The Maid of Sweet Gurteen
introduced by Marge Steiner
The song is found in Northern Ireland and in the Canadian Maritimes.
Roud number: 3025
The singer is Frank Murphy in Derryard, Roslea.
Recorded on 08/21/1978
I like to introduce people to source singers when I'm giving talks and such, and I was taken with Frank Murphy's modal rendition. Please note that, as with many source singers, Frank’s tune varies from verse to verse. We have transcribed the first verse here, but urge people to listen carefully to the entire song.
Come all you gentle muses, combine and lend an ear
Till I relate the praises of a comely lady fair.
The curls of her yellow locks have stole away my heart
And death I’m sure must be the cure if her and I do part
The praises of this lovely maid I’m going to unfold
Her hair hangs o’er her shoulders like lovely links of gold
With a carriage neat and limbs complete she has fractured quite my brain
Her skin more fairer than the swan that swims on the purling stream
It was my cruel father, it was he that caused my woe
He locked her in a close room and he would not let her go
Her windows I did fairly watch, thinking she might be seen
In hopes to get another sight at the maid of sweet Gurteen
My father he came to me and unto me did say
Oh son, dear son, be advised by one, don’t throw yourself away
To marry a poor servant girl whose parents are so mean
So stay at home and do not roam but along with me remain
Oh father dearest father, do not part me from my dear
I will not part my darling for ten thousand pounds a year
Was I possessed of William’s crown, it’s her I’d make my queen
In high renown we’d wear the crown with the maid of sweet Gurteen.
My father in a passion flew and unto me did say
If that’s the case within this place, no longer she shall stay
Mark what I say from this very day, you ne’er shall see her face
For I’ll send your darling far away unto some foreign place
In two or three days after a horse he did prepare
And he sent my darling far away to a place I know not where
I never view my darling’s walk where oftentimes she had been
But here in pain I shall remain for the maid of sweet Gurteen
It’s to conclude and make an end my pen I’ll take in hand
John O’Brien is my name and flowery is my land
My days were spent in merriment since my darling I first seen
And her abode lies near the road in a place they call Gurteen
Marge Steiner is a folklorist who has done extensive folksong fieldwork in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, and in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada.