Killed Me" album. The instrumentation is more traditional than Celtic Thunder's version. Also, look at Silly Wizard's "If I Were a Blackbird." The two songs are very similar.
DebbiR (Celtic harpist - can you tell?)

Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this page looking for some background on The Maid of Culmore, as sung by the late, great Gerry Rafferty, who had big hits with songs such as Baker Street and Stuck in the Middle with You (when he was part of Scottish folk-rock band Stealers Wheel). It is on his final album: "Life Goes On," which I believe is actually a compilation of some of his later solo work and some new songs he was working on at the time of his death. His version of Maid of Culmore is the best I've ever heard -- heartbreakingly beautiful.

Stephen Salzano said...
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