“William Riley's Courtship”


William falls in love with Colleen at sight. Although warned about her harsh father, he seeks employment from the old man to be near Colleen. At last he asks to marry her. He is fired. The two try to elope. They are captured; the father has Riley jailed


Laws, following Cox, considers the three William Riley ballads (this one, William Reilly's Trial [Laws M10], and "Reilly's Answer, Releasement, and Marriage with Coleen Bawn" -- the last supposedly not found in tradition) to be a set of songs about the same character. The songs overlap, however, and may be the result of separate composition, with either M9 or M10 inspiring the other two. - RBW

Laws considers Creighton-NovaScotia 74 to be both M9 and M10. This 78 verse version is divided by Creighton into "Riley's Courtship" (26 verses: meets Laws' description of M9), "Trial" (20 verses: meets Laws' description of M10), "Marriage" (32 verses: meets Laws' description "which has not, so far as I know," says Laws, "been recorded from tradition, Riley is sentenced to be transported and is freed through his own petition to the Lord Lieutenant in time to rescue the girl from Bedlam and marry her." What am I missing? As I've noted, Creighton-NovaScotia 74, is one of Laws' sources for M9 and M10: why didn't he consider it for the "not ... recorded" Mx?). - BS

Cross references


  • cf. "The Footboy" (plot)


  1. Laws M9, "William Riley's Courtship"
  2. Hayward-Ulster, pp. 96-98, "Willy Reilly's Courtship" (1 text)
  3. Randolph 114, "Coleen Bawn" (1 text, with the name spelled "Coleen" in the title but "Colleen" in the text; 1 tune)
  4. FSCatskills 53, "Fair Julian Bond" (1 text, 1 tune. The opening of this ballad clearly resembles Laws M9, but the conclusion is closer to M10. The fragmentary state of the text may indicate a conflate version)
  5. LPound-ABS, 38, pp.86-89, "William Riley's Courtship" (1 text)
  6. Creighton-NovaScotia 74, "Courtship of Willie Riley" (1 very long text, 1 tune)
  7. SharpAp 104, "Loving Reilly" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  8. cf. Gardner/Chickering, pp. 482-483, "William Reily's Courtship," "Reily's Trial," "Reily's Answer, Releasement, and Marriage with Coolen Bawn" (source notes only)
  9. Roud #537
  10. BI, LM09


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1909 (collected by Olive Dame Campbell; in SharpAp); +1881 (Christie, _Traditional Ballad Airs II_)
Found in: US(MA,So) Canada(Mar) Ireland