MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
John O'Reilly
Mike Kent NFLD 1 Tape 8A Track 12
Cape Broyle Audio:
Ballad / lovers separated, shipwreck

I rode out one evening in the lovely month of May,
I heard a lovely maid complain the tears rolled from her eyes,
This is a dark and a stormy night those words to me did say,
My love is on the raging seas bound to America

My love he was a fisherman his age was scarce eighteen,
He was the nicest young man that ever yet was seen,
My father he had riches great and Reilly he was poor,
Because I loved this fisherman they could not him endure.

John O'Reilly was my true love's name lived near the town of,
My mother took me by the hand those words to me did say,
If you'll be fond of Reilly you must quit this country,
Your father says he'll take your life so shun his company.

Oh mother dear don't be severe where will you send my love,
My very heart lies in his breast as constant as a dove,
Oh daughter dear I'm not severe here is one thousand pounds,
So send Reilly to America to purchase there borne ground.

When Ellen got the money to Reilly she did run,
Saying this very night to take your life my father charged a gun,
Here is one thousand pound in gold my mother sends to you,
So sail away to America and I will follow you.

It was just three weeks later they were lying by the shore,
When Reilly he came back again and took his love away,
The ship got wrecked all hands was lost her father's grief was sore,
Found Reilly in her arms and they drownded on the shore.

And in her bosom a knife was found to mark,
Bosom a note was found and it was wrote with blood,
Saying cruel was my father who thought to shoot my love,
So let this be a warning to all fair maidens so gay,
To never let the lad you love go to America.


Sources: Laws N37 (but also related to Laws M10); Mercer 139-40 ("John Riley", "Young Riley") and 171 ("Reilly to Amerikay"), Leach 328; Greenleaf 182; Karpeles 1934: 66, Peacock 698, 700; Fowke 1968: 184; and 1973: 156 ("Will O'Riley"); Henry 826; Roud 267.

History: One of many Irish ballads about Rileys that date to early 19th century broadsides and songsters (e.g., The New American Songster , 1817, is cited in   

Text notes:In this version, John O'Reilly is not good enough for a rich girl. Her father threatens to kill him; her mother gives the daughter money to send him away to America. He comes back for her but they drown in a shipwreck. This is the same basic text as one of the songs titled "Willie Reilly" collected by Leach from Jack Knight of Pouch Cove.

Tune notes: A dorian flavour tune in aaab form. The "a" phrase has a dramatic ascending 7th .

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