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Brian O’Lynn

[ Roud 294 ; Master title: Brian O’Lynn ; Henry H480a ; TYG 27 ; Ballad Index R471 ; Bodleian Roud 294 ; GlosTrad Roud 294 ; Wiltshire 80 ; DT BRNOLYN ; Mudcat 43706 , 61309 ; trad.]

Sabine Baring-Gould: Songs of the West Gale Hiuntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People James Reeves: The Everlasting Circle Steve Roud, Julia Bishop: The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs

Eliza Pace of Hyden, Leslie County, Kentucky, sang Tom Boleyn in a 1937 recording that was included in 2017 on the Musical Traditions anthology of historic recordings of Appalachian singer and musicians, When Cecil Left the Mountains. Mike Yates noted:

There are suggestions that this song may date from the mid-16th century and that it comes from a song sung by the fool in William Wager’s play, The Longer Thou Livest, the More Fool Thou Art, which can be dated to about 1560-70. Some writers have suggested that it may also be found in The Complaynt of Scotland, dated 1548, though this reference may actually refer to another ballad or fiddle tune. The earliest definite sighting is in Ritson’s The North Country Chorister of 1802. Irish versions usually go under the title of Brian O’Lynn, which could suggest an Irish origin, although a broadside printed c.1850-1870 by Moore of Ann Street, Belfast, and titled Bryan O’Lynn, has the opening line “Bryan O’Lynn was a Scotsman born”, so perhaps it is a Scottish song after all. An American text, printed by Richard Marsh of New York in 1854 (Marsh’s Selection. or Singing for the Million volume 2) has a text which is very similar to that used by Eliza Pace.

Jack Fuller sang Briny O’Then to Peter Kennedy at Laughton, near Lewes, Sussex, on 11 November 1952. This recording was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology I’m a Romany Rai (The Voice of the People Volume 22).

Séamus Ennis sang Brian O’Linn in a recording made by Peter Kennedy at Cecil Sharp House on the 1960 HMV album A Jug of Punch: Broadside Ballads Old and New.

Thomas Moran of Mohill, County Leitrim, sang Brian O’Lynn in December 1954 to Séamus Ennis. This BBC recording 22025 was also included on the anthology Songs of Animals and Other Marvels (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 10; Caedmon 1961, Topic 1970) and in 1995 on the Saydisc anthology Traditional Songs of Ireland

Jim Porter sang Brianey O’Lynn in 1965 at The Three Cups, Punnetts Town. This recording by Brian Matthews was included in 2001 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from Sussex country pubs, Just Another Saturday Night.

Madeleine (Sandra Kerr) sang Brian O’Lynn in the eleventh episode of the 1974 children’s TV series Bagpuss, The Fiddle. A different version with Madeleine and Gabriel (John Faulkner) singing alternate verses was included in 1998 on the Smallfolk CD Bagpuss: The Songs & Music.

Jim Eldon sang Brian O’Lynn on his 1983 album I Wish There Was No Prisons.


Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner sing Brian O’Lynn

Now Brian O’Lynn had no breeches to wear.
So he borrowed a sheepskin to make him a pair,
With the fleshy side out and the woolly side in,
“They’ll be pleasant and cool,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Now Brian O’Lynn had no shirt to his back,
So he went to a neighbour to borrowed a sack.
He puckered the meal bag up under his chin
“They’ll take them for ruffles,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Now Brian O’Lynn was hard up for a coat.
So he borrowed a skin of a neighbouring goat
With the horns sticking out of the pockets, and then
“They’ll take them for pistols,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Brian O’Lynn had no stockings to wear,
He bought him a rat’s skin to make him a pair,
He then drew them on and they fitted his shin,
“Whoo, they’re illegant wear,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Now Brian O’Lynn had no shoes to his toes,
So he hopped in two crab shells to serve him for those,
Then he scraped out two oysters that matched like a twin,
“They’ll shine out like buckles,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Now Brian O’Lynn had no watch to put on,
So he scooped out a turnip to make himself one.
He placed a young cricket all under the skin
“They’ll think it’s a-ticking,” says Brian O’Lynn.

Now Brian O’Lynn to his house had no door,
He’d the sky for a roof and the bog for a floor,
He’d a way to jump out and a way to swim in,
“It’s a fine habitation,” says Brian O’Lynn.