MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada

The Beggar

Mrs. McCarthy NFLD 2 Tape 16 Track 2
Renews Audio:

As Mary and Willie sat by the seaside
Their last farewell for to take
Says Mary to Willie when you from to me
I'm afraid that my fond heart will break

Oh what's that you say fond maiden said he
As he pressed his fond maid to his side
My absence don't mourn when I will return
I will make bonny Mary my bride

Seven years passed away no news from the sea
Mary stood in her own cottage door
And the beggar came by with a patch on his eye
And his blue jacket ragged and torn

Extend your charity little maiden said he
And your fortune I’ll tell you beside
Saying the lad you adore won't return home no more
For to make bonny Mary his bride

Oh heavens she say the joys that I feel
It is for his misfortune I’ll mourn
He is welcome to me in his poverty
And his blue jacket ragged and torn

The beggar let fall the patch from his eye
As his mantle he dropped down beside
His cheeks rosy red and his jacket of blue
As he stood by his own Mary' s side

Forgive me, forgive me, fair maiden said he
It is only your love I have tried
To the church right away on this very day
And I’ll make bonny Mary my bride


Sources : Laws N28 (Willie and Mary, Mary and Willie, Little Mary, The Sailor's Bride); Roud 348; SHenry H118, 315-16 (Mary and Willie); Belden 152-153 (Mary and Willie); Brewster 95 (Willie and Mary); Flanders/Brown, 150-151 (The Single Sailor); Hudson 39, 153-164 (Mary and Willie); Huntington-Whaleman, 116-117 (The Beggarman); Mercer, 1979:195 (William and Mary); Peacock, 1965:348 (William and Mary); Randolph 57 (Mary and Willie);

History: According to the Traditional Ballad Index ( the earliest known publication date is 1845 in Journal from the Elizabeth .

Text: Willie leaves for sea promising to marry Mary when he returns.   Seven years later a beggar comes to Mary's door.   After testing her, he reveals himself as Willie.   They are married that day.

Tune: The text is through composed and the melody repeats with each verse. The last few words are 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 6/8.   The key is A-flat major.

All material on this webpage is copyright © 2004, Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland. No unauthorized copying or use is permitted. For more information, follow this link.