MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Old Oak Tree
Din Dobbin NFLD 2 Tape 12A Track 5
St. Vincent's Audio:

The night was dark; cold blew the wind; and heavy fell the rain
When Betsey left her mother's care never to return again
When Betsey left her mother's care she feared no wet, nor cold
This maid was young and innocent it was love that made her go

After eight long weary days had passed and Betsey had not returned
After eight long weary days had passed broken hearted her mother died
For she was weeping sorrowfully for the loss of her darling child

There was a squire lived in this place the owner of the ground
By chance he came to her home one day with all his dogs and hounds
He hunted up hills down dales through woods wit’ his gallant company
At length a fox he chanced to spy beneath an old oak tree

This fox began to sniff and snort he scratched and tore the clay
It took canes and light whipping it’s for to drive this fox away
All gentlemen they gathered round cried out for spikes and spades
They dug the ground it was there they found that missing murdered maid

And when the ground was open it was a grieving sight
To see these worms eating out these eyes that once were bIue and bright
To see the bruises all round her neck it would grieve your heart full sore
And every wound brought forth fresh blood thug trickling down in gore

And in her breast they found a knife unto his grief and shame
And on the handle there was carved young squire McCallion's name
I done that deed McCallion cried my soul is forced to hell
Come hide the cold cor'se from my eyes and l the truth must tell

The knife I took my breakfast with l pierced it through her breast
And with my hand I knocked her down I need not tell the rest
And ever since that very night she appears before my eye
I think I can see her bleeding wounds and listen to her dying cries

He drew a pistol from his belt without any more delay
Twas there that he fired and shot himself no creature’s friend was he
It was there he fired and shot himself no creature's friend was he
No man was found to bless the ground where this brutal murderer lay


Sources: Laws P37; Roud 569; Doerflinger pp. 283-285; Gardner/Chickering 33; Greenleaf/Mansfield 55 (Squire Nathaniel and Betsy); Greenleaf, 1968: 116 (The Squire; Squire Nathaniel and Betsey); Leach, 1965: 52, 54; Leach-Labrador 12; Mercer 1979, 164; Peacock 1965: 628; SHenry H207 pp. 417-18; Broadside versions include Bodleain, Harding B 40:5, J.F Nugent and Co. (Dublin?) 1850-1899; Harding B 26(481), P. Brereton (Dublin) ca. 1867.
From the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) Song Index and Song Annotation Collection: Cornect, Richard Wayne MUNFLA 68-39; O’Brien, Andrew MUNFLA 68-16 (When Betsey Left her Home).

History: The earliest publication date for this text is from the 1921 Newfoundland collection by Greenleaf and Mansfield.

Text: A young maid in love is missing for eight days. Her mother dies of heartbreak and grief. A squire hunting with his hounds finds her buried underneath an old oak tree. She has been strangled and stabbed with a knife bearing the name of Squire McCallion. When confronted, McCallion confesses and shoots himself.

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The last word is spoken. Speaking, instead of singing a final word or phrase is generally thought to indicate Irish influence on the singer or song. The meter is 4/4. The key is F major with a range of an octave based on F.

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