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Carrickmannon Lake

[ Roud 5177 ; Ballad Index RcCarLak ; trad.]

Sarah Anne O’Neill sang Carrickmannon Lake to Robin Morton at her home near Derrytresk, Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, in 1977. This recording was included in the following year on her and George Hanna’s Topic album On the Shores of Lough Neagh, and in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs of exile and emigration, Farewell, My Own Dear Native Land (The Voice of the People Volume 4). John Moulden commented in the original album’s sleeve notes:

The late Richard Hayward recorded a version of this on a 78 rpm record, and included it in his Ireland Calling (Glasgow, n.d.). I know of no one who sings this song apart from Sarah Anne and people who live in the area where it is set and the County Down people sing a somewhat different air and slightly different words. Carrickmannon lies between Saintfeld and Killinchy (about 15 miles south of Belfast). Drumreagh is a townland nearby and the Blackwater River is one of dozens of that name in Ireland but this one flows through Drumreagh and then to the sea on the west side of Stransford Lough at Ardmillan I wonder whether the strength in tradition of the purely local song has not been underestimated. It seems to me that local songs with which a singer can identify have a more powerful grip, answer a more immediate need and are therefore more easily transmitted within their own area than the most powerful ballad story.

Sinéad Caher sang Carrickmannon Lake in 1978 on her Mulligan album Flower of Magherally. Cathal O Boyle noted:

It really is refreshing to find a young man at the receiving end of rejection in a love song. I don’t think much of his method of approach in the first place, and I think he was a wee bit easily defeated in the second place. “Faint heart,” they say, “never won fair lady” but, in this case at least, it produced a lovely song.

Laura Smyth sang Carrickmannon Lake on her and Ted Kemp’s 2017 CD The Poacher’s Fate. They noted:

This song of unrequited love is still widely known to the people of County Down, Northern Ireland. Laura’s great-grandfather, William McClenaghan, had a particular fondness for the tune which he would often play on his fiddle. Words forgotten by Laura’s dad and grandma were found in the book The Songs of the County Down, edited by Jacky Boyce.


Laura Smyth sings Carrickmannon Lake

One evening for my pastime a ramble I did take
Down by yon crystal fountain called Carrickmannon Lake.
Down by yon crystal fountain an image I did view,
Sure nature never could design an image quite like you.

With courage bold undaunted I boldly then set forth,
Saying, “My delightful charmer, you Venus of the North,
Give me my way or else I’ll stray, my one and only joy,
And sure it would be a pity for to kill a harmless boy.”

With flashing eye and ne’er a sigh she coldly said to me,
“Young man, depart, for in my heart no place is decked for thee.”
But to my further pleading no answer would she make,
But turned away and left me there by Carrickmannon Lake.

Killinchy is my dwelling place where first my breath I drew,
Drumreagh it is my parent’s place, ten thousand times adieu.
All for her sake I’ll passage take across the stormy seas,
A pilgrim there to do and dare in North Americee.

Now all young men take warning and shun Killinchy fair,
Likewise sweet Carrickmannon for that false one lives there.
And as the sun’s declining o’er yonder hill so clear,
The shadow of her dwelling in the lake it does appear.