> Folk Music > Songs > The Rose of Tralee

The Rose of Tralee

[ Roud 1978 ; Ballad Index OCon080 ; Bodleian Roud 1978 ; Mudcat 15280 ; words C. Mordaunt Spencer, music Charles William Glover]

The Rose of Tralee is a nineteenth century Irish ballad about a woman called Mary, who because of her beauty was called The Rose of Tralee. The Rose of Tralee festival had been inspired by the ballad.

The words of the song are credited to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover, but a story circulated in connection with the festival claims that the song was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock, a wealthy Protestant, out of love for Mary O’Connor, a poor Catholic maid in service to his parents. [Wikipedia]

Jon Boden remembers Rose of Tralee being “sung by Joe Ryan, legendary landlord of the Half Moon (and many other Oxford pubs) and a wonderful singer in his own right.” He sang it as the 13 November 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.


Jon Boden sings Rose of Tralee

The pale moon was rising above the green mountain,
The sun was declining beneath the blue sea,
When I strayed with my love to the clear crystal fountain
That stands in the beautiful vale of Tralee.

Chorus (after each verse):
She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,
But it was not her beauty alone that won me.
Oh no, ’t was the truth in her eye ever dawning,
That made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

The cool rays of evening her mantle was spreading,
While Mary, all smiling, stood listening to me,
Whilst all through the valley her cool rays were shedding,
When I won the heart of the Rose of Tralee.

In the far fields of India, in war’s dreadful thunders
Her voice was a solace and a comfort to me.
But the chill hand of death has now rent us asunder
And I’m lonely tonight for the Rose of Tralee.