This ballad begins: 'As I went by Lord Ely's gates, / I heard a fair maid singing, / With a bonny baby in her arms, / And all the bells in the court were ringing.' Unfortunately, no publication details are included on the sheet.
Set outside Lord Ely's Gates at Rathfarnham Castle, near Dublin, this darkly humorous ballad tells the story of a travelling man who receives help from a friendly landlady, in order to escape a gang of armed men. The man had earlier met a pretty maid who works as a nurse for Lord Ely, and the pair had arranged a rendezvous at a nearby tavern, so that the man could somehow provide the young woman with a sight of her true love, Johnny. Upon looking out the tavern window, however, he sees a gang of armed men heading towards him instead of his true love. A rather difficult to understand ballad, it could be that the writer is referring to a famous murder that occurred in this very spot in 1841.
Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.
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Probable period of publication:
1840-1860 shelfmark: RB.m.143(158)
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