MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
The Bonny Labouring Boy
Paddy Maher NFLD 1 Tape 15 Track 3
Flatrock Audio:
Ballad / love across social classes Laws M14

Leach: Alright let her go.

As I roved out one morning it being in the blooming spring
I heard a lovely maid complain most grievously did sing
Saying, "Cruel was my father who did me so annoy
And will not let me marry my Bonny Labouring Boy.

"Young Johnny was my true love's name as you may plainly see
My parents they engaged him the labouring boy to be
To [harrow leave] and sow the seed and plough my father's land
But soon I fell in love with him as you may understand

"For and father thought to have me wed.

(speaks) No I … hold on I'm gone wrong now I'm gonna spoil your reels.

[tape stops and starts]

"My father thought to have me wed onto some lord or peer
I being the only heiress for 10,000 pounds a year
I placed my heart on one true love he was my only joy
And the nation round I wander for my bonny labouring boy

"For six long months he courted but little did I know
That my cruel father would prove my overthrow
He watched us close one evening down by a shady grove
Pledging our vows together in constant and of love

"My father he stepped down to me and took me by the hand
He swore he'd send young Johnny unto some foreign land
He locked me in my bedroom my comfort to annoy
And he left me there to weep and mourn for my bonny labouring boy

"My mother she came next morning and this to me did say
'Your father is intended to appoint your wedding day.'"
"I know," the maiden answer, "With him I'd never comply
But single would I still remain for my bonny labouring boy."

Said the daughter to her mother, "Your plans are all in vain
Lords dukes and noble riches I disdain
I'll rather live a humble life and my time I would enjoy
Increasing nature's prospects for my bonny labouring boy."

So fill your glasses to the brim let the toast go merrily round
Here's a health to every labouring boy who ploughs and works tilled ground
When his day's work is over it's home he'll go with joy
And happy is the girl that gets a bonny labouring boy

Female voice: (speaks) another good one


Sources: Mercer 102; Laws M14; Karpeles 216; Peacock 564; Henry 576; Roud 1162.


Text notes: A girl's father will not let her marry their labourer. He confines her, but eventually, she refuses his wishes. In some versions, they elope.

Although Leach's notebooks give the title of one of the songs collected from Paddy Maher as "The Bonny Laboring Boy," we have, in accordance with standard usage in the areas where Leach collected, spelt "Labouring" the Canadian way.

Tune notes: A classic, arch-shaped abba form in 4/4 metre. The expansive octave ascent in "b" is a distinctive feature. The major scale basis has modal qualities at cadence points.

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