Bonny Portmore

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"Bonny Portmore" is an Irish traditional folk song which laments the demise of Ireland's old oak forests, specifically the Great Oak of Portmore or the Portmore Ornament Tree, which fell in a windstorm in 1760 and was subsequently used for shipbuilding and other purposes.

The melody of this song was first published 1840 in Bunting's "Ancient Music of Ireland" and was collected from the playing of Ulster harper Daniel Black in 1796. (Ref: articles by Jon Bartlett in Three-Quarter Times: The Newsletter of the Vancouver Folk Song Society Vol XXIII, No. 8: 29 November 1993 and Vol XXIII, No. 4: 27 May 1998.)

The old oak is believed to have stood on the estate of Portmore Castle near Portmore Lough, County Antrim.


As with most folk songs, there are many variations. This is one version. The first verse can be used as a refrain, or repeated at the end.

O bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had once before
All the lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.

O bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many's the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.

All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying, "Where shall we shelter or where shall we sleep?"
For the Oak and the Ash, they are all cutten down
And the walls of bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.

Notable recordings[edit]

  • Dan Gibson along with Michael Maxwell released the album Emerald Forest: A Celtic Sanctuary which contain a beautiful and extremely uplifting instrumental version of Bonny Portmore mixed with natural birds sound.
  • Canadian folk singer Eileen McGann recorded this song on her 1995 album Journeys.
  • Spanish orchestral group Ensemble XXI recorded this song for their album Retratos del Mar (Portraits of the Sea), by Eugenia Boix (2006).
  • "Bonny Portmore" was covered by Laura Marling and Jonathan Wilson for AMC's Revolutionary War drama Turn. The song played over the ending montage of Episode 105 "Epiphany" and will be available on the show's original soundtrack.
  • The song is also performed by 3 Pints Gone on their latest album, It's About Bloody Time.
  • In 2014, The Rails (James Walbourne and Kami Thompson) released the album Fair Warning, on which their acoustic cover of "Bonnie Portmore" is the opening track.