Canadian Journal for Traditional Music (1986)

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

Jennifer J O'Connor

At least 88 oral and printed variants (and 19 fragments) of "Molly Bawn" or, "The Shooting of His Dear" have been collected around the English-speaking world, eight of them (plus one fragment) in Canada.1 Ballad scholars have identified features of this broadside ballad (Laws 036)2which make it, to use Kenneth Goldstein's words, "equal or superior to many of the Child ballads."3 Others believe it or its story has a long history in oral tradition. 'This paper examines the text of "Molly Bawn," with particular reference to Canadian variants, to shed more light on its origins and variations in tradition.

"Molly Bawn"s first known date of printing is generally accepted to be 1799, for that is when Robert Jamieson apparently obtained a copy of the "rude original of 'Peggy Baun.' "Jamieson wrote his own ballad in 1799 and circulated it to his friends with the attached note:

The author remembers having, when a child, heard a silly ditty of a young man, who, returning homeward from shooting with his gun, saw his sweetheart, and shot her for a swan. Later he noted A lover killing his mistress, a grey-headed old father, and a ghost, seemed very fine things to a child of five or six years old; and I remembered the story long after I had forgot the terms in which it was conveyed.5

These are some of the main features of "Molly Bawn" today. Indeed, an examination of 88 variants reveals that in its most complete form, the "Molly Bawn" plot contains the following elements. As the sun is setting, Molly Ban Lavery makes her way home from her uncle's when a sudden shower of rain comes on. A green bush is her only shelter, and huddling beneath it, Molly covers herself with her white apron. Meanwhile her lover, the squire James Reynolds, has been hunting all day with his dog. Upon returning home with his gun in hand, he is attracted to a patch of whiteness showing among the green leaves of a bush. In the falling darkness he supposes this must be the whiteness of a swan's feathers, or the light colour of a fawn's breast. Jimmy raises his gun and shoots; despite the dimness his aim is true. He runs to claim his quarry when to his horror and great grief he finds only his sweetheart lying dead under the bush.

Most of these actions occur in the majority of the 88 variants extant, and many in particular are seen in the following variants collected by Edith Fowke in Ontario in 1960 and 1961 6

Version 1

Molly Bawn

o come all you young fowlers that handle the gun
Beware of late shooting at the setting of the sun.
Have you heard of this sad story that has happened of late
To Molly Bawn Clements whose beauty been great.
She been coming from her uncle's in a sharp shower of hail,
And under a green bush herself did conceal.
Her true lover been a-fowling, he mistook her as a swan,
And it was to his misfortune that he shot Molly Bawn.
o it's when he came up to her and it's her he did see,
His limbs they grew weak and his eyes could not see
As he rubbed her fair temples and found she was dead.
Then a welting of tears for his true love he shed.
Then it's home to his old father he quicklie did run
With his gun on his shoulder and he scarcely able to speak
Sayin' "Father, dearest father, do you know what I have done?
I have shot lovelie Molly at the setting of the sun.
Her white apron it being around her, I mistook her as a swan,

And it's to my sad misfortune that I shot Molly Bawn." o up speaks his old father whose locks they were grey, Saying, "I beg of you, my dear son, do not run away, But stay in your own country till the trial it does come on And you ne'er shall be hanged by the laws of our land."

O the night before the trial to her uncle she appeared,
Saying, "Uncle, dearest uncle, do not hang my dear,
My white apron it being around me, he mistook me as a swan,
And it's to his great misfortune that he shot Molly Bawn."
o it's Molly, lovelie Molly, you're my joy and hearts delight
And if you were living, we'd be wedded this night,
I would roll you in my arms, acushla graile machree,
But it's to my sad misfortune it was Molly I seen.

Version 2

Molly Ban

In the country of Donegal where I was born and bred,
Sure the people all told me I was a rambling young lad.
And I courted pretty Molly till I had her heart won,
Sure the people would have blamed me had I left her behind.
Going home from her uncle in a shower of rain,
She crept under a green bush the rain for to shun.
Her white apron being around her I took her for a swan,
For I never intended to shoot my own Molly Ban.
O when he came to her and saw what he had done,
The tears from his eyes in great fountains did run.
Straight home to his father with a gun in his hand,
Saying "Father, dear father, I've shot Molly Ban.
"Her white apron being around her I took her for a bswan,
And I never intended to shoot my own Molly Ban."
"Stay at home Johnny Randall and don't go away,
I wouldn't have you prosecuted should I lose all my land.'

Johnny Randall was taken prisoner that night in his cell, Seven weeks in cold iron young Johnny did see.

And the night before his trial Molly's ghost did appear,
Saying, "Uncle, dearest uncle, Johnny Randall I clear.
"My white apron being around me, he took me for a swan,
And he never intended to shoot his own Molly Ban."
The girls of this country are all very sad,
Since the youth and great among them, Molly Ban, is now dead.
It's together and together, place them all in a row,
Molly Ban would appear among them like a mountain of snow.
0 come all you late fowlers who carry a gun,
Beware of sharp shooting right after the sun.
Lest it might happen with you as it happened to me
For to shoot your own darling right under a tree.

These two variants also show typical forms of oral variation found in the whole collection. Both include a come-all-ye address, the mark of a typical broadside, although its use in version 2 seems an afterthought; this address appears in 57 per cent of all oral variants, suggesting that "Molly Bawn" is in the process of losing its broadside features as it evolves in oral tradition. As well, the specific mention of Molly's ghost returning in version 2 occurs in 22 other versions (26 per cent of all); while in 41 more versions (48 per cent of all) Molly returns, but simply "appears" as in version 1. Since there are more versions that do not specify the form in which Molly appeared than ones that do explain, we might speculate that singers have attempted to rationalize earlier beliefs in ghosts. Even so, the prevalence of Molly's return after death in one form or another still does not support Jan Brunvand's statement that "in British versions Molly's ghost may return to defend Jimmy at his murder trial, but American texts characteristically lose the supernaturalism.'7 This supernatural element, on the contrary, is present in 28 of 34 American texts (82 per cent), as well as 7 of the 8 Canadian versions, the only difference being that Molly generally appears to her uncle alone, not to the trial.

The Gaelic expression "acushla graile machree" in version 1 points to an Irish origin; similar Gaelic phrases are found in other variants as well, including one collected in 1950 by Helen Creighton in Nova Scotia.8 Moreover, reference to a shower of hail in version 1 rather than to one of rain, followed by the line "And under a green bush herself did conceal," parallels other versions, notably a chapbook printed circa 1820 in Gal-way, Ireland:9 "This maid in a bower herself did conceal." In fact, this wording, linked with "bower", appears in only 6 versions, including 2 Irish and 2 other Canadian texts. The first, collected in Newfoundland by Maud Karpeles in 1929, offers the following lines: "As it happened one evening in a large shower of hail! In under a bower my love was concealed."10 The second is a variation offered on a Nova Scotia text: "As Mollie Bawn was a-walking in a shower of hail! She stepped into a bower to shelter from the gale." Finally, the mention of "cold iron" (line 18 of version 2) echoes "the cold jail" found in only two other versions, perhaps the most significant being the Galway chapbook; indeed, this printed copy is the only broadside found to contain the mention of jail.

These features might suggest that at least three Canadian versions of "Molly Bawn" were influenced by the Gaiway chapbook; it is not possible to link them conclusively, however, since this broadside version has Molly mistaken for a fawn, not a swan as in the Canadian versions. On the other hand, Ontario version 1 does more closely resemble another Irish broadside, one printed circa 1854 in Cork,12 suggesting it may have descended from this printed source. It includes, for example, wording and ideas which have apparently been added by the Cork broadside writer: "His limbs they grew weak" (line 10); "my joy and heart's delight" (line 27); and the reference to marriage if Molly were still alive (line 28).

Canadian variants of "Molly Bawn" also show variation in its title: "The Shooting of His Dear" (Newfoundland), "As Jimmy Went A-Hunting" (Nova Scotia), "Polly Bawn" (Nova Scotia),13 "Molly Bawn" (Ontario), "Molly Ban" (Ontario), "Molly Vaughan" (Ontario),14 "Molly Bawn" (Nova Scotia), "Molly Bawn" (British Columbia).15' Molly s name varies, perhaps owing to localization. American and English singers favour "Polly'; her full name, "Molly Bawn," however, is an Irish song commonplace, as are Fair Ellen and Fair Margaret in English folk song.16 The epithet Bawn is so much a stock phrase, in fact, that it is also the title of an Irish folk song purportedly written by Samuel Lover (1797-1868),17 and another folk song with yet this same title has been collected in the Atlantic provinces.18 The Gaelic bhãn in English means white or fair-coloured; it is variously spelled bane, baun, bawn, vane, vaun, and is pronounced "vaun" in Irish. The pronunciation of the "b" as a "v" probably accounts for the wide variation found both in the surname and in its spelling. Quite likely twentieth-century singers pronouncing the "b" as in English had learned the song from someone who had mistakenly read and then passed on a broadside orally. The hunter's name also varies, with three Canadian variants tending to favour the Americanized name "Randall,"19 including Ontario version 2 above.

Despite the apparently commonplace names, however, "Molly Bawn" may have its origins in fact. Hugh Shields noted that "Bann" and "Reynolds" are local surnames in an area of Ireland once known as Kilwarlin (a name which appeared on Irish maps from the sixteenth century, this area now covers the north-west of County Down). One Irish variant of "Molly Bawn" refers to her being the "Flower of Kilwarlin," while later variants offer what may be localizations (Kilwany, Kiliberney, Killarney). Moreover, this Irish version gives the woman's full name as Molley Bann Lavery (similar to the full name given in Ontario version 2). Shields suggests that to admit the names "Bann" and "Reynolds" as "proper to the song would give the shooting incident it describes a certain sectarian character, for the Laverys are Catholics and the Reynoldses Protestants." Shields states further that he had been told the author of the song was the local nineteenth-century poet Pat Reynolds, who was reportedly related to the protagonist, James Reynolds. The informant told Shields:

Now he was a friend of Pat's too, you see [...] that done the shooting, that was going with this girl, do you see? Well, he was at a place called the Aqueduct away up here where the ... canal goes over the Lagan. And he was coming back with a gun and he seen this white thing going up and he thought it was a cran. And it was behind the bushes and he shot and he went over, it was his sweetheart Molly Bann, you see, that he had shot. And he came home in a terrible state, you see, told them what he had done: they'd have to get him till America out of the road, because, says he, 'the Banns and the Bann Laverys,' he said, 'my life they'd swear away.'20

Here is one suggestion that "Molly Bawn" is based on fact. Patrick Joyce also thought that the ballad "obviously commemorates a tragedy in real life."21 Any tragedy, however, did not happen in the nineteenth century, since ballad variants existed before then.

To investigate further the possibility that "Molly Bawn" is based on fact, we can turn to Malcolm Laws' plan for determining fictional ballads. Laws suggested that in fictional ballads

1. The characters have been given conventional names or are nameless.

2. The time and place of the alleged event are not precisely stated.

3. The ballad has a stereotyped or contrived plot.

4. The action is recounted without much circumstantial detail.22

Clearly "Molly Bawn" does not meet these criteria. First, at least seven Irish variants give full, specific names for the maiden (Molley Bann Lavery, or Molly Ban Lowry), and the hunter (James Reynolds). Indeed, the only times that the names of either protagonist are conventionalized (Polly Bawn and Jimmy Randall) occur in American versions and four Canadian versions;23 since the Irish texts prefer the full names we might infer that Irish singers and their audience fully understand that the story told in the ballad was a real event. Second, the place of the event is given in many versions. Third, although the theme may at first appear a stereotypical case of mistaken identity, the pathos is so strongly evinced when the hunter runs away and the action is so concentrated on his running away rather than on the incident itself, that one suspects the ballad was indeed composed by a Reynolds' family member. Finally, the circumstantial detail is far greater in this ballad than in the description of the main event. More emphasis is placed on the minor events immediately following Molly's death than on her death itself, or even upon her spectacular return.24

According to Laws' criteria, then, "Molly Bawn" is not a fictional ballad. This suggests the opposite may be the case; that is, "Molly Bawn" may be a ballad based on an actual incident. If this is so, based on other internal evidence, the event it describes probably took place two to three centuries ago. For example, line 16 of version 2 reads "I wouldn't have you prosecuted should I lose all my land." A similar line in version 1 seems to have rationalized the notion of loss of land in a homophonic phrase, "laws of our land": "And you ne'er shall be hanged by the laws of our land" (line 22). The mention of land loss may be a reference to the use of a fine to free a criminal, specifically to the sale or exchange of land to pay the fine. According to early Irish law, crimes were not committed against the state, but against the individual; therefore, the penalty always took the form of a fine to be paid to the family injured.25 Homicide or bodily injury was atoned for by a fine called eric,26 which was determined by a brehon (judge). The criminal's family was responsible for the eric if he did not pay; moreover if they chose not to pay, they were required to hand him over to the victim's family who would then kill him, use him or sell him as a slave. No wonder James Reynolds wants to flee in most versions of the ballad! particularly as the original incident may have occurred between two feuding families of opposing religions. This eric for homicide, it should be noted, continued to be levied by the Anglo-Irish until the middle of the seventeenth century, long after the Brehon Law had been abolished in the reign of James 1.27

Another feature of "Molly Bawn" which suggests a seventeenthcentury origin is the fact that in all versions, the hunter carries a gun. This instrument was not used for hunting until the sixteenth century and was not widely used for fowling until the seventeenth century; in earlier times, game and fowl were chased and caught using a spiked pit or net.28

All the evidence, then, suggests a date in the early to mid-seventeenth century for the actual incident, or at least for the original composition of "Molly Bawn." This includes retention of the Brehon Law until mid-century; the use of "Kilwarlin" on Irish maps from the late sixteenth century; and the approximate date for the use of firearms in hunting. This suggestion is probably valid because the origins of most Child ballads as well do not extend beyond this era. The generally accepted date of the first known published variant of "Molly Bawn" is 1799,29 allowing a time span of about 150 years for the ballad to enter tradition before this printing.

Elements of "Molly Bawn" are in fact much older. For instance, since Molly calls upon her uncle to free her lover, we may infer that he is her guardian. More specifically, his guardian role to his niece could be indicative of Celtic society. The Celts were not matriarchal, but they were matrilineal in descent; thus the mother's brother was considered to be a child's closest male relative, and one who would look after the child's welfare.30 Another feature of the ballad, the reference to hunting fowl, also may point to early Celtic life, for wild swans were then plentiful in Northern Ireland (the Kilwarlin region?). Although swans are still found in the west of Ireland, they are grey not white;31 the white swan may thus have represented a rare find, perhaps enticing the hunter to shoot despite the rain and falling darkness.

More significantly, "Molly Bawn" has retained two major mythological beliefs: the belief in ghosts, and in transformation of the soul. More than three-quarters of all 88 variants include Molly's return after death. Her appearance is usually ethereal, as in version 2 where she might appear "like a mountain of snow"; this particular description may be a later portrayal of the dead by the folk, since it conflicts with the more common nature of ghosts as actual corpses in traditional balladry.32 Molly's return, as with most revenants, is for a purpose. It is a widespread belief, for instance, that excessive weeping for the dead will disturb them in their graves.33 Since most variants indicate the hunter's terrible remorse following the shooting, including his crying fountains of tears as in version 2, we may assume Molly returns as a result of his tremendous grief. She also returns to save him from punishment, a common motif (E363.1, Ghost aids living in emergency, or E363.2, Ghost returns to protect the living).

The majority of variants (81 per cent), including 7 Canadian versions, refer to Molly's being mistaken for a swan, and several more (10 per cent) refer to her as a fawn. These references point to the belief in transformation, which was particularly strong in Celtic Britain. Tales from the Irish mythological cycle abound with stories of magic shape-shifting, and it is still believed in some regions of Ireland that ducks and other birds flying at night are souls in bird form.34 While we might see similarities between international swan-maiden tales (D361. 1, Swan maiden, or Type 465A, The Quest for the Unknown. The Swan Maidens.)35 and "Molly Bawn," more suggestive perhaps is another motif: C841 .5, Tabu: Killing a swan. According to this Irish myth, when the children of Lir were changed to swans, the people were so upset that they proclaimed a law against the killing of swans. The natives of Clare still believe it is unlucky to kill a swan, and give examples of misfortunes which befell those who did so036 It might be suggested that "Molly Bawn" reflects this ancient taboo; the ballad might also portray a personal geis, or taboo, of the hunter which stipulated he was not to kill swans. His punishment, then, for breaking either the general rule, or perhaps his own personal geis, was the death of his sweetheart.37

However, the swan-maiden motif itself is prevalent in Celtic mythology; in such stories as "The Dream of Oengus" and "The Wooing of Etain"38 women change from human to swan form, often at regular intervals. Singers of "Molly Bawn", then, may have been influenced by this belief and may have mythologized an actual woman, Molly Ban Lavery. Thus, in the ballad, they may be hinting that Molly changed into a swan at a magical time, the setting of the sun, and was a maiden by day.39 It is important to realize that this motif is found in other Gaelic ballads and songs surviving today: . Mhairead Og ("Young Margaret"), "Helen of Kirkconnel," and Caisteal a Ghlinne ("Castle of the Glen").40 Indeed, the first of these, . Mhairead Og, is remarkably similar to "Molly Bawn," being based on the accidental shooting of his sweetheart by a hunter who mistook her for a duck or swan.41

A third motif in "Molly Bawn" replaces that of the swan maiden in several variants. This motif, D1, Transformation: woman to doe, refers to the hunter's mistaking Molly for a fawn. The motif also appears in the play on words found in the alternative title for the ballad, "The Shooting of His Dear." Although doe-maiden transformation is found in other traditional ballads (for example, Child 15, 50, 292) and in Irish mythology (Dl, Transformation: girl to deer [fawn] [by druid]), it may be assumed that this change originated in a broadside writer's whim we may only guess whether it was linguistically caused (through mishearing or forgetting), typographically caused (to justify a line of print or to save "s" type), or prompted by a comparative recollection of the Greek myth of Procris and Aura in which Procris is accidentally killed by her husband as he hunted in the woods (broadside writers preferred to use stories taken from the Bible and the classics).42

Based on this analysis of "Molly Bawn," one might suggest that some time after an actual shooting accident, the folk created a ballad depicting events as they knew them. Once in oral tradition, this ballad acquired the beliefs of the people of that time; the ghost and swan-maiden motifs were used to explain both Jimmy's acquittal and the cause for the mistake in the first place. Over the next two hundred years or so, as beliefs changed, new ones were reflected in the ballad in their turn. During this time, Molly's ghost became more ethereal (changing from the form of a swan to a "mountain of snow") and, as general belief in transformation declined, the accident was attributed to some part of Molly's clothes. Ironically, her white apron may have been the cause of the accident in the first place.

Finally, all of these features are found in the two variants collected in Ontario, and most appear in the 6 other Canadian versions. Based on a comparison of these and all other extant versions of "Molly Bawn," we may draw the following conclusions. First, the ballad originated from Ireland. Second, it may have been based on an actual incident, with overtones of religious strife, occurring between two lovers in what was Kilwarlin. Third, the ballad probably dates back to the seventeenth century, and after circulating in oral tradition for at least one hundred years, it appeared in broadside versions during the nineteenth century. Those versions, having fixed certain elements in print, have tended to influence later oral versions of "Molly Bawn," which have been collected up to recent times. Finally, "Molly Bawn" retains elements of older mythological beliefs in ghosts and transformation; such elements harken back specifically to Celtic society, but have resonances of classical myths as well.

When one considers these elements, it is not surprising that Robert Jamieson remembered the story long after he had forgotten the words in which it was conveyed. More importantly, however, "Molly Bawn" can definitely be considered equal or superior to many of the Child ballads.

University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario


1. Most have been collected in the United States (34), Ireland (31), and England (13); remaining versions were collected in Scotland (1) and Australia (1). See Jennifer J. Con-nor, "Molly Bawn': A Study of a Ballad in Print and Tradition," unpublished M.A. thesis, York University, 1979.

2. G. Malcolm Laws, Jr., American Balladry from British Broadsides (Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1957).

3. Kenneth Goldstein, notes to Great British Ballads (Riverside RLP 12-629), insert. See also M.J.C. Hodgart, The Ballads (New York: Norton, 1962), p. 19; and Anne Gilchrist, Journal of the Folk-Song Society 7 (1922):21.

4. See Gordon Gerould, The Ballad of Tradition (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1932), pp. 32-33; Frank Pursiow, in Phoebe Smith, Once I Had a True Love (Suffolk: Topic 12T193, 1969);

A.L. Lloyd, Folk Song in England (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1967), p. 155; Phillips Barry, "Irish Come-All-Ye's," Journal of American Folklore 22 (1909):387, and "Molly Bawn, or, The Shooting of His Dear," Bulletin of the Folk-Song Society of the Northeast 10(1935): 12-13.

5. Robert Jamieson, Popular Ballads and Songs, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1806), I:193; 195.

6. Version 1 sung by Tim McGrath, on Tape FO 74, Side 2 of Edith Fowke Tapes 1-94, York University (Library), Toronto, 1960; Version 2 sung by Mrs. Arlie Fraser, on FO 20, Side 1, of Edith Fowke Tapes, York University, 1961.

7. Jan H. Brunvand, The Study of American Folklore (New York: Norton, 1968), p. 164.

8. This reads "My acushla averneen,/ 0 its cushla macree." See "As Jimmie Went A-Hunting," in Helen Creighton, Maritime Folk Songs (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1962), p. 111.

9. "The Morning's Golden Dawn, or Answer to the Dawning of the Day' To Which is Added "Molly Brown'." (Galway: G. Connolly, Ca. 1820). A copy is in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

10. "Shooting of His Dear," in Maud Karpeles, Folk Songs From Newfoundland (Hamden, CO:Archon, l97O),pp. 113-14.

11. "Mollie Bawn" in Came B. Grover, . Heritage of Song (Bethel, ME: n.p., n.d.p rpt, Norwood, PA: Norwood, 1973), pp. 104-5. This work was published privately around 1950; Came Grover grew up in Nova Scotia, where she learned the ballad.

12. "A Favourite Song Called Molly Bawn." (Cork: Haly, ca. 1854). Copies include Broadside 189.t.3 no. 827, Dept. of Older Printed Books, Trinity College Library, U of Dublin, Dublin; Scrapbook 3.C.38, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

13. "Polly Bawn," on Helen Creighton Tape CR-B-148.1.768, Reel 148A, in the Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies Archives, Nat. Museum of Man, Ottawa, 1956.

14. "Molly Vaughan," sung by Mrs. Gordon Clark (Larena Clark), on Edith Fowke Tapes, FO 26, Side 1.

15. "Molly Bawn," from Item 419, P.J. Thomas Collection, Vancouver, BC, 1973.

16. Letter received from Tom Munnelly, Department of Irish Folklore, University College, Dublin, March 15, 1978.

17. James Mansfield Cleary, Proud Are We Irish (Chicago: Quandrangle, 1966), p. 112. This folk-song is also printed on two broadsides published by Henry J. Wehman, No. 50 Chatham Street, New York, n.d.; and J. Andrews, No. 38 Chatham Street, New York, 1857. The opening lines of this song read:

Oh! Molly Bawn, why leave me pining, While the stars above are brightly shining,
Or lonely waiting here for you, Because they've nothing else to do?

18. See PEA 2-15, Reel 2, No. 7, recorded by Kenneth Peacock, Newfoundland, 1951 in the Nat. Museum of Man, Ottawa; also two other versions in the Nat. Museum of Man: CRB-151.1809, Reel 15 1A-S. recorded by Helen Creighton, Nova Scotia, 1955; CR-B-57.51 1, Reel 57, 22-20, No. 7, recorded for Helen Creighton, Nova Scotia, 1950.

19. The British versions tend to prefer "Reynolds"; other American variations are Random, Ransom, Randolph, Randalls. These names do not include a list of versions compiled by Arthur K. Davis, in Folk-Songs of Virginia: A Descriptive Index and Class jfi cation (New York: AMS, 1965), pp. 68-69.

20. Hugh Shields, "Some 'Songs and Ballads in Use in the Province of Ulster ... 1845'," Ulster Folklife 17(1971):3-24; seep. 8.

21. Patrick W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, 1909), p. 220.

22. Laws,p.36.

23. Nova Scotia (1956); Ontario (1961); Nova Scotia (1973); and British Columbia (1973).

24. For fuller discussion of these points with respect to non-Canadian versions, see Connor, pp. 63-65.

25. Patrick W. Joyce, . Social History of Ancient Ireland, 2 vols. (Dublin: 1903; rpt Gill, 1920), I:198-99. See also a discussion of the "blood-fine" as it appears in Child ballads in Lowry C. Wimberly, Death and Burial Lore in the English and Scottish Popular Ballads(Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska Studies in Language, Literature and Criticism, No. 8, 1927), pp. 54-58.

26. Joyce, Social History, 1:207.

27. Ibid., 1:209.

28. Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. "Guns: Sporting and Target'; and Joyce, Social History, 11:466-72.

29. Another variant has been dated 1777 in Frank Moore, Diary of the American Revolution 1775-1781, ed. John Anthony Scott (New York: Washington Square Press, 1967), pp. 238-40. The notes state that it is from oral tradition and that the words are similar to a broadside printed by Nathaniel Coverly, Jr. in Boston, ca. 1800. An earlier reference is Robert Burns' poem "Man Was Made to Mourn" (1785) which was to be sung to the tune of "Peggy Bawn."

30. Henri Hubert, The Greatness and Decline of the Celts (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1934), p. 204; 201. See also Joyce, Social History, 11:17.

31. Joyce, Social History, 11:529.

32. See Hodgart, p. 117; Gerould, p. 139; and Lowry C. Wimberly, Folklore in the English and Scottish Popular Ballads (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1928; rpt New York: Frederick Ungar, 1959), pp. 228-29.

33. Hodgart, p. 118; see also Wimberly, Folklore in the Ballads, pp. 230-33. See motifs E361, Return from the dead to stop weeping; C762.2, Tabu: too much weeping for dead; E381, Ghost summoned by weeping, in Stith Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk Literature, 6 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1955). Other motifs are taken from this work.

34. Barry, "Molly Bawn," p. 13. He cites Lady Gregory's Visions and Beliefs, 11:103.

35. Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale (Helsinki: Folklore Fellows Communications, No. 184, 1961; rpt 1964), p. 159.

36. Joyce, Social History, 11:529. For this tale, see Myles Dillon, Early Irish Literature (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1948), pp. 56-68.

37. Fora discussion of geis, see Joyce, Social History, 1:310-13, and Hubert, p. 219.

38. Dillon, pp. 53-57; see also Tom Peete Cross, Ancient Irish Tales (New York: Henry Holt, 1936), pp. 82-92. For more references to this motif, see Tom Peete Cross, Motif-Index of Early Irish Literature (Bloomington: Indiana U, 1952), pp. 107; 109.

39. Gilchrist also pointed this out, p. 20.

40. Flora MacNeil, Craobh Nan Ubhal: Traditional Songs from the Western Isles (Edinburgh: Tangent TGS 124, 1976), insert.

41. MacNeil, notes and translation by Morag MacLeod and John MacInnes, last page of insert. The notes to this song inform us that two texts are represented in it, one of which has the swan motif and is entitled Catriona 0g. The song Mhairead Og was also recorded by D.K. Wilgus, Washington, DC, July 11, 1976. My thanks to Professor Wilgus, of UCLA, for sending me a copy of his tape in 1978.

42. Hodgart, p. 142. Other scholars have discussed this motif in "Molly Bawn": Jamieson, 1:195; Barry, "Molly Bawn," p. 13; Lloyd, p. 155; Gilchrist, p. 20.


I wish to thank the following people for reading the thesis on which this paper is based and for providing helpful comments: Professors Edith Fowke and Hollis Rinehart, York University; and Professor Neil C. Hultin, University of Waterloo.

Resumé: Jennifer C. Connor a rassemblé et a compare les maintes versions différentes de la ballade traditionelle [Molly Bawn]. Après l'analyse de trois de ces versions, ellejuge que cette ballade, quiportuit jadis une signification mythologique, se base sur une episode réele dans l'histoire d'une communauté irlandaise.