> Folk Music > Songs > Bantry Girls' Lament

Bantry Girls' Lament

[ Roud 2999 ; Ballad Index OLoc077 ; trad.]

Colm O Lochlainn printed The Bantry Girls' Lament in his 1939 book Irish Street Ballads.

Vin Garbutt sang The Bantry Girl's Lament (The Dirty King of Spain) in 1967 on his Trailer album King Gooden.

Jolly Jack sang The Bantry Girl's Lament in 1988 on their Fellside album A Long Time Travelling.

Martin Simpson played the tune of Bantry Girl's Lament on his 1989 instrumental album Leaves of Life.

Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley sang Bantry Girls' Lament in 2009 on their Noe album Lucy Wan, and Sherburn Bartley Sanders returned to it in 2018 on their album Beguile. Denny Bartley noted:

I heard the Clancys sing this years ago but it was Jimmy Crowley's version that made me want to do it.

Having checked out a few researchers on this, the song appears to be about The Peninsula War which took place between 1808 and 1814 and was caused by Napoleon Bonaparte, who forced the then king of Spain, Ferdinand VII, to abdicate, then handed power to his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte. If this is indeed the case, then it seems that Johnny was fighting with the British forces against Joseph.

I feel that a few translations/explanations of words in the text above are also needed.

1st verse: A ‘haggard’ is a garden or a threshing field.

2nd verse: ‘Bánóg’ is pronounced Bawnoag and here means a patch of green ground (literal translation is young white, but your guess is as good as mine on that).

3rd verse: ‘Moneymore’ according to the Clancys should be ‘Mí an Fhomhair’ (me on oar, phonetically) and would be harvest time.

4th verse: ‘Stórín gheal mo chroí’ means ‘bright love of my heart’. Phonetically, storeen gal mo cree. ‘Buckeens’ is a term for young men with little to do.

Heidi Talbot sang Bantry Girls on her 2010 album The Last Star.

Lyrics

Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley sing Bantry Girls' Lament

Who will plough the fields now who will sow the corn
Who will mind the sheep now and keep them neatly shorn
And the stack that's in the haggard, un-threshed it will remain
Since Johnny went a threshing all in the wars of Spain.

And the girls from the Bánóg in sorrow may retire
And the piper and his bellows go home and blow his fire
For Johnny lovely Johnny is sailing o'er the main
Away with other patriots to fight the king of Spain.

The boys they'll surely miss him when moneymore comes around
And they grieve their brave captain is nowhere to be found
The peelers must stand idle, against their will and grain
Since the gallant lad that gave them work now peels the king of Spain.

At wakes and hurling matches your likes we'll seldom see
'Til you return back home again a stórín gheal mo chroí
won't you trouble those buckeens who show us great disdain
Because our eyes are not as bright as those you'll see in Spain.

If cruel faith does not permit our Johnny to return
This heavy loss we Bantry girls will never cease to mourn
We'll resign ourselves to our sad loss and die in grief and pain
Since Johnny died for freedom's sake, in the foreign land of Spain.

Who will plough the fields now, who will sow the corn
Who will mind the sheep now and keep them neatly shorn
And the stack that's in the haggard, un-threshed it will remain
Since Johnny went a threshing, all in the wars of Spain
Johnny died for freedom's sake, in the foreign land of Spain.