“The Irish Girl”


(The singer meets a girl by the river, lamenting her love gone to America). (She describes the pain of love.) (She) wishes she were far away with her love, or were a butterfly or a nightingale or a rose to be with her lover


This mostly-lyric piece easily degrades and easily mixes. Sedley and Sharp both had versions which mixed with "Farewell Ballymoney (Loving Hannah; Lovely Molly)"; it appears that Roud lumps them. Sharp compounded the problem by tacking on verses from another version. And because the song is so lyric, it often loses parts (e.g. the Henry text has lost the first verses which describe the whole motivation). What tends to survive is the handful of "I wish I were" lyrics, e.g.

I wish I were a butterfly, I would light on my love's breast.

I wish I were a linnet, I would sing my love to rest.

I wish I were a nightingale, I'd sit and sing so clear,

I wish I were a red, red rose... and (he) to be the gardener.

Based on the contents, this could well be a degenerate fragment of "Erin's Flowery Vale (The Irish Girl's Lament)" [Laws O29]; at least some versions of this scattershot song seem to presuppose the situation described in that. But Laws ignores all the various versions of this song he should have known (e.g. Sharp, Belden, Brown). It must therefore be assumed that he either separates them or that he thinks these versions too lyric to include in his list. In any case, we've separated them. - RBW

Some clarity is provided for this confusing song by the LOCSinging broadsides as106250 and as106250. Their description, omitting floating verses and floating themes, is: The singer meets an expensively dressed Irish girl, crying and tearing her hair. Her lover has left and she won't follow. The lover says "I was of some noble blood and she of low degree." Her lover still loves her.

All of the broadsides I have seen include the floating verse "I wish I was in Dublin town [or Manchester, or Monaghan], and sitting on the grass, With a bottle of whiskey in my hand and on my knee a lass, We'd call for liquors merrily, pay before we go, And fold thee in my arms let the winds blow high or low."

Among the floating verses is this by Walter Pardon on Voice10, connecting to "The Manchester Angel" version:

I wish I were in Manchester, a-sitting on the grass

With a bottle of whisky in my hand and upon my knee a lass.

Also collected and sung by David Hammond, "The Irish Girl" (on David Hammond, "I Am the Wee Falorie Man: Folk Songs of Ireland," Tradition TCD1052 CD (1997) reissue of Tradition LP TLP 1028 (1959)).

Broadside LOCSinging as106240: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 11(2654), "The New Irish Girl," J. Pitts (London), 1819-1844; also Harding B 25(1341), "The New Irish Girl"
  • LOCSinging, as106240, "The Irish Girl," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859; also as106250, "The Irish Girl"
  • Murray, Mu23-y1:025, "The Irish Girl," James Lindsay Jr. (Glasgow), 19C
  • NLScotland, L.C.Fol.178.A.2(065), "The Irish Girl," James Lindsay (Glasgow), c.1875


  • Robert Cinnamond, "I Wish My Love Was a Red Rose" (on IRRCinnamond02)
  • James McDermott, "Let the Wind Blow High or Low" (on IRHardySons)
  • Walter Pardon, "Let the Wind Blow High or Low" (on Voice10)


  1. Belden, pp. 292-293, "The Irish Girl" (3 texts)
  2. SHenry H711, pp. 234-235, "The Manchester Angel" (1 text, 1 tune -- a fragment with no beginning)
  3. OLochlainn-More 2, "The New Irish Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. BrownII 131, "The Irish Girl" (1 text)
  5. Davis-Ballads 21, "The Lass of Roch Royal" (The "F" text in the appendix appears to be this, though heavily mixed with floating stanzas)
  6. SharpAp 180, "The Irish Girl" (1 text plus 2 fragments, 3 tunes, but the "A" text is "Handsome Molly"; "B" and "C" are single-verse fragments which may or may not be this song)
  7. Sharp/Karpeles-80E 44, "The Irish Girl" (1 text, 1 tune, a confused and conflate mix of this song and "Farewell Ballymoney (Loving Hannah; Lovely Molly)")
  8. Dean, p. 109, "Molly Bawn" (1 short text)
  9. Greenleaf/Mansfield 98, "The Lament" (1 text)
  10. Creighton/Senior, pp. 195-198, "Pretty Polly" (2 texts, 2 tunes, even more infected by floating material than most songs of this group, but it appears to be this piece)
  11. Creighton-NovaScotia 81, "My Irish Polly" (1 text, 1 tune, a long but very confused and mixed version)
  12. Creighton-Maritime, p. 46, "Ruby Were Her Lips" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. OConor, p. 15, "The Irish Girl" (1 text)
  14. Green-Miner, p. 230, "The Irish Girl" (1 text)
  16. ADDITIONAL: Maud Karpeles, _Folk Songs of Europe_, Oak, 1956, 1964, p. 47,"The Irish Girl" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. Roud #454
  18. BI, HHH711


Alternate titles: “I Wish I Were Yon Red, Red Rose”; “The Blue Cuckoo (the singer's name on IRHardySons)”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1845 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(2654))
Found in: Ireland Britain US(Ap,MW,SE,So) Canada(Mar,Newf)