“She Moved Through the Fair (Our Wedding Day)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1909 (Hughes)/1926 (Sam Henry)
Keywords: love wedding death ghost nightvisit supernatural abandonment army
Found in: Ireland


Singer meets his love, who tells him it will not be long until their wedding day, then leaves and "moves through the fair." (Later, her ghost repeats that it will not be long until their wedding. Alternately, she deserts him and he enlists in the army)


[The well-known version "She Moved Through the Fair" is credited to Padraic Colum (lyrics) and Herbert Hughes (arrangement of traditional tune). This was published in 1909 in volume I of Hughes's _Irish Country Songs_. - RBW]

Colum and Hughes apparently pieced this together from traditional fragments. The Margaret Barry version has become canonical in the folk revival -- but she learned it from a John McCormack 78! - PJS

Proving exactly what happened here is a difficult task, because the first actual publication of the song was of the Colum/Hughes text in 1909. But it's noteworthy that traditional versions, such as Kennedy's and the Sam Henry "Out of the Window," are much longer than the Colum/Hughes text.

It would appear that Colum and Hughes did more cutting-down than actual reworking. If we compare the "standard" text of "She Moved Through the Fair" with, say, the Kennedy text, we find that Colum's first two stanzas are straight out of tradition. The final stanza, about the dead love, is largely from traditional sources -- but doesn't mention the dead love! And we see parallels to that verse in one of the Sam Henry texts (H534), though the latter may have been inspired by the published text.

Margaret Barry's version omits the third stanza of the Colum text. I observe that this verse doesn't scan very well to the tune; you can make it fit, but it sounds a bit unnatural.

Kennedy actually refers *five* texts in the Henry collection to this piece, but only the two above are properly this song; the others are of the "If I Were A Blackbird/Courting Too Slow" type (and filed on that basis); they may have influenced Colum's final verse (since there are lyric similarities), but they are assuredly not the same song.

I thought about listing "She Moved Through the Fair" and "Our Wedding Day" as two separate songs, but this would obscure the clear relationship between the two. I decided on the title "She Moved Through the Fair," even though it's not properly traditional, because it is so much more familiar. - RBW

Tunney-StoneFiddle: The first verse is identical to Padraic Collum's "She Moved Through the Fair." Tunney refers also to a Sam Henry version "but my mother's tune and indeed some of the words are quite different." The reference seems to be to H534, p. 454, "Our Wedding Day." - BS

Cross references



  1. Kennedy 165, "Our Wedding Day" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. SHenry H141, pp. 395-396, "Out of the Window" (1 text, 1 tune); H534, p. 454, "Our Wedding Day" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Tunney-StoneFiddle, pp. 153-154, "My Young Love Said to Me" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. ADDITIONAL: Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), p. 322, "She Moved Through the Fair" (1 text, the Colum recension)
  6. Roud #861
  7. BI, K165