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Blackwater Side

[ Roud 312 ; Laws O1 ; Henry H811 ; Ballad Index LO01 ; DT BLKWTRSD ; Mudcat 20109 ; trad.]

Isla Cameron sang Blackwaterside in 1959 on the anthology The Jupiter Book of Ballads.

Paddy Tunney sang Blackwater Side on his 1966 Topic album The Irish Edge. This track was also included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Who’s That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Volume 10). Sean O’Boyle noted on the original album:

Another tale of unrequited love, set to a beautiful air which Paddy decorates in characteristic fashion. The first verse is evidently modelled on The Irish Girl (cf. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Song, and Colm Ó Lochlainn, More Irish Street Ballads), but there the resemblance ends. Paddy learned the song from the singing of a ‘traveller’, Paddy Doran, who says that the River Blackwater referred to in the song is in County Wexford. The tune is Doh mode hexatonic.

Anne Briggs recorded Blackwaterside in 1971 for her album Anne Briggs. Like all tracks from this album it was reissued on her two compilations Classic Anne Briggs and A Collection. A.L. Lloyd noted on the original album:

Some English singers know this as The False Young Man. It’s one of those pieces whose verses have floated in from half-a-dozen other songs. A form of it was published late in the nineteenth century by the London broadside printer Henry Such of Southwark. Anne’s version is the one popularised from a BBC Archive recording of an Irish traveller, Mary Doran. Anne says her accompaniment “is based on Stan Ellison’s version.”

This recording also appeared on the anthology Troubadours of British Folk Vol. 1 where Anne Briggs noted:

Bert Lloyd gave me this song. The version I sing was originally recorded by Irish traveller Mary Doran for the BBC Archives. I don’t personally identify with the sentiments, but it’s a lovely thing to sing and, in the midst of the swinging ’60s, was a sad reminder of a harsher and unequal sexual morality that still lingers on.

Bert Jansch learnt the song from Anne Briggs and recorded it five years before her—in 1966—for his Transatlantic album Jack Orion; this version also appeared on The Electric Muse and served as the basis for Led Zeppelin’s Black Mountainside. This video is from the DVD Fingerstyle Guitar: New Dimensions & Explorations, Volume 1:

In 1993 Anne Briggs, accompanied by Bert Jansch, sang Blackwaterside in the BBC Scotland documentary about Bert Jansch, Acoustic Routes. It wasn’t included in the 1993 soundtrack album but in the 2013 reissue.

Tony Rose recorded Blackwaterside in 1970 for his first album Young Hunting. This track was included in 2005 on the anthology CD of recordings from the Trailer label: Never the Same. A live recording from the Cheltenham Folk Club in 1969 was included in 2008 on his posthumous CD Exe. Tony Rose noted on the original album:

Blackwaterside is such a beautiful song and speaks so eloquently for itself that little else needs to be said about it. It is one of the songs which I most enjoy singing, and in its form here owes more to the singing of Louis Killen than anyone else.

Sandy Denny sang Blackwaterside as the only traditional song on her first solo album, The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. It was recorded at Sound Techniques in May 1971 with Sandy Denny playing acoustic guitar; Richard Thompson, electric guitar and accordion; Pat Donaldson, bass; and Gerry Conway, drums; and appeared also on her Who Knows Where the Time Goes? box set and in 2004 on the 5CD Fledg’ling Sandy Denny anthology A Boxful of Treasures. Sandy Denny also recorded Blackwaterside three times live for the BBC:

  1. A live performance with Richard Thompson on the BBC 1 TV Show “The Spinners” on 22 April 1971 was published in 2007 on the3CD+DVD set Live at the BBC.
  2. A live version recorded at the Paris Theatre, London, on 16 March 1972 for BBC “Radio 1 in Concert” and broadcast on 25 March 1972 was released in 1997 on The BBC Sessions 1971-73 and in 2007 on Live at the BBC.
  3. Live at the BBC contains a third live recording from November 1972 for the BBC Radio 1 show “Sounds on Sunday”, hosted by Johnny Moran, and broadcast on 3 December 1972.

Peta Webb sang Blackwater Side in 1973 on her Topic album I Have Wandered in Exile. Reg Hall and A.L. Lloyd commented in the album’s sleeve notes:

A widespread song particularly favoured by travelling people. In England, it’s usually called The False Young Man. Some versions depict the cheated girl as saying:

And when you said your heart was mine, and your head lay on my breast,
You could make me believe by the fall of your arm that the sun rose in the west.

The broadside sometimes gives the story a happy end: the girl consults her mother, and acting on her advice, returns to the young man and marries him. He didn’t deserve it.

Jean Redpath sang Blackwaterside in 1975 on her eponymous album Jean Redpath. She noted:

One of the finer variants on a common theme, Blackwaterside is Irish. The verses are probably already familiar from other songs, e.g., the English False Young Man and Bird in a Cage,

Go down in your father’s garden, Love
Sit down and cry your fill
And when you think on what you’ve done
You’ll blame your own good will

This melody I find irresistible.

Tommy Dempsey sang Blackwaterside in 1976 on his and John Smith’s Trailer album Green Grow the Laurel.

The John Renbourn Group sang Blackwaterside in 1977 on their Transatlantic album A Maid in Bedlam.

Spriguns sang Blackwaterside in 1977 on their Decca album Time Will Pass.

Kate Delaney sang Blackwaterside as the title track of her and Gordon McIntyre’s 1981 Australian album Blackwaterside.

Crows sang Blackwater Side in 1986 on their Dingle’s album No Bones or Grease.

Fairport Convention with Julianne Reagan sang Blackwaterside at Cropredy 1991. This recording was included in 2004 on their Free Reed anthology Cropredy Capers.

Linda Thompson sang a previously unreleased recording of Blackwaterside on her 1996 anthology Dreams Fly Away.

Geraldine MacGowan and Friends sang Blackwater Side on their 1999 album Timeless. She noted:

A classic story embracing two ever-recurring themes in Irish songs, love and betrayal.

Gibb Todd sang Blackwater Side on his 1999 CD Connected

Maureen Jelks sang Black Waterside in 2000 on her album Eence Upon a Time. She noted:

From the singing of Anne Briggs, a singer I would love to have seen performing live. Another song of unrequited love.

Debra Cowan sang Blackwaterside on her 2002 CD The Long Grey Line. She noted:

Recorded by many, this song comes from the Irish tradition and has a “young girl is made promises that aren’t kept” theme. I like the strength of character this young lass shows, thus, the upbeat arrangement.

Oysterband sang Blackwaterside on their 2002 CD Rise Above. A live recording from The Forum, London, on 12 December 2003 was released in 2005 on their DVD The 25th Anniversary Concert.

Jon Boden sang Blackwaterside as the 4 July 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Bryony Holden sang Blackwaterside in 2013 on her Sandy Denny tribute album Across the Purple Sky.

Rosie Hodgson sang Blackwaterside in 2014 on Crossharbour’s eponymous album, Crossharbour.

Martha Tilston sang Blackwater Side on her 2014 album The Sea. She noted:

Dedicated to Bert Janch—as he was a family friend and a big influence musically on both Nick Marshall and myself.

We umm’d and ahhh’d a lot over whether to do this song—it has been done so well by many well known artists—not least Bert. But we realized that our generation had not known this song so well—(we were the kids of the musicians in the 70’s folk revival scene) and perhaps this is a good a day as any to be brave. Someone mysteriously put a piano into the cottage we rented in Prussia Cove that week; we let go, relaxed and arranged and recorded this version with a little fun in our feet. Nick Marshall took this song on with so much consideration, humility and sublime guitar work. Thanks Anne Briggs for the last verse.

Bonny Light Horseman (Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson and Josh Kaufman) sang Blackwaterside in 2020 on their eponymous album Bonny Light Horseman.

Devin Hoff sang Black Waterside on his 2021 album Voices From the Empty Moor.


Anne Briggs sings Blackwaterside

One morning fair to take the air
Down by Blackwater side.
’Twas in gazing all, all around me
’Twas the Irish lad I spied.

All through the first part of the night
Well, we lay in sport and play,
Then this young man he arose and he gathered his clothes,
He said, “Fare thee well today.”

Well, that’s not the promise that you gave to me
When first you lay on my bed,
You could make me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west.

Then go home, go home, to your father’s garden,
You go home and weep your fill.
And you think of your own misfortune
That you brought with your wanton will.

For there’s not a girl in this whole wide world
As easily led as I,
Sure it’s fishes they’ll fly and the seas run dry,
’Tis then you’ll marry I.

Tony Rose sings Blackwaterside

One evening fair I took the air
Down by Blackwaterside.
And in gazing all around me
’Twas the Irish lad I spied.

All for the first part of that night
We two did sport and play,
Then that young man arose and gathered up his clothes,
Saying, “Fair lady, well a-day.”

Oh, that’s not the promise that you gave to me
When you lay upon my breast,
For you made me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west.

Go home, go home, to your father’s garden,
Go home and cry your fill.
And think on your misfortunes
And that you brought with your wanton will.

For there’s not one girl in this wide world
So easily led as I,
Oh, the fishes will fly and the seas will run dry,
Sure it is then you’ll marry I.

(repeat first verse)

Sandy Denny sings Blackwaterside

One evening fair I took the air
Down by Blackwaterside.
’Twas a-gazing all around me
That the Irish lad I spied.

All through the first part of that night
We did lie in sport and play,
When this young man arose and he gathered his clothes,
Saying, “Fare thee well today.”

That’s not the promise that you gave to me
When the first you lay on my breast,
You could make me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west.

Go home, go home, to your father’s garden,
Go home and weep your fill.
And think upon your own misfortune
Which you brought with your wanton will.

There’s not a girl in this whole town
As easily led as I,
And when the sky does fall and the seas will run dry,
Why, it’s then you’ll marry I.