Friday, March 18, 2011

Irish Ballads: Carrickfergus

I'm continuing my Irish week with a few more posts highlighting my favorite Irish songs and singers.

The two photos in this post are from the real town of Carrickfergus a large town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Carrickfergus stands on the north shore of Belfast Lough and is home to the 12th century Carrickfergus Castle (pictured at right), one of the best-preserved Norman castles in Ireland. Carrickfergus has just been added to my list of places to visit if I ever get over to Ireland!


I wish I was in Carrickfergus
Only for nights in Ballygrand
I would swim over the deepest ocean
The deepest ocean for my love to find

But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over
Neither have I wings to fly
If I could find me a handsome boatsman
To ferry me over to my love and die

My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy times spent so long ago
My childhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on now like melting snow

But I'll spend my days in endless roaming
Soft is the grass, my bed is free
Ah, to be back now in Carrickfergus
On that long road down to the sea

I'm drunk today and I'm seldom sober
A handsome rover from town to town
But I am sick now my days are numbered
Come all me young men and lay me down

Video of Órla Fallon singing Carrickfergus from the DVD concert Celtic Woman: A New Journey--Live at Slane Castle. I like this version best of any I've heard. Órla's softer deeper voice and the simple music of her her harp and the orchestra behind are so lovely! 

Song History: "Carrickfergus" is an Irish folk song of unclear origins. But it has been traced to an Irish language song, "Do bhí bean uasal" ("There Was a Noblewoman"), which is attested to the poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, who died in 1745 in County Clare. The Irish lyrics were about a man being cuckolded, a bawdy and humorous ditty. By contrast, the English lyrics are nostalgic. With the Industrial Revolution, a linen-trade developed between Co. Antrim (where Carrickfergus is situated), and Co. Cork. It is possible the English lyrics came from snatches picked up in interactions with the Ulstermen.

Singer: Órla Fallon was born in Knockananna, Ireland. She is is an Irish soloist, songwriter and former member of the group Celtic Woman and the chamber choir Anúna. She plays the harp and sings traditional Irish music, most often in the Irish language. Her debut album, Water Is Wide, was released in Europe in 2000 and in North America in 2006. In 2005, she was offered to be in the Irish group Celtic Woman. She was featured in the self titled debut album Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration and Celtic Woman: A New Journey. In 2009 was when Orla left the group to have a full break and spend time with her family. Her solo career seems to be taking off with the release of four albums: Distant Shore, Orla Fallon's Celtic ChristmasWinter, Fire & Snow and My Land. She also has two corresponding DVD concerts: Orla Fallon - My Landand Orla Fallon's Celtic Christmas.
Besides her lovely voice and amazing talent Orla seems like such a nice person. I've seen bits of her solo concerts and I love the way she connects with the audience and keeps the history of Irish music alive. She's on my list of singers I'd love to see live in concert and meet in person one day! And I love her Irish Gaelic name!

Also here's a video of Charlotte Church's version of Carrickfergus. The words are very different and a bit more romantic than the original words. I'm not a huge fan of her voice and the beat is a bit much, but the words in this version are lovely!

What are your thoughts on this song? Which version do you like best?
Have you heard of Órla Fallon before and what do you think of her voice and style of singing?



Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

I first heard Carrickfergus in a video game I got called Endless Ocean 2 (it was the opening song). Carrickfergus would be an appropriate opening song for it because it was about the ocean. Celtic Women did all the music for Endless Ocean 2. They have such lovely voices! It's a treat to listen to them.

Anonymous said...

Love this song! I like the Dubliners version best, eith Jim McCann singing :)

Anonymous said...

I love the Celtic Thunder version of Carrickfergus sung by Ryan Kelly. He sings it so beautifully.

I would be interested to learn if the words "Only for days in Ballygan" should read "Only four days in. . . " To me that makes more sense that the singer has left Carrickfergus and is missing his sweetheart even though he has only been away for four days. What do others think?

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