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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Tracing a love story

By Jim Humphries


Source of this story is Michael Purcell

The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Ltd.,

Carlow August 16, 1975

Historical researcher Michael Purcell, founder of the Carlow County Heritage Society, has traced a Carlow girl who may be the heroine of a 19th century ballad. The search for the girl was triggered off when an American priest, Msgr. Donald Walsh, visited Carlow this summer, tracing his Irish roots. He had with him a booklet Ireland’s Famous Songs, published by a New York Irish store. One of the songs, entitled “The Roving Journeyman”, mentioned the girls jumping for joy when the journeyman came to Carlow and singled out ‘McGuire’s lovely daughter’ who fell in love with him. Mr. Purcell had heard the ballad before — played for him by the late Delia Murphy, an avid song collector. She had met the journeyman himself who told her the McGuire girl was the daughter of a butler. Mr. Purcell had never seen the ballad in print until he accidentally picked up the song sheet in Msgr. Walsh’s car.

Search through parish records

To find out who was McGuire’s lovely daughter was the challenge Michael Purcell took up. Searching through the parish records, which the Heritage Society is having indexed, Mr. Purcell found an entry relating to Mary McGuire, daughter of a butler of Staplestown Road, Carlow, who died in October 1892. Her mother, Anne, listed as a butler’s wife, died eight years earlier when Mary was 16 years of age. The ballad goes on to explain that the McGuire girl wanted to run away with her journeyman lover but her mother was not enamoured by the idea. Neither, it seemed, was the journeyman himself. He took his stick in hand and ‘took his kit also’, then left town. He was quite a ladies’ man anyway so maybe she would have been better off; the song states: “In every town I went through I got a new sweetheart; And I’m always broken hearted when from her I have to part” but not before promising to marry them on his return. Meanwhile, local historian, Mr. Seamus Murphy of Pollerton Little, an expert on the songs of the county says he has never come across “The Roving Journeyman” before. Mr. Murphy, who has collected many Carlow songs, says “There’s still more than a life’s work in collecting Carlow songs.”

The full text of the ballad is:

The Roving Journeyman

I am a roving journeyman, I roam from town to town
And wherever I get a bit of work I’ll always settle down.
With my bundle on my shoulder and my stick within my hand,
It’s down the country I will go a roving journeyman.
And when I come to Carlow the girls all jump with joy,
Says one unto the other, “Here comes the roving boy”.
One treats me to a bottle, others to a dram,
Here’s to the journeyman.
I hadn’t been in Carlow two days or maybe three,
When McGuire’s lovely daughter says she fell in love with me.
She wanted me to marry her and took my by the hand,
And shyly told her mother that she loved the journeyman.
Ah, hold your tongue you silly girl and don’t you say no more,
How can you love a journeyman you never saw before?
Oh, hold your tongue dear mother and do the best you can,
For it’s down the country I’ll go with my roving journeyman.
I took my stick into my hand, I took my kit also,
Away from friends and parents a roving I did go.
In every town I went through I got a new sweetheart,
And I’m always broken-hearted when from her I have to part.
And now my loving sweethearts to you I bid adieu,
And if ever I return again I’ll surely marry you.
Let them all be talking and say the worst they can,
For it’s off to Dublin I will go, A Roving Journeyman.

Tullow Brass Band

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