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The Galway Shawl

[ Roud 2737 ; Henry H652 ; Ballad Index HHH652 ; Mudcat 72825 ; trad.]

Margaret Barry sang The Galway Shawl in a recording made by Ewan MacColl on 10 March 1956 on her 1956 Riverside album Songs of an Irish Tinker Lady: Street Songs and Ballads. This recording was also included in 1965 on her Topic LP Her Mantle So Green: Irish Street Songs and Fiddle Tunes. Another recording made by Alan Lomax in 1953 was included in 1998 on her Rounder anthology I Sang Through the Fairs.

Fred Jordan sang The Galway Shawl in a recording by Dave Bryant from 1978/79 on his Veteran anthology of 2003, A Shropshire Lad. Mike Yates noted in the album's booklet:

Yet another song from Fred's mother, although Fred probably also heard the Irish singer Margaret Barry performing it at English festivals. Surprisingly, we can find no trace of an author for the words, although the tune is well-known under a number of different titles, including Eochaill—which is the Irish name for the town of Youghal—or else Boolavogue.

Peta Webb sang The Galway Shawl in a 1989 recording by David Kenny on her 2003 Musical Traditions CD The Magpie's Nest.

Ray Driscoll sang The Galway Shawl on 27 October 1993 to Gwilym Davies. This recording was released in 2008 oh Driscoll's CD Wild, Wild Berry. Gwilym Davies commented in the liner notes:

Another of the songs learnt by Ray from his father. Ray was scornful of revival folk singers who use the ‘she wore no jewels’ verse as a chorus.

John Wright sang The Galway Shawl on his 1999 Fenn Music / 2000 Greentrax album A Few Short Lines. He noted:

This traditional Irish song appears in Sam Henry's collection, Songs and the People, where he names his source as Bridget Kealey, Dungiven, 23 May 1936. Like Gavin Greig’s Folk Song of the North East, Sam Henry’s collection originally appeared as a regular feature in a local newspaper between the years 1923-1939. The song is an old favourite with a handsome tune and was made more widespread by the singing of Margaret Barry, a notable Irish tradition-bearer.

Bob Fox sang The Galway Shawl in 2000 on his Woodworm CD Dreams Never Leave You.

Jack Rutter of Moore Moss Rutter learnt The Galway Shawl from the singing of Fred Jordan; they recorded this song in 2011 for their eponymous CD Moore Moss Rutter.

Andy Turner learnt The Galway Shawl from the singing of Fred Jordan too and sang it as the 9 June 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Daoirí Farrell sang The Galway Shawl on his 2019 CD A Lifetime of Happiness. He noted:

During 2017, I was asked to sing two songs of my choice for a radio documentary about the winning teams of the all Ireland final matches in Gaelic and Hurling. Dublin beat Mayo in the Gaelic and Galway beat Wexford in the hurling. The Dublin song had to be without doubt Biddy Mulligan but the Galway song was one that I was undecided about for quite some time. One of the songs that I considered was The Galway Shawl. It is a beautiful love song about a man and woman who meet on the road in Oranmore. The lady takes the man back to meet her parents and he woos them with his musical talents before leaving early the following morning for Donegal. I’ve heard that the song is over 200 years old but it seems to have been first documented on 23 May 1936 by Sam Henry in his book Songs of the People (p. 269). He collected it from a Bridget Kealey from Dungiven, Co. Derry.

The Magpies sang Galway Shawl on their 2020 album Tidings.

Lyrics

Fred Jordan sings The Galway Shawl

As I was walking in the County of Galway
One pleasant evening in the month of May,
I met a maiden, she was tall and handsome,
She fairly took all my breath away.

Chorus:
For she wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds,
No shoes nor stockings on her feet at all,
But on her head a bonnet with ribbons on it
And round her shoulders was a Galway shawl.

We kept on walking and kept on talking
'Till her father's cottage came into view.
She said, “Kind sir, won't you bide a minute
And play for me, oh, The Foggy Dew.”

She sat me down beside the hearthstone,
I saw her father, he was six feet tall.
And while her mother put on the kettle
All I could think of was her Galway shawl.

Chorus:
For she wore no jewels, nor costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all,
But on her head a bonnet with ribbons on it
And round her shoulders was a Galway shawl.

I played The Blackbird, The Rigs of Barley,
Rodney's Glory, and The Foggy Dew.
She sang on softly, like an Irish linnet,
And tears came down from her eyes so blue.

Early next morning, so very early
I took the road to old Donegal.
She climbed the gate and kissed me dearly,
And wished me godspeed in her Galway shawl.

(repeat first chorus)

John Wright sings The Galway Shawl

In Oranmore, in the county Galway
One summer’s evening, in the month of May,
I spied a damsel, she was fair and handsome
And she fairly stole my poor heart away.

She wore no jewels, no fancy diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all.
She wore a bonnet, with ribbons on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway Shawl.

We kept on walking, kept on talking,
Till her father’s cottage came into view
And then she said, “Sir, come meet my father
And play for him The Foggy Dew.”

Well I played The Blackbird, and the Stack of Barley,
Old Robbie's Glory, and The Flax in Bloom.
And she said, “Sir, come be my partner,
And we’ll go dancing to the flowers in June.”

'Twas early, early all in the morning
When I hit the road for old Donegal.
She said, “Goodbye Sir”, and she cried and kissed me,
And my heart remained with that Galway Shawl.

She wore no jewels, no fancy diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no none at all.
She wore a bonnet, with ribbons on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway Shawl.

Daoirí Farrell sings The Galway Shawl

In Oranmore in the county Galway
Early, early in the month of May,
I spied a damsel so fair and handsome
And her beauty stole my heart away.

Chorus (after each verse):
She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, no, none at all.
But she wore a bonnet with a ribbon on it
And around her shoulders was a Galway shawl.

We started walking, and started talking
Until her daddy’s house came into view,
And she said, “Come in, sir, and meet my father
And play to please him the Foggy Dew.”

She sat me down beside the fire
And I could see her daddy there, he was six foot tall,
And her mammy smiling and the kettle boiling,
But my mind was all on the Galway shawl.

I played The Blackbird, The Stack of Barley,
And Rodney’s Glory and The Foggy Dew.
And she sang each note there like an Irish linnet
While the tears like fountains down her cheeks they flew.

It was early, early all in the morning
When I hit the road for sweet Donegal,
And she said goodbye sir and I hugged and kissed her,
But my mind will always be on the Galway shawl.