MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

Willie Riley

Mrs. Ghaney NFLD 2 Tape 15 Track 4
Fermeuse Audio:
Ballad

LEACH: All right.
MRS. G: (sings)

Ye tender maidens, l pray draw near
A feeling story you soon will hear
I’m daily pining with grief and woe
Since my young O'Riley to the sea must go.

In the city of Wexford, near to Tyrone,
My love was reared a poor farmer's son
I dearly loved him as l did my life
I was fully intended to be Riley's wife.

But to my misfortune, l went to walk
I sent for Reily to have a talk
I was betrayed by my waiting maid
She told my momma all l had said.

My Momma sent for me immediately,
Saying, "Suzy, Suzy, now can this be
That you're in love with a farmer’s son?
When your father will hear it he'll distracted run.

"You know, my child, he’s no match for thee
For a room and kettle (?) he can never agree
And before he'll have you brought to disgrace
I’ll have Riely banished out of this place."

"Now, Momma, dearest, please pardon me
For l loves none but my young Riley
If l am prevented from being his wife
It's a sword or pistol will end my life."

"Oh, daughter darling, if that be so
You won't be prevented from being his wife
We'll send for Riley immediately
And when all is over, love, we'll agree."

Straight on board a ship then my Momma went
She told the steward for to charge a gun
And hide himself in the laurel tree
And to take the life of my young Riley.

Straightway to Riley I went that day
I told him all what my momma say
He was no coward, but came on speedily
The steward he fired in the laurel tree
And he grazed the shoulder o' my love Riley.

My love Riley, he stood manfully
And he shot the steward in the laurel tree
Then I was taken a pris'ner bound
When Riley missed me he turned around.

He called them cowards and was pursued
He fired again and he knocked down two.

My father mortgaged his property
In hopes he'd drive me to poverty
But his gold and silver I do despise
I would beg the world with my Catholic boy.


Notes


Sources: This song does not correspond to either Laws M9 or M10 which bears the same name. From the Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) Song Index and Song Annotation Collection: Knight, Margaret Bennet, MUNFLA 73-145.

Text: Suzy is in love with a Catholic farmer boy of whom her parents do not approve. Her mother appears to acquiesce when Suzy threatens suicide. The mother then hires a steward to shoot Willie. The assassin misses and Willie kills him. Suzy is then taken hostage, but Willie kills two of the kidnappers. As a last resort, her father mortgages the farm to keep the couple poor, but Suzy does not care as long as she is with her beloved Willie.

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 variable with either five or six beats per textual line. The key is B natural minor.

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