The Lass of Roch Royal

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The Lass of Roch Royal (Roud 49) is Child ballad number 76, existing in several variants.[1][2]

Synopsis[edit]

A woman comes to Gregory's castle, pleading to be let in; she is either pregnant or with a newborn son. His mother turns her away; sometimes she tells her that he went to sea, and she goes to follow him and dies in shipwreck. Gregory wakes and says he dreamed of her. He chases her, finds her body, and dies.

Variants[edit]

Alternate titles of "The Lass of Roch Royal" include "Lord Gregory", "Fair Anny", "Oh Open the Door Lord Gregory", "The Lass of Loch Royal" "The Lass oc Ocram", and "Mirk Mirk".

The New-Slain Knight has, in some variants, verses identical to those of some variants of The Lass of Roch Royal, where the woman laments her baby's lack of a father.

Also Child ballad number 216 ("The Mother's Malison") is almost identical to "The Lass of Roch Royal" only in a reversed manner, telling the story of a young man looking for his beloved.

Literary Influences[edit]

The Northamptonshire poet John Clare wrote a poem "The Maid Of Ocram, Or, Lord Gregory" presumably based on an Irish version of the ballad. Clare was influenced by Gypsy travellers and may have heard folk songs and ballads from them.[3][4]

"The Lass of Aughrim," an Irish version of "The Lass of Roch Royal," figures prominently in the story "The Dead" by James Joyce.[5]

Early Printed Versions[edit]

This ballad was printed as a broadside ballad under the title "The lass of Ocram". J Pitts of Seven Dials, London published it sometime between 1819 and 1844.[6] It was also published by Catnach, also of London, and Collard of Bristol.[2]

Collected Versions[edit]

The Roud Folk Song Index lists 12 versions collected from traditional singers from Scotland, 4 from Ireland, 1 from Canada and a massive 82 from the USA, with 30 from Virginia.[2] However, many of these are based on the "Who's gonna shoe your pretty little foot, who's gonna glove your hand" motif. For example, the version listed for Charlie Poole, entitled "When I'm Far Away" from North Carolina goes as follows:

Who's gonna smoke the old clay pipe? x3
When I am far away

followed by

Who's gonna be your little man?

Who's gonna glove your little hand?

Who's gonna shoe your little foot?

Who's gonna kiss your little lips?[7]

There are longer versions, notably Jean Ritchie's "Fair Annie of Lochroyan", which fairly accurately tells the story, ending with a quatrain:

Then he took out a little dart
That hung down by his side
And thrust it through and through his heart
And then fell down and died.[8]

Recordings[edit]

Field Recordings[edit]

There are recordings of 7 versions on the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist of Riches website - three by Scottish traveller Charlotte Higgins,[9][10][11] and one each by John McEvoy,[12] a 13 year old Isla St Clair,[13] Stanley Robertson[14] and Cathal O'Connell.[15]

There is a version by Irish singer Elizabeth Cronin on the Cultural Equity website.[16][17]

Recordings by Revival Singers and Groups[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]