H. S. Thompson

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Henry S. Thompson was an American songwriter of the mid-nineteenth century.

Little is known of Thompson other than his works, mainly syrupy ballads used in blackface minstrel shows; 48 works were published under the name H. S. Thompson between 1849 and 1885.[1]

According to U.S. Census research by Ralph Richey, Thompson was probably born in 1824 or 1825 in northern Essex County, Massachusetts. By 1851 he had moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts where he was a teacher, performer, and impresario. Later he was connected with several minstrel companies, including Morris Brothers, Pell, Huntley's, and Trowbridge's Minstrels in Boston and Morris and Wilson's Opera Troupe in St. Louis (1865–66).[1]


Thompson's "Down by the River Liv'd a Maiden," published in 1863, is generally believed to be the basis for Percy Montrose's 1884 "Oh My Darling, Clementine."

Thompson's most famous work, "Annie Lisle," is remembered as the melody for the Cornell University alma mater "Far Above Cayuga's Waters" and other school anthems.

A slightly altered version of the lyrics of "Lilly Dale," an 1852 song similarly about a young maiden felled by disease, appear in the 1916 novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.[2] Country musician Bob Wills recorded an arrangement as "Lily Dale," which itself was covered by Dolly Parton as "Billy Dale."


  1. ^ a b Sunphone Records, "Lilly Dale Composer Biography: H.S. Thompson," Music in the Works of James Joyce Vol. II.
  2. ^ Bowen, Zack R. Musical Allusions in the Works of James Joyce: Early Poetry Through Ulysses. SUNY Press, 1974. ISBN 0-87395-248-0