“Gra Geal Mo Chroi (II -- Down By the Fair River)”


The singer hears a woman wishing her lover were here. Her lover passes. The singer remarks on her beauty "like a sheet of white paper her neck and breast." He or she promises to prove true to his or her own love.


Is this Laws M23 ["Gay Girl Marie"]? I don't believe so. There is no letter from the lover, and none of the consequences of that letter (some versions of this ballad have a line "Like a sheet of white paper her neck and breast" that may hint at a letter).

The coded name as "Grey Gram o'Chree" (Creighton-Maritime) or "Gra geal mo chroi" (O Lochlainn) is mentioned ("And her name in plain Irish is ....") once or twice, but is not the end of almost every verse as it is in Laws M23. This ballad is about a girl thinking about her lover; it is a collection of floating verses -- connected to that theme -- that I don't find in Laws M23. For example,

The moon it may darken and show us no light

The bright stars of heaven fall down from their height

The rocks may all melt, and the mountains remove

The ships of the ocean may go without sails

The smallest of fishes turn into great whales

In tha middle of the ocean there will groe an apple tree

For good measure, Creighton-Maritime adds "Come all ... Never build your nest on a green hollow tree...." lines and "I lost my own darling by courting too shy."

One point I missed in earlier contrast of this song with "Gay Girl Marie" [Laws M23] is that Laws M23 has a male protagonist ["I am a bold rover ..."] while this song is a woman's story ["If I were an empress ..."] - BS

In earlier editions of the Index, with the improbable title to guide us, however, we did lump them. See additional notes under "Gay Girl Marie" [Laws M23].

It is unfortunate that, apart from Creighton/Senior, almost none of the versions of this were available to Laws. But Laws does not list the Creighton/Senior text here. So we have now split the songs. - RBW


  • Bodleian, 2806 b.11(148), "Lovely Young Johnny" or "Gra Gal Ma Cree ," H. Such (London), 1863-1885


  • Mikeen McCarthy, "One Fine Summer's Morning" (on IRTravellers01)


  1. Creighton/Senior, pp. 150-151, "Down by the Fair River" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Creighton-Maritime, p. 69, "Down By the Fair River" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. SHenry H582, pp. 238-239, "Gragalmachree" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. OLochlainn 13, "Gra Geal Mo Chroi" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #2329
  6. BI, CrMa069


Alternate titles: “Newry Mountain”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1875 (OLochlainn citing P W Joyce's _Old Irish Folk Music and Songs_)
Keywords: love beauty lover promise
Found in: Canada(Mar) Ireland