The words follow very closely those on a ballad-sheet (circa 1800), printed by W. Shelmerdine, Manchester. Catnach also printed a version. There is a popular Irish superstition that Cave Hill near Belfast contains diamonds which shine sometimes at night, and this throws light upon similar allusions to diamonds, found so frequently in Irish broadsides of a particular type.
Cf. Faithful Emma in English County Songs, and Come All You Little Streamers, Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol, i., p. 122, also The Belfast Mountains, Complete Petrie Collection (Boosey) No. 558.
Magpie Lane sang Belfast Mountains on their 2017 CD Three Quarter Time. They commented in their liner notes:
Lucy Broadwood had Belfast Mountains from Henry Burstow of Horsham in Sussex in 1893, and included it in her English Traditional Songs and Carols—where the third verse, not especially risqué to our ears, was marked “omit when singing”.
Magpie Lane sing Belfast Mountains
All on those Belfast mountains I heard a maid complain,
Making forth her lamentation down by some purling stream.
Saying, “My heart is fettered, fast in the bonds of love,
All by a false pretender who doth inconstant prove.
“Oh Johnny! my dear jewel, don't treat me with disdain!
Nor leave me here behind you in sorrow to complain!”
With her arms she clasps around him, like violets round the vine,
Saying, “My bonny Cheshire lad, you've stole this heart of mine.”
“My dear, I'm sorry for you, that you for me should grieve,
I am engaged already; 'tis you I can't relieve.”
“Since it is so, my Johnny, for ever I'm undone,
All by this shame and scandal I shall distracted run.
“If I'd but all those diamonds on yonder rock that grow
I would give them to my Cheshire lad if his love to me he'd show.”
Wringing her hands and crying, “My Johnny dear, farewell!
Unto those Belfast mountains my sorrow I will tell.
“It's not those Belfast mountains can give to me relief,
Nor is it in their power to ease me of my grief;
If they'd but a tongue to prattle to tell my love a tale,
Unto my bonny Cheshire lad my mind they would reveal.”