Author Topic: Add: Molly Bawn

Jon Freeman

Posted - 28 Sep 02 - 01:17 pm

Come all you young fowlers that handle a gun,
Beware of night rambling by the setting of sun;
And beware of an accident that happend of late
To young Molly Bawn and sad was her fate.

She was going to her uncle's when a shower came on:
She went under a green bush the shower to shun.
With her white apron round her, he took her for a swan,
But a-hush and a-sigh, it was his own Molly Bawn.

He ran homw to his father with his gun in his hand,
Saying, 'Father dear father, I have shot Molly Bawn.
I have shot that fair damsel; I have taken the life
Of the one I intended to take as my wife.

She was going to her uncle's when a shower came on:
She went under a green bush the shower to shun.
With her white apron round her, I took her for a swan.
Oh, father, will I be forgiven for the loss of that swan?'

'Oh, Johnny, my Johnny, do not run away,
Do not leave your own country till your trial day;
Don't leave your own country till your trial comes on,
For you'll never be convicted for the loss of a swan.'

The night before Molly's funeral her ghost dis appear,
Saying, 'Mother, der mother, young Johnny is clear.
I was going to my uncles when a shower came on:
I went under a green bush the shower to shun.
With my white apron round me. he took me for a swan.
Won't you tell him he's forgiven by his own Molly Bawn?'

All the girls of this country are all very glad
Since the pride of Glen Alla, Molly Bawn, is now dead;
And the girls in this country, put them all in a row,
Molly Bawn would shine above them like a mountain of snow.

Source: Everyman's Book Of British Ballads, ed. Roy Palmer.


Palmer notes: "Instead of punishment, a ghost here bring pardon. The mysterious death of a woman in the guise of a swan har profound reverberations. It recalls the death of Procris in classical antiquity and the swan maidens of northern mythology."

Palmer's source is Packie Byrne (b 1917), Songs Of a Donegal Man (Topic 12TS257 1975)

Laws O 36


T:Molly Bawn
B:Everyman's Book Of Brittish Ballads, ed. Roy Palmer
S:Packie Byrne, Songs Of Donegal Man (Topic 12TS257)
Z:Roy Palmer
(3CDE|F2G3F|(ED) C3C|AB- B2(BA)|G4 (3GAB|c4A F|BG- G2E G|(FE) C3B,|C4 (3CDE|F2G3F|E D C3C|A(B B2) (3AGF|G4 (3GAB|c4A F|({B-c} BG G2)(EG)|(FE) C3B,|C4|]
w:Come__ all you young fow_-lers that_ han-dle a gun, Be_- ware of night ramb-ling_ by the set_ting of sun; And_ be-ware of an ac-ci-dent that hap-pend_ of__ late To__ young Mol-ly Bawn__ and_ sad_ was her fate.

Database entry is here


Posted - 28 Sep 02 - 01:22 pm

An article by Baring-Gould on the swan maiden legends is here

Michael Morris

Posted - 12 Jul 05 - 05:15 am

"Molly Van"

Come all you young men who handle a gun
Beware of your shooting just after set sun
Jimmy Randall went hunting it was all in the dark
He shot at his sweetheart and he missed not his mark

Stooped under a birch tree a shower to shun
With her apron pinned around her he shot her for a swan
Young Jimmy went home with his gun in his hand
Saying, "Father, dear father, I've killed Molly Van."

"I've killed this fair maiden I've taken her life,
And I always intented to have made her my wife."
On the day of Jimmy's trial Molly's ghost did appear
Saying, "Jimmy Randall, Jimmy Randall goes clear."

Come all you young maidens and stand in a row
Molly Van is in the middle as a mountain of snow.

Collected June 1, 1962 by George Foss from Dan Tate, Fancy Gap, Virginia. Printed by W.K. McNeil in Southern Folk Ballads (Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1987).

"Some collectors have found this ballad especially appealing and have waxed rhapsodic about it. Cecil Sharp thought it 'a strange admixture of fancy with matter of fact,' opining that it might be a survival from either the Celtic or Norse past. Alas for his theory, it is a British broadside that first appeared in print in Robert Jamieson's Popular Ballads and Songs (1806) under the title 'Lord Kenneth and Fair Ellinour.' Jamieson had it from Professor Robert Scott of King's College, Aberdeen, who had taken it down from the recitation of one of his maids. Apparently, the ballad was kwown in Scotland as 'Peggy Baun' and it has come to be known traditionally in America under several different titles including 'Molly Vaughn', 'Polly Van', 'Molly Banding', 'Molly Vaunders', 'Polly Bon', and 'Polly Bond'. Generally, though, it is known in the United States as 'Molly Bawn' or 'Shooting of His Dear'. There is little variation on the basic story type although some versions lack the appearance of Molly's ghost to free her lover from the murder charge. The loss of this detail in many versions is probably part of the general American tendency to lose supernatural elements. Even so, most such texts have been regarded as incomplete by their singers, indicating either that some words were forgotten or that they never knew the complete ballad. Most texts have the man named Jimmy or Jimmy Randall, although in several versions he is unnamed and referred to as 'her true love' or in some similar way."

Edited By Michael Morris - 12-Jul-2005 11:10:56 PM

Malcolm Douglas
Posted - 12 Jul 05 - 09:55 pm

Jamieson didn't quote the whole text sent him, but what he did print follows the usual lines, though the hero's name is Jamie Warwick. Lord Kenneth and Fair Ellinour, on the other hand, is, as I understand it, not "the broadside original" but Jamieson's own work, based on his vague memories of having heard the story as a child. The verses were couched in what Anne Gilchrist described as "his sham antique fashion"; she adds, "with the result that one of his classical friends asked him whether he had had Ovid's Procris and Aura in his eye!" (Journal of the Folk-Song Society, vol VII (issue no 26), 1922, 17-21: 'The Fowler').

There is an interesting piece by Jennifer J O'Connor about the song group in Canadian Journal for Traditional Music, Volume 14 (1986):

The Irish Origins and Variations of the Ballad "Molly Brown"

To this day, many analysts insist on believing that the fact that the girl is mistaken in the twilight for a swan (sometimes a fawn) reveals deeper roots in folk-beliefs (frequently characterised as "typically celtic", though in fact they are found in many parts of the world) to do with swan-maidens and magical transformations. I harbour dark suspicions that that is a distraction of doubtful relevance. Hunters regularly shoot people under the impression that they are game, if American news reports are anything to go by.

Some efforts have been made to establish the ballad as an account of an historical event, and the Canadian article provides references. It also makes the point that the song has rarely been found in Scotland (Jamieson may be the only example known), but mainly in the USA and Canada, Ireland and England.

Broadside editions appeared as Molly Bawn, Molly Whan, An admired song called Young Molly Bawn, and other titles. There are several 19th century examples at  Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads:

Molly Bawn / Whan

Michael Morris

Posted - 17 Jul 05 - 01:55 am

"Molly Vaughn"

Come all you young fellows
Who handle a gun,
Beware of your shootin'
After th' down sun.
I'll tell you a story
That happened quite late,
Of Miss Molly Vaughn,
Whose beauty was great.

Jimmy Rangal went a-huntin',
A-huntin' in the dark.
He shot at his true love,
An' he missed not the mark.
He went to his true love
An' found she was dead

Sayin' oh dearest Molly,
I loved you as my life,
An' I always intended
For to make you my wife.
Jimmy Rangal run home
With his gun in his hand,
Sayin' oh dearest uncle
I have shot Molly Vaughn!

I've killed that sweet Venice,
The flower of the morn,
But alack an' alas
I am left all alone.
Up stepped the old father
Whose hair was quite gray,
Sayin' oh dearest son,
You must not run away.

Stay in your own country
Till the trial is at hand,
An' you may be cleared
By the law of our land.

The girls of Calabra
Were all very sad,
When they heard that their favorite
Pretty Molly was dead.
The girls of Calabra
Went all in a row,
Molly Vaughn at the head lies
Like a fountain of snow.

The day of his trial
Her ghost did appear,
Sayin' oh dearest uncle,
Jimmy Rangal goes clear.
With her apron spread about her,
He took her for a swan,
But alack and alas,
It was poor Molly Vaughn.

Printed in Vance Randolph's Ozark Folksongs, Vol. 1 (Columbia, Missouri: The State Historical Society of Missouri, 1946), 254-255.

"Contributed by Mrs. Homer Kruse, Neosho, Mo., July 20, 1928."

Edited By Michael Morris - 17-Jul-2005 02:07:40 AM

Michael Morris

Posted - 04 Sep 05 - 09:39 pm

"Shooting of His Dear"

Jimmy Dannels went a-hunting
Between sunset and dark.
Her white apron over her shoulder
He took her for a swan.

He throwed down his gun
And to her he run.
He hugged her, he kissed her
Till he found she was dead.

Then dropping her down
To his uncle he run.
Good woe and good lasses
I've killed poor Polly Bam.

O Uncle, O Uncle, what shall I do?
For woe and good lasses,
I've killed poor Polly Bam.
Her white apron over her shoulder,
But woe and good lasses,
It was poor Polly Bam.

Stay in your own country
And don't run away.

The day before her trial
The ladies all appeared in a row.
Polly Bam 'peared among them
Like a fountain of snow.

Don't hang Jimmy Dannels,
For he's not to blame.
My white apron over my shoulder
He took me for a swan;
But woe and good lasses,
It was me, poor Polly Bam.

No. #50, variant A in Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, Ed., Maud Karpeles (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), 328. "Sung by Mrs. Jane Gentry at Hot Springs, N.C., Aug. 25, 1916."


Posted - 05 Sep 05 - 09:31 pm

There's a different version in the Bodleian Collection

Printer: Pitts, J. (London)
Date: between 1802 and 1819


Posted - 05 Sep 05 - 09:33 pm

sorry malcolm got there before me ... I admit to not fully reading your post. (I must do better next time)

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