Introduced by Robbie O’Connell
Our choice for March is a classic traditional Irish love song, “The Bonnie Blue-Eyed Lassie,” presented here by Robbie O’Connell.
Irish traditional singer Elizabeth Cronin, also known as Bess, was born in 1879 and died in 1956. She lived in Ballyvourney, County Cork and was recorded by several song collectors in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including Seamus Ennis, Alan Lomax, Jean Ritchie and Diane Hamilton. She sang in both English and Irish and had almost two hundred songs.
In 2000, her grandson Dáibhí O’Cróinín published a collection of her songs that included two CDs of her singing. Several of her songs were recorded by folk revival singers such as Mick Moloney, Steeleye Span and Christie Moore. The field recordings can also be found in the Cecil Sharp House in London.
One of her better-known songs is often called “The Top of a Mountain” or “Bonnie Blue-eyed Nancy.”
Here is a version of this song performed by Robbie O’Connell and students at the Institute of Musical Traditions.
How can I live on the top of a mountain,
Without gold in my pocket or money for to count it?
I’ll leave the money go, all for to please her fancy;
For I’ll marry none but the bonny blue-eyed lassie.
The bonny blue-eyed lassie, with her fair hair so tender,
Her red rosy cheeks and her waist so neat and slender.
I’d roll her in my arms and fondly I’d embrace her,
But how can I love her, ah!, when my people hate her.
Some people say she is very low in station,
While more of them say she is the cause of my ruination.
But let them all say what they will, to her I will prove constant still.
Until the day that I’ll die she’s my charming girl, believe me.
Brightly swims the swan in the broad streams of Youghal,
And loudly sings the nightingale, all for to behold her.
In the cold frost and snow the moon shines deeply,
But deeper by far between me and my true love.
Robbie O’Connell, born and raised in Waterford, Ireland, is a singer, songwriter, and teacher now living in Rhode Island. In addition to performing and recording Robbie leads tours of Ireland that include traditional music sessions every night.