The Black Velvet Band

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"Black Velvet Band"
Black Velvet Band.jpg
Single by The Dubliners
B-side "Maloney Wants a Drink"
Released 30 August 1967
Format 7"
Genre Folk, Irish, pop


Label Major Minor
Songwriter(s) Unknown
Producer(s) Tommy Scott
The Dubliners singles chronology
"Seven Drunken Nights"
"Black Velvet Band"
"All for Me Grog"

"The Black Velvet Band" (Roud number 2146) is a traditional folk song collected from singers in Australia, England, Canada, Ireland and the United States describing how a young man is tricked and then sentenced to transportation to Australia, a common punishment in the United Kingdom during the 19th century. Versions were also published on broadsides.


The narrator is bound apprentice in a town (which varies in different versions). He becomes romantically involved with a young woman. She steals a watch and places it in his pocket or in his hand. The apprentice appears in court the next day, and is sentenced to seven years penal servitude in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). In the broadside versions the young woman's motivation is more obvious - she has met a sailor and wants to get rid of her lover.

In the broadsides the action takes place in Ratcliffe Highway, a street in the East End of London, but in collected versions various locations are mentioned - London, Belfast, Tralee, a town in Bedfordshire, and in Dunmanway, Co. Cork. Some East Anglian singers place the action in Belfast and others in London.


The Roud Index has 98 entries for this song, comprising broadside ballads, versions collected from traditional singers, and field recordings.[1]

It was published as a broadside ballad by Swindells of Manchester some time between 1796 and 1853, and by H. Such of London sometime between 1863 and 1885.[2]

Versions of the song have been collected from Dorset, Co. Durham, Hampshire, London, Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Isles of Scilly, and Worcestershire in England, from Belfast, Co. Antrim, and Co. Cork in Ireland, from Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales in Australia and from Ontario, Canada, and Maine, USA. The earliest collected version listed was collected by George Gardiner from Alfred Goodyear of Axford, Hampshire, England in July 1907.[3] Both Alfred Goodyear's version and one collected by Clive Carey from Mrs Terry of Chithurst, Sussex, in 1911 (and set in Belfast)[4] contain the "Her eyes they shone like diamonds" chorus also collected from Harry Cox.

While working for the BBC, Peter Kennedy recorded a version in Belfast in 1952. In 1959, a version was found in Australia. An earlier version by the publisher Swindells in Manchester is very wordy, and has no chorus. It places the events in Barking, Essex. Some of the earliest versions mention the Old Bailey and London Town. The publication date of that version is probably between 1837 and 1853.

An American song called "The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band", credited to Cliff Carlisle and Mel Forre, was recorded by Bill Monroe, Doc Watson and Mac Wiseman among others. It has a similar plot and may be loosely based on "Black Velvet Band""[citation needed]

Following the Ireland rugby team's Grand Slam win in 2009, winger Tommy Bowe sang his own version of 'Black Velvet Band' to a triumphant crowd on the team's homecoming on Dawson Street, Dublin.

The Dubliners[edit]

The Dubliners version, possibly the best known, is slightly adapted from a version recorded by Ewan MacColl from the Norfolk singer Harry Cox in 1955, and recorded by MacColl and Peggy Seegar on their 1964 LP "Chorus from the Gallows"[5]

Chart (1967) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[6] 4
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[7] 15



External links[edit]