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The Silvery Tide

[ Roud 561 ; Laws O37 ; Henry H77 ; Ballad Index LO37 ; Bodleian Roud 561 ; GlosTrad Roud 561 ; Wiltshire 215 ; DT SILVTIDE ; trad.]

Paul & Liz Davenport: Down Yorkshire Lanes Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads Steve Roud, Julia Bishop: The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs Alan Helsdon: Vaughan Williams in Norfolk

Maggie Chambers (Murphy) of Tempo, Co Fermanagh, sang Banks of the Silvery Tide to Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle in 1952. This recording was included in 1996 on her Veteran CD Linkin’ O’er the Lea and in 2012 on the Topic anthology of ballads sung by British and Irish traditional singers, Good People, Take Warning (The Voice of the People Volume 23). John Howson noted on Murphy’s album:

This is another of the fruits of Sean O’Boyle and Peter Kennedy’s recording session with Maggie in ‘52, but this track has never before been released apart from on a BBC acetate (no. 18490). Kennedy also recorded a version from Ethel and John Findlater in Orkney and Tom Munnelly has found it in Co. Wexford. In Sam Henry’s Songs of the People it is said that “The Silvery Tide … bears the mark of the genuine old ballad type, in which the sailor’s name is Henry, and the romance hangs round on identifying ring”. His version came from Lizzie MacMullan of Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim in 1925. Maggy’s tune is not the normal one and is in fact the air to Skibbereen. She learned it from her mother.

Another version on Maggie Murphy singing The Banks of the Silvery Tide to Keith Summers in 1977-1983 was included in 2014 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from the Keith Summers collected around Lough Erne’s shore, I Pray You Pay Attention. Rod Stradling noted:

Despite having a respectable 134 Roud entries, most relate to broadside publications. Most of the 34 singers named came from England, yet it would appear that the song lost popularity there by the mid-20th century, since none of the 21 sound recordings are English. Only Maggie’s 1952 recording and the later one by Paddy Breen remain available on CD.

Paddy Breen sang On the Banks of the Silvery Tide to Bill Leader and Reg Hall in Bill’s home, Camden Town, London, on 19 April 1967. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Who’s That at My Bed Window? (The Voice of the People Volume 10).

Nuala Kennedy sang The Waves of the Silvery Tide in 2010 on her Compass CD Tune In. She noted:

Death and Destruction on the Waves of the Silvery Tide… This song was collected at least as early as the 1830’s. It appeared in several old manuscripts and was strongly associated with the South of England. The Irish Archives have a version, collected from the Journal/Log of the ship “Cortes” in 1847, which suggests it must have travelled well at that time. There are also versions to be found in the States. I learned it via a recording, given to me by Cathal McConnell, of the singing of Malcolm Wray, Co. Derry.

Rob Williams sang The Ripp-along Silver Tide on his 2012 album of songs from around the Quantock Hills collected from Jane Gulliford of Combe Florey by the Hammond Brothers, Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Maggie Murphy sings The Banks of the Silvery Tide

It was of a lovely fair maid dwelled down by yon seaside.
Her comely form and features she was called the village pride,
’Til at length a bold sea captain young Mary’s heart did gain
But true she was to Henry while on the raging main.

In course of Henry’s absence a noble lord there came,
A-courting lovely Mary but she refused the same.
“It’s oh be gone you false young man and do not trouble me..
Therefore be gone, I have but one and he’s on the silvery tide.”

For to make a dispensation this noble lord did say,
“To make a separation, your life I’ll take away.
I’ll watch for you late and early, and all alone,” he cried,
“And I’ll send your body a-floating from the banks of the silvery tide.”

This noble lord next morning went out to have fresh air,
Down by the rolling ocean he met with Mary fair.
Now said this cruel villain, “Consent to be my bride,
Or you’ll sink or swim far far from him that’s on the silvery tide.”

In trembling limbs cries Mary, “My vows I ne’er shall break.
For I do love Henry dearly and I’ll die for his sweet sake.”
With a handkerchief fast he bound her and he threw o’er the side,
And it’s ranging was young Mary all on the ocean wide.

It happened in a few days after her true love came from sea,
Expecting to have his own sweetheart and appoint their wedding day.
“Your true love she is drownded,” her old aged parents cried,
“Or has proved her own destruction on the banks of the silvery tide.”

As Henry on his pillow lay neither night nor day could rest;
The thoughts of lovely Mary disturbed his wounded breast.
He dreamt he saw his Mary walk on the ocean wide,
And that Mary’s ghost appeared to him on the banks of the silvery tide.

In fright then he awokened and at moonlight bloom went he
To search the sandbanks over along the raging sea.
At daybreak in the morning young Mary’s corpse he spied;
She was rolling to and fro along the banks of the silvery tide.

For well he knew it was Mary by his own ring she wore on her hand
And her hands was bound with a handkerchief which brought him to a stand.
And the name of the base murderer in large letters there he spied:
“So it’s true he drownded Mary on the banks of the silvery tide.”

This noble lord was taken and the gallows it was his doom
For drownding lovely Mary which was in her greatest bloom.
And Henry went distracted and he wandered ’til he died
And his dying word was “Mary”, o’er the banks of yon silvery tide.

Nuala Kennedy sings The Waves of the Silvery Tide

Young Mary went out walking, down by the ocean tide,
Her beautiful form and features were known as the village pride.
Until a bold sea captain came out to take the air,
Down by the royal ocean, down by this lady fair.

“If you don’t consent to marry me and be my own loving bride,
I will send your body floating on the waves of the silvery tide.”
Young Mary then she trembled, for her vows she could not break,
It was true she loved young Henry and would die for his fond sake.

It was with a red silk handkerchief, her hands and her feet he tied
And he sent her body floating on the waves of the silvery tide.
It was only a few days after that young Henry came from sea
In the hopes for to get married and appoint a wedding day.

“It’s true your love was murdered,” her parents both they cried,
“She has proved her own destruction on the waves of the silvery tide.”
Young Henry went to bed that night, but no rest there could he find;
For the thoughts of loving Mary ran through his wandering mind.

He then arose, put on his clothes, and for a midnight stroll went he,
Down by the royal ocean; down by the silvery sea.
And he stayed there till daylight came and her corpse there did he find,
Saying, “It’s true my love was murdered on the waves of the silvery tide.”

This villain he was taken, to the scaffold he must go,
For the murder of young Mary, the girl he did lay low.
Young Henry went distracted, and he wandered till he died
And his last words were of Mary and the waves of the silvery tide.