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Lovely Willy

[ Roud 1913 ; Laws M35 ; Henry H587 ; Ballad Index LM35 ; trad.]

Paddy Tunney sang Lovely Willie in 1962 on his Folk-Legacy album The Man of Songs, which was reissued in 1978 on Mulligan as Lough Erne Shore Songs. Diana Hamilton and Sean O Boyle noted:

This song tells its own story. A young girl laments the loss of her true love who was killed by the sword of her father. Paddy Tunney’s comment on the killing, though hardly bearing the stamp of historicity, is worth recording: “Murder was the recognized way to dispatch an unpopular suitor some eighty years ago. It was a method very much favored by the so-called Gentry.” The words and air are to be found in Irish Street Ballads, where the air is compared with that of The Young Maid’s Love [ Roud 3019 ; Henry H58 ; Ballad Index HHH058 ] in the same volume. Consult also the Journal of the English Folk Song Society, Vol. IV, No. 21, The Inconstant Lover; Lovely Willie. Paddy’s version of the melody is a mixture of Lah and Soh Modes.

Peter Bellamy learned the ballad of Lovely Willy, who was murdered by her lover’s father, from the singing of Paddy Tunney. He sang this ballad on 22 June 1971 live at the Folk Studio, Norwich. This performance was published on his LP with Louis Killen, Won’t You Go My Way?.

Kate Rusby and Kathryn Roberts sang Lovely Willy in 1995 on Equation’s promo EP In Session, and Kate Rusby sang it as Playing of Ball in 2001 on her CD Little Lights.

Sandy Paton sang Lovely Willy in 2003 on the Folk-Legacy CD of traditional Irish-American songs from the Flanders Ballad Collection, Irish Songs From Old New England.


Peter Bellamy sings Lovely Willy

It happened one evening at the playing of ball
That first I met Willy both proper and tall.
He was straight, fair and handsome and neat in each limb
There’s a heart in my bosom lies breaking for him.

“Oh, won’t you come along with me a small piece of the road
To see my father’s dwelling and place of abode?”
He knew by her look and her languishing eye
He was the young man she had cherished most high.

“There is a spot in my father’s garden, lovely Willy,” said she,
“Where lords, dukes, and earls they do wait upon me.
But when they are sleeping in their long silent rest,
I’ll go with you, lovely Willy, you’re the boy I love best.”

But her father had been listening; all in ambush he lay
For to hear the fond words that these lovers did say.
And with a sharp rapier he pierced her love through
And the innocent blood of lovely Willy he drew.

So the grave was made ready, lovely Willy laid in;
And the mass it was chanted to clear his soul of sin.
“So now, honoured father, you may say as you will
But the innocent blood of my love you did spill.

So I will go off to some far country
Where I will know no one, and no one knows me.
And there I will wander till I close my eyes and rest
For you, lovely Willy, you’re the boy I love best.”