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Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?

DigiTrad:
ROCKY BANKS OF THE BUFFALO


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Identify this song?-Rocks of Bawn (17)
Lyr Req: Rocks of Bawn/ more verses please (25)
Lyr/Tune Add: Rocks of Baun (MacColl) (4)
Rocks of Bawn - any background info? (4) (closed)


In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Rocks of Bawn


Ian HP 09 Sep 98 - 02:08 PM
09 Sep 98 - 05:43 PM
dulcimer 09 Sep 98 - 07:44 PM
alison 09 Sep 98 - 08:05 PM
Big Mick 09 Sep 98 - 11:32 PM
alison 09 Sep 98 - 11:48 PM
alison 10 Sep 98 - 12:03 AM
Antaine 10 Sep 98 - 03:36 PM
Bruce O. 10 Sep 98 - 04:16 PM
Martin Ryan 10 Sep 98 - 08:01 PM
Barry Finn 11 Sep 98 - 12:14 AM
Ian HP 11 Sep 98 - 03:14 PM
dulcimer 13 Sep 98 - 09:35 PM
Roddy 25 Aug 99 - 10:14 PM
PJ Curtis(The Burren) 26 Aug 99 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,padraig 03 Aug 03 - 03:06 AM
Brakn 03 Aug 03 - 07:25 AM
Amos 03 Aug 03 - 09:40 AM
dulcimer 03 Aug 03 - 07:34 PM
David Ingerson 06 Aug 03 - 06:46 PM
Amos 06 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM
Den 06 Aug 03 - 11:49 PM
Brían 07 Aug 03 - 01:17 PM
Brían 07 Aug 03 - 03:13 PM
David Ingerson 07 Aug 03 - 04:40 PM
Amos 07 Aug 03 - 07:07 PM
David Ingerson 07 Aug 03 - 07:47 PM
greg stephens 08 Aug 03 - 04:47 AM
Brían 08 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM
GUEST,Sean 26 Oct 03 - 01:44 PM
Chris Amos 27 Oct 03 - 02:01 AM
GUEST 27 Oct 03 - 12:17 PM
GUEST,guest mick 27 Oct 03 - 01:01 PM
Brían 27 Oct 03 - 03:04 PM
David Ingerson 27 Oct 03 - 05:06 PM
GUEST,dolcej@yahoo.com 15 Nov 03 - 11:17 PM
mg 16 Nov 03 - 12:22 AM
GUEST,Seaking 16 Nov 03 - 06:43 PM
GUEST,Kingfisher 17 Nov 03 - 04:38 AM
Brakn 17 Nov 03 - 05:51 AM
GUEST,oceide@eircom.net 11 Dec 03 - 07:03 AM
Canberra Chris 11 Dec 03 - 07:43 PM
GUEST 14 Dec 03 - 02:01 PM
GUEST,JTT 14 Dec 03 - 04:55 PM
GUEST 05 Jan 04 - 09:08 AM
Brían 05 Jan 04 - 05:57 PM
GUEST,JTT 06 Jan 04 - 03:30 AM
GEST 10 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM
GUEST 27 Jun 04 - 11:21 AM
GUEST,Learaí na Láibe 27 Jun 04 - 11:23 AM
Joe_F 27 Jun 04 - 07:33 PM
GUEST,Learaí na Láibe 27 Jun 04 - 08:17 PM
GUEST,jeannie- 13 Sep 04 - 05:58 PM
mg 14 Sep 04 - 12:59 AM
GUEST,Guest: Tony O 04 Jan 06 - 04:32 PM
Gurney 05 Jan 06 - 02:24 AM
Paul Burke 05 Jan 06 - 06:20 AM
Tannywheeler 05 Jan 06 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Kiernan 11 Mar 06 - 07:42 AM
Brakn 11 Mar 06 - 08:50 AM
GUEST,Declan 11 Mar 06 - 09:44 AM
GUEST,thurg 11 Mar 06 - 12:39 PM
michaelr 11 Mar 06 - 12:55 PM
GUEST 01 May 06 - 11:01 AM
GUEST,Berney Hill 07 Dec 06 - 12:43 PM
Seamus Kennedy 08 Dec 06 - 12:59 AM
GUEST,kiernan 16 Dec 06 - 02:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Dec 06 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,Ryan Edwards 06 Feb 07 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,scottie in mullaghhoran 11 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM
GUEST,Jim 12 Mar 07 - 09:04 AM
GUEST,A Non-Irish (but nevertheless curious) Perso 12 Aug 07 - 04:29 PM
Greg B 12 Aug 07 - 07:01 PM
Mickey191 12 Aug 07 - 08:01 PM
Celtaddict 04 Sep 07 - 10:47 PM
GUEST,Aaron K Donnelly 22 Jun 08 - 01:55 PM
MartinRyan 22 Jun 08 - 04:48 PM
MartinRyan 22 Jun 08 - 05:06 PM
Brakn 23 Jun 08 - 02:46 AM
GUEST,Aaron K Donnelly 23 Jun 08 - 11:26 AM
GUEST,k donnelly 23 Jun 08 - 11:38 AM
greg stephens 23 Jun 08 - 12:21 PM
GUEST 23 Jun 08 - 12:39 PM
MartinRyan 23 Jun 08 - 12:42 PM
GUEST,aaron k donnelly 23 Jun 08 - 02:46 PM
Declan 23 Jun 08 - 08:19 PM
GUEST,Mary 23 Jun 08 - 10:21 PM
GUEST,Mary 23 Jun 08 - 10:29 PM
GUEST,Flavio from Buenos Aires 18 Sep 08 - 01:22 AM
GUEST 01 Oct 08 - 04:38 AM
GUEST,Micheal 28 Nov 08 - 07:41 AM
Frank_Finn 28 Nov 08 - 07:35 PM
GUEST,j o'reilly 09 Jan 09 - 06:22 PM
GUEST,rocks of bawn 26 May 09 - 05:53 AM
GUEST,mick f 10 Sep 09 - 09:33 AM
Good Soldier Schweik 10 Sep 09 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Guest Kiernan Update 04 Dec 09 - 04:51 PM
GUEST 30 Jul 11 - 08:16 AM
GUEST,guest marco 23 Jun 13 - 05:32 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Jun 13 - 07:46 PM
GUEST 19 Jul 13 - 07:04 PM
GUEST 25 Nov 13 - 07:34 PM
GUEST 26 Nov 13 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,THE LAST MAN TO PLOUGH THE ROCKS OF BAWN 18 Apr 14 - 02:26 PM
Jim Carroll 18 Apr 14 - 02:34 PM
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Subject: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Ian HP
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 02:08 PM

I have long been fascinated by the song 'Rocks of Bawn', and have wondered whether those rocks are a symbol of something. I think they must be, and I have my own ideas, but can someone add info & enlightenment?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From:
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 05:43 PM

I think your "Bawn" is actually Bourne...and I have been told that Bourne is a rocky (no surprise) stretch of land along the Irish coast. I would certainly agree that while the rocks may be literal there is a metaphorical substance to them as well.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 07:44 PM

Anyone know a midi or abc source for the tune?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: alison
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 08:05 PM

Hi,

Bawn actually means "white" so it means the white rocks. I'll put in the tune later.

Slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Big Mick
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 11:32 PM

Alison,

It's great having someone around who speaks an gaelige.

Thanks,

Mick


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: alison
Date: 09 Sep 98 - 11:48 PM

Hi,

Actually Mick, I have a confession to make. I don't speak gaelic, I know a few words, but I have a dictionary. I wasn't given the option of learning it in school. But one of the local Irish clubs is starting lessons. So at long last I'm going to learn, in Australia!!

I have never heard of "Bourne" and it doesn't exist on my maps, maybe you're thinking of the "Burren" which isa large area of limestone (white rock)which looks like the surface of the moon. It is on the West Coast in County Clare.

Slainte

Alison


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Subject: Tune/Chords Add: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
From: alison
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 12:03 AM

Hi,

Here's the tune as done by Liam Clancy. There is another tune in Soodlum's Irish Ballads, but I prefer this one.

MIDI file: ROCKS.MID

Timebase: 480

Name: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
TimeSig: 3/4 24 8
Key: E
Tempo: 080 (750000 microsec/crotchet)
Start
0960 1 64 070 0465 1 68 052 0015 0 64 070 0958 0 68 052 0002 1 64 055 0471 1 66 045 0009 0 64 055 0960 1 64 053 0011 0 66 045 0460 1 61 044 0009 0 64 053 0469 0 61 044 0008 1 64 052 1460 0 64 052 0466 1 61 041 0477 0 61 041 0003 1 59 029 0963 1 64 053 0023 0 59 029 0451 0 64 053 0000 1 64 067 0958 0 64 067 0002 1 64 049 0480 0 64 049 0000 1 64 069 1918 0 64 069 0476 1 68 040 0231 1 71 042 0041 0 68 040 0186 1 73 058 0017 0 71 042 0971 1 73 058 0010 0 73 058 0455 1 71 053 0015 0 73 058 0960 1 73 057 0023 0 71 053 0455 0 73 057 0002 1 71 058 0237 1 68 048 0004 0 71 058 0217 1 64 058 0017 0 68 048 1430 0 64 058 0498 1 66 065 0222 1 68 042 0016 0 66 065 0199 1 69 065 0023 0 68 042 0977 1 69 055 0029 0 69 065 0209 0 69 055 0002 1 71 055 0238 0 71 055 0002 1 68 051 0238 0 68 051 0002 1 66 043 0238 0 66 043 0002 1 64 036 0478 0 64 036 0002 1 64 057 0478 0 64 057 0002 1 61 050 1438 0 61 050 0962 1 71 068 0478 0 71 068 0002 1 73 045 0958 0 73 045 0002 1 73 052 0478 0 73 052 0002 1 71 054 0958 0 71 054 0002 1 73 054 0473 1 71 057 0005 0 73 054 0230 0 71 057 0009 1 68 038 0238 0 68 038 0008 1 64 046 0957 0 64 046 0480 1 66 058 0478 0 66 058 0002 1 68 050 0478 0 68 050 0002 1 69 056 0958 0 69 056 0002 1 71 042 0478 0 71 042 0002 1 68 054 0238 0 68 054 0002 1 66 049 0238 0 66 049 0002 1 64 061 0478 0 64 061 0002 1 64 055 0453 1 61 047 0022 0 64 055 0725 1 64 060 0005 0 61 047 0233 0 64 060 0002 1 61 049 0452 1 59 038 0028 0 61 049 0960 1 71 047 0041 0 59 038 0153 1 71 053 0053 0 71 047 0233 0 71 053 0025 1 71 065 0455 0 71 065 0003 1 68 046 0478 0 68 046 0002 1 64 065 0235 0 64 065 0005 1 64 054 0203 1 66 047 0034 0 64 054 0480 1 64 053 0016 0 66 047 0462 0 64 053 0002 1 64 050 0458 1 61 054 0022 0 64 050 0480 1 64 058 0004 0 61 054 1434 0 64 058 0467 1 61 051 0495 0 61 051 0000 1 59 049 0958 0 59 049 0002 1 64 057 0478 0 64 057 0002 1 64 060 0958 0 64 060 0002 1 64 057 0475 0 64 057 0009 1 64 058 1916 0 64 058
End

This program is worth the effort of learning it.

To download the March 10 MIDItext 98 software and get instructions on how to use it click here

ABC format:

X:1
T: THE ROCKS OF BAWN
M:3/4
Q:1/4=80
K:E
E6|G4E2|F4E2|C2E4|-E4C2|B,4E2|E4E2|E6|-E4GB|
c4c2|B4c2|BGE4|-E4FG3/4A/4|-A4AB|GFE2E2|C6|
-C4B2|c4c2|B4c2|BGE4|-E2F2G2|A4B2|GFE2E2|
C3EC2|B,4B3/4B5/4|B2G2EE3/4F/4|-F2E2E2|C2E4|
-E4C2|B,4E2|E4E2|E6|-E6||

Come (E)all you loyal (A)heroes where(E)ever (A)that you (E)be.
and don't (A)hire with (E)any master till you (A)know what your (E)work will (C#m)be
For (A)you must (E)rise up early from the (A)clear day (E)light of (A)dawn(B)
And I (E)know that you'll never be (A)able to (E)plough the (A)Rocks of (E)Bawn.

I know the words are slightly different from the ones in the database. The guitar chords are in front of the words which they fall on.

Slainte

alison


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Antaine
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 03:36 PM

Bán does mean the colour white but it has other meanings also.
In the context of the song it doesn't mean white.

Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (Dinneen) gives the following among other meanings :
bán : a plain, a lea-ground, dry pasture land, river-side pasture, a yard,
ag siúl na mbánta = walking the fields, out and about,

waste , blank space, untilled, empty, blank

imithe bán = gone mad, wild,

In the context of the song I interpret bán to mean waste land that is hard and unprofitable to work.

The following notes were written by A.L. LLoyd on the record by Seosamh Ó hÉanaí called Joe Heaney Irish Traditional Songs in Gaelic and English, Topic (1963) 12T 91 :
In 1652, Oliver Cromwell "subdued" Ireland, a process that often recurred in history before and since. Many Catholic landholders were dispossessed and forced to take their families and belongings beyond the Shannon, to the hard country of Connaught. While English and Scottish Protestant newcomers settled on the lusher vacated farms, the dispossessed Irish hacked out a thin living among the "rocks, bogs, salt water and seaweed" of the barren west coast. In the ensuing centuries, to many a farm-hand even the British Army offerred better prospects than the stony plough-defying soil of Mayo, Galway and Clare. The lament of the Connaught ploughman has become one of the most popular of all Irish folk songs, seemingly within the last few years. The older folk music collections of Petrie and P. W. Joyce do not include The Rocks of Bawn, and even O Lochlainn's Irish Street Ballads (1939), though it presents the words, does not attach to them the hexatonic tune that has now become so familiar.

(The "quotation marks" are his.)

This record should be in your collection. It is obligatory listening. But don't ask me where you can get it now. It is a collector's item.

Ní féidir an dubh a chur ina bhán oraibh anois!
Nobody can fooll ye now!(trying to tell you black is white)

Go n-éirí libh,
Antaine


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Bruce O.
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 04:16 PM

In 'Sam Henry's Songs of the People' Bawn or Bawnboy is located in Co. Cavan.

The above alternative meaning for ba/n (not white) was also suggested on the IRTRAD-L discussion a few months ago. The song was said to be of the 1890's, and I forgot the cited author's name.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Martin Ryan
Date: 10 Sep 98 - 08:01 PM

As Antaine implies, "Bawn" occurs as an element of many Irish placenames. Trying to pin the song down to any particular one may well be the reverse of counting angels on the head of a pin!

That said, it shouldn't be too had to date the song. I'll look.

Regards


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 11 Sep 98 - 12:14 AM

Was it Cromwell who stated he hated that part of the country (the Burren) because "There wasn't a tree to hang one from, a stream to drown one in or enough earth to bury one in" (I think it goes something like that)? He must've been a great lover of nature & all things of beauty, to have traveled so far & to think & see only on the wonderous sights that a keen bloody eye can behold, it should've caused his heart to burst with pride & caused him to be left on that rocky surface to cook so that the great birds could have a great feast & discuss how great the great man tasted. Barry


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Ian HP
Date: 11 Sep 98 - 03:14 PM

Thanks for contributions so far, folks. It seems to me that "to plough the rocks of Bawn" is to do the impossible. The impossibility of ploughing rocks seems to be a metaphor for getting justice, getting things to come right. But does it go deeper, is there more to it than that? Am I on the right track?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 13 Sep 98 - 09:35 PM

Just a point of clarification. According to the guide on a tour of the Burren, it was one of Cromwell's officers who was sent to subdue the Irish living there who steadfastly refused to submit to his attempts to annihilate those who did not believe as he did. The officer also had to report he wasn't totally successful, which may be a fitting commentary on much of Irish history since Cromwell.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Roddy
Date: 25 Aug 99 - 10:14 PM

Puzzle:- Last verse expresses "I wish the Queen of England would write to me in time, And place me in some regiment all in my youth and prime; I would fight for Ireland's glory from the clear day light 'til the dawn; And I never would return again for to plough the Rocks of Bawn." Queen Victoria ? Massive recruitment into the British Army of Irishmen in the nineteenth century. Think about it. Roddy


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: PJ Curtis(The Burren)
Date: 26 Aug 99 - 01:57 PM

Interesting debate this.'Bawn' in the context of this song means 'unplowed field' which the plowman had to face - a backbreaking job for the hired help. This song is really a work song; one of the few in the canon of Irish traditional song. Joe Heaneys' version is the classic rendition; though Paul Brady did a great version too. PJ Curtis(resident of the above mentioned Burren)


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,padraig
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 03:06 AM

think i will agree with pj this is a song of labour hard and back
breaking ,for many irish familys worked hard for there food
when the english tyrants occuppied our land.hence their would have many
a place in eire that could have been a rocky crag.
i sing the song and would really love to know more of its history
padraig


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brakn
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 07:25 AM

Bawn townland is in Cavan. As far as I'm aware this has always been regarded as a County Cavan song. I learnt it from Dermot O'Brien's version.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 09:40 AM

The phrase as used in the song "means" just endless, thankless, hard work. I don't see why it need be much deeper than that.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: dulcimer
Date: 03 Aug 03 - 07:34 PM

Amos, I think you are correct. The meaning of having to hire to work at an endless, thankless task for some landlord is social commentary enough on the conditions in Ireland throughout the 1800's.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 06:46 PM

But Amos, doesn't meaning reside only in consciousness? There are some rocks in the world that have a lot of meaning for me--I could be more specific about their exact meaning but don't want to waste my time or yours--but to other people these same rocks mean nothing. There is no meaning "in" the rocks, only in the minds of the people. The same is true with a poem or song lyrics (althoug less obviously because we generally agree on the meaning of the words). So if Ian HP wants to invest more meaning in the song than you do, it's basically just a difference of opinion.

Having said that, however, I must admit that some opinions about the meaning of lyrics are more defensible or supportable than others, but they are nonetheless personal and subjective in the end. It's the gray area between florid schizophrenic investments of meaning and denial of any meaning that makes the debate about the "meaning" of a piece of literature or music interesting and profitable (culturally speaking).

So maybe "plowing the rocks of bawn" means gaining independence from England. Then again, maybe not. And maybe it's the struggle to find meaning in an essentially meaningless universe. But maybe that doesn't float your boat (or drag your plow) either. ;-)

Just trying to clarify, if only for myself, some thoughts about an important concept.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 11:08 PM

David:

Well, mate, you may design whatever meaning you wish for the phrases. But in the context of the verses I know to that song, you would have to be awfully subtile to claim that there was such a meaning intenitonally included in the symbols as they are commonly understood. The big deal with words is that they are NOT just subjective -- they are based on subscritpion to agreements. That's why they're so handy for crossing the gap between universes, eh? The meaning is not in the rocks of Bawn, but in the phrases; the maps are not the territory.

Anyway, I personally believe the words of the song may be taken at face value. They are consistent with it and I just see no reason to assume things are any more complex than that.

A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Den
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 11:49 PM

Camel through the eye of a needle, putting sugar in your tea with a collander, draining the sea with a sponge. Sometimes its just that simple.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 01:17 PM

I have been following this thread with interest. Although I would hate to get to analytical about a song like this(although this has never stopped me before), I think this songs' title may be making a reference to this song: http://www.mudcat.org/Detail.CFM?messages__Message_ID=493562 ploughboy.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 03:13 PM

Oops: CARRAIGE BAINE

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 04:40 PM

Thanks, Brian, for another take on this song of varying richness to various people. Like my suggestions in the post above about additional "meaning" attributable to this song, I think your suggestion, although interesting, cannot be strongly defended. After all there are many white rocks in Ireland. The denotations of the phrases "rocks of bawn" and "carraige baine" are the same, but in these cases, the connotations are quite different.

Amos, I don't know why I don't want to let this go--I guess there is some part of me that loves to split hairs with reasonable and thoughtful people. Yes, words--by means of our general agreement on their meaning--are a somewhat effective bridge across the chasms between us. (Although I must say that touch and body language are better!) But I think they are more slippery than we would like to believe. The word "bawn" (or ban, baine, or bán) is a handy example. I always took it to mean white (or fair-haired) but, as Antaine showed, it has a number of other meanings. Which meaning the original author was thinking of we can only guess at, but it leaves the meaning of the song open to various interpretations.

I might not be in the same search for "meanings" that Ian HP is, but I think there is something about this song that begs for deeper thought. Paddy Tunny said it was "one of the mighty Irish songs." Joe Heany thought it was a prime example of the tradition and sang it frequently. How does a song that meanders, is vague and sometimes confusing, get to be a classic? I think it somehow resonates with a deep part of the Irish psyche (and I know I might be blundering into a quaking bog here, not being Irish myself). It somehow touches the soul of the Irish people (or some of them).

How does it do that? What is it about this song that can make it so powerful?

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Amos
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 07:07 PM

It has a simple powerful tune. And a simple powerful sense of phrase. These two things are its aesthetic backbone in my opinion.

One does not, of course, plow rocks, and therefore the phrase "plow the rocks" of Bawn impinges intensely because it is both jarring and beautiful. One does not think of country lads as heros, generally, nor do they usually think of themselves as such, so again the line "Come all ye loyal heros..." is compelling because it flips expectation. It is unusual and highly politicaly incorrect to inform another person that you are placing your curse on them, especially in a sweet-tuned verse, which is yet another reversal of expectation executed beautifully.    These are some of the things that make it mighty when it is well rendered. In addition there is the plaintive undercurrent of pathos that the image of plowing rocks, and long thankless labor for little return, implies. This contrasts with the heights invoked by dreaming of Queens and calling people heros. The contrast generates an emotional frisson.

But to be quite honest wi' you I would rather pass the beauty on by singing and playing the song than analyze it further, as there is little beauty in parsing beauty.


A


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 07 Aug 03 - 07:47 PM

Ah, but you've done a beautiful job parsing its beauty, Amos. Well done! And thank you.

Interestingly, although I've been attracted to the song for years, it was only two nights ago someone asked me to sing it at a no-books bi-weekly session. I've twelve days to learn it. The occasion is the second anniversary of the death of one of our singing group, Liam Callen, a close friend of mine. Liam learned it from Joe Heaney and sang it frequently. Now it falls to me. I hope I can do it justice.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Aug 03 - 04:47 AM

Well, as has been observed above in many ways, we all know what "plough the rocks of Bawn" means in the context of the song, though the literal meaning may elude us. It reminds me of a blues anecdote. An earnest young admirer/researcher asked Mississippi John Hurt exactly what "Salty Dog" meant. MJH relied "To tell you the truth, I've never thought about it".
    Maybe Joe Heaney would have said the same, if asked what the Rocks of Bawn meant.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 08 Aug 03 - 06:17 AM

I have always liked this song for its simple 4 line abba come-all ye tune. I like how it begins with an admonishment and ends with a plea. I happen to really like the internal vowel=rhyming that occurs throughout, often in unpredictable places:

Youre sitting by the fireside from the clear daylight 'til dawn
I'm afraid you'll ne'er be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn.

I happen to like how it shares a melody(COME ALL YOU TRAMPS AND HAWKERS) without being too obvious. I really like the attributes of our hero, armed with an old clay pipe and arrayed in worn out shoes and trousers. Ireally like how something about this simple declaration of a 19th century laborer remains topical and universally sympathetic even though, or maybe because the exact nature of his task apears to be a mystery.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Sean
Date: 26 Oct 03 - 01:44 PM

Fascinated with the contributions, half afraid to add my little contribution. A "Bawn" in Wexford SE Ireland was as I understand a field of grassland, well drained generally free fron rocks a place where hurling could be played. One of the songs themes is the nostolgic longing for a return to happiness of home & framing while another theme is the knowledge that a return is not possible due to the living conditions that existed at the time.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Chris Amos
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 02:01 AM

Many years ago I found an album of Joe Heaney in my local library and took it out without knowing what to expect. This song really took me by surprise, the sheer beauty of the song and his amazing delivery, it was one of the major influences which got me interested in folk music

If anyone hasn't heard Joe's, spine tingling version it can be found in the Voice of the People series published by Topic a few years ago

Chris


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 12:17 PM


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,guest mick
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 01:01 PM

the reference to the queen of England in the last verse and the address to loyal heroes suggests this a loyalist song.Interesting given the low status of the protaganist.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 03:04 PM

I don't think the reference to the Queen of England is so much a testimony to his loyalty to the Crown as a testimony to his opportunities for economic advancememt. He might as well be ploughing the Rocks of Bawn.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: David Ingerson
Date: 27 Oct 03 - 05:06 PM

I always took "loyal heroes" to be similar in meaning to, say, "loyal comrades"--steadfast, true. No political connotations to my mind.

David


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,dolcej@yahoo.com
Date: 15 Nov 03 - 11:17 PM

The alternate last verse going around 'I wish some Sergeant-Major would send for me in time'
makes loads more sense then the line about the 'Queen of England.'

Also for clarity sake, the repetitive chorus line should read: 'from the clear daylight of dawn' i.e. getting up early (as 'from the clear daylight to dawn' makes no sense.

There are also two verses going around about Sweeny. Put them both in the same song and they contradict each other:

O' hear me gallant Sweeny for your fate I do bemoan
O' the rain is pelting on your face amongst the rocks and stones
Your work is hard and troublesome, though your step is like the fawn
but I know that you won't be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn

My curse upon you Sweeney, for you have me nearly robbed
You're sitting by your fireside with your dudgeen in your gob
You're sitting by your fireside from the clear daylight till dawn
And I know you will never be able to plough the Rocks of Bawn

My solution: if you want to use both verses, you have to change the name in the second verse. As Sweeny is an Irish name, I suggest changing the 2nd name to something English (Cromwell? Who was the King/Queen during this time? If anyone knows, email me) ) Anyway, you get my drift: Sweeny, in one verse, is working the land like the singer of the song, and in the other is the one responsible for profiting from the work of others. Also keeping them both Irish names is confusing, unless you want to suggest that fellow Irishmen were responsible for this injustice.
J.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: mg
Date: 16 Nov 03 - 12:22 AM

my opinion only ...I have never heard of the first Sweeney verse, but I sure as hell wouldn't change the name to Cromwell....if the name is Sweeny it is Sweeny....if you only learned one or the other verse I would certainly recommend whichever one you learned...I do want to be a folk police and just insist that you don't do this but I know that I can't..I can only plead with you..

mg


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Seaking
Date: 16 Nov 03 - 06:43 PM

I think it was Pat Clancy who used to sing this..


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Kingfisher
Date: 17 Nov 03 - 04:38 AM

Might the verse beginning My curse upon you Sweeney not be in the mouth of another person e.g. Sweeney's employer?

Does "the clear daylight to/'til the dawn" not make sense as "through the night", from the time daylight fades until it appears again?


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brakn
Date: 17 Nov 03 - 05:51 AM

Perhaps

"the clear daylight to/'til the dawn" could possibly be a way of saying all of the time or 24 hours a day.

re "My curse attend you Sweeney" - I think that Sweeney would've been a farm owner or overseer.

re Sergeant-Major/Queen of England - It matters not. It's written or sang in the hope that someone will recruit this guy to the army and free him of his burden - plowing theb rest of his life.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,oceide@eircom.net
Date: 11 Dec 03 - 07:03 AM

great craic reading all the interpretations.
what about humour?
the bawn is the lawn/lea/ground right for the plough
play then on the easy/impossible.
the loyal hero=sweeney the labourer


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Canberra Chris
Date: 11 Dec 03 - 07:43 PM

Thanks for the thread on a song I love. The last two years I have sung a solo with piano accompaniment in a concert mainly of choirs. Out of missionary zeal I do a folk song in uncompromising sean nos style, having a sensitive pianist who can improvise around it. It has to be a 'big' song to carry it. The first was Carrickfergus, this year's was Rocks of Bawn. (Next year - Spencer the Rover).

I had taken the Clancy Brothers' 'bawn = white' at face value, thanks for the other ideas. I can add that as a digger archaeologist, as well acquainted with soils as a cyclist with inclines, digging 'clay with flints' or flinty chalk with a trowel gives a wrist-jarring insight into ploughing 'the rocks of bawn'.

The feel of the meaning is unmistakeable. My audience were mainly public servants, and I told them that workers in bureaucracies these days well know such feelings! And 'plough the rocks of bawn' is much more poetic than 'push shit uphill'.

From the internal contradictions and changes of topic in the song, like the apparent switch of identity of Sweeney from the labourer to the hiring farmer, I take this as likely to be a hybrid song, where bits of two or three songs have collided and stuck together. Sometimes by happy accident this results in strongly evocative lyrics, as it mimics the way our minds wander, and the 'not quite fitting' of life itself.

Art has occasionally got close to this, as in the mad aria from Lucia di Lammermoor, or Ophelia's mad speech in Hamlet. But the supreme example of accidental genius is Carrickfergus. The Mudcat thread on the origin of this song, with its detective work and stunning revelations, is a very great document. Print it off (in its two parts) and read it to the end in a long, slow bath.

Chris


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 14 Dec 03 - 02:01 PM

no clue, who listens to this shit


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 14 Dec 03 - 04:55 PM

Ahem, have any of the people interpreting this song ever had a job of work? At the start of the song he's coaxing and flattering the new boss - "O rise up lovely Sweeney..." and giving him helpful advice on the care of his horses - always an important matter to the Irish landed classes!

In the later verse, having been ploughing the rocky fields of Bawn (and yes, a bán is a nice sloping piece of pasturage - he's had enough of the hiring boss, and his real feelings come out; at this stage he's muttering about the damn boss sitting by his fireside with his dúidín (pipe) in his gob (mouth).

Then he's dramatically wondering if he'd be better off if the Queen of England were to offer him a fancy job soldiering in India or somewhere, in a classy uniform. That doesn't make him a loyalist, it makes him a young fellow who fancies his chances with travel and girls.

Lighten up, guys!


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 05 Jan 04 - 09:08 AM

I may be going way to far but I thought that Sweeney was Mad Sweeney (Buile Suibhne) who was cursed by the monk, Ronan.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Brían
Date: 05 Jan 04 - 05:57 PM

I've wondered that too, but probably not.

Brían


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,JTT
Date: 06 Jan 04 - 03:30 AM

Yes you're going too far. Sweeney's a common name in Ireland. Suibhne Ghealt is a *little* older than this song! Though there is a good modern poem, by Seamus Heaney maybe? about the Madness of Sweeney.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GEST
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 12:00 PM

Just in passing, why are the words 'Rock' and 'Bawn' capitalized in the Digitrad? I always took that to mean the Rocks of Bawn was/is a place.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 11:21 AM

'Bawn' is capitalised because everybody just assumes it's a placename. The name appears in many parts of Ireland and is even more common as part of placenames.I think a lot of the speculation here is off the mark unless someone can come up with evidence that 'bawn' has been used in Hiberno-English as an abstract term for rocky land.

The common meaning of 'Bán' is a grass field, not rocky terrain. As an adjective it can mean 'untilled' or 'wild', not 'rocky'.

'Bawn' also means the enclosed land surrounding a castle. I think it is also means a 'yard' in the north of Ireland.

Also the syntax doesn't look right, if 'bawn' is a specific noun, the definite article 'the' would need to be included. Even poetic license would not allow that omission.

I have a reasonably good command of Irish but I'm not a scholar so I am open to correction. However I am not convinced by the arguments put forward above.

There also seems to be a strong wish to find political meanings in a song that is quite straightforward and apolitical.

This is a song about a hired labourer being exploited by a lazy farmer, there is no reference to a landlord.

Large numbers of Irishmen, both Protestant and Catholic enlisted in the British army in the nineteenth century. It would just have been seen a career opportunity by many and there are numerous references to enlistment in this context in Irish folk songs.

I am referring here to the most commonly sung lyrics. There is also a much different version to be found on the net.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 11:23 AM

Oops I forgot to put a name to the last message.

Learaí na Láibe 'twas.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Joe_F
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 07:33 PM

How did "bawn" get attached to "marble" in Vermont? See "West Rutland Marble Bawn" in the Forum (not yet in the database). I can't find this in any dictionary.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Learaí na Láibe
Date: 27 Jun 04 - 08:17 PM

That song 'West Rutland Marble Bawn' was based on the Rocks of Bawn it appears. The composer used 'bawn' as the Irish adjective 'bán'i.e. 'white'.

The marble bawn = The white marble.

The adjective follows the noun in Irish.

Just my opinion, can't see any other sense.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,jeannie-
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 05:58 PM

just come back from holiday in Bawnboy - had drink or two in "the rocks of bawn" - wondered what the meaning was but the pub sign outside shows a horse ploughing a field


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: mg
Date: 14 Sep 04 - 12:59 AM

nope it has to be clear day light to the dawn...please don't go changing the words to these songs. That is what makes them so great..little bits that don't make sense. mg


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Guest: Tony O
Date: 04 Jan 06 - 04:32 PM

Just found this thread on a search for something else. It may be well late but here's my tuppence worth.

Farmers and farmhands did indeed have to "plough" the rocks from fields in certain (rocky) parts of the country to render them usable for agricultural purposes. See "The Field" (play by John B. Keane; movie starred Richard Harris) for a classic example of what can be achieved by "ploughing" the rocks of bawn - it actually involves a lot more digging than ploughing.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Gurney
Date: 05 Jan 06 - 02:24 AM

Sean Cannon used to sing it. He introduced it at its face value, that the fields were too rocky to make a living in.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Paul Burke
Date: 05 Jan 06 - 06:20 AM

A bawn was (is) also a type of defended farm:

What's a bawn?

So it would be fairly appropriate to find farms called 'Bawn' all over the North of Ireland, and would be the dwelling of a rich farmer of the other persuasion, just the kind to exploit the poor landless labourer, if someone else wasn't already doing so.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Tannywheeler
Date: 05 Jan 06 - 10:50 AM

God, I love a good education. The more I come here the more of that I get. Thanks for the links, guys.         Tw


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Kiernan
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 07:42 AM

Some Back ground on the song "The Rocks of Bawn".

I write as a distant relation to the master in this song in the hope of shedding some light on the history of this famous ballad which has been distorted and watered down over the years.

John Sweeney grew up in famine times. He was born in a small cottage in Glan in the parish of Mullahoran Co Cavan near Granard town. At sixteen he was sent to work for neighbouring farmers. The wages back in those days were three pound a half year.

Sweeney secured himself a job with a woman called "The Widow Bawn Reilly" from the townland of Bawn also in the parish of Mullahoran. The widow of Bawn outlived three husbands in her day. She was enowned as a hard task master and expected poor Sweeney to plough the fields of Bawn renowned for the huge rocks which liberally covered the fields hence the name the Rocks of Bawn .
Those Rocks goes back to the ice age and peppered the fields like icebergs, most of them barely above the surface.

No wonder the poor man made up songs about it. John Sweeney could neither read nor write but regularly spoke in rhyme. A family called the Seerys of Crevy wrote down the songs for him. It is said that most of his songs were composed in Boylan's Forge in the townland of Cullaboy also in the parish of Mullahoran.

In those days the forge was the favourite meeting place for local people. Sweeney composed another famous ballad . "The Creevy Grey Mare".
The townland of Creevy lies in North Longford half a mile from Bawn. This ballad was written in the same style as The Rocks of Bawn and contains several local references. One line refers specifically to Boylan's Forge;

"God bless and protect Peter Boylan
my sock or my coulter he'd mend
for he was a boy that could shoe her
and leave her quite straight on her limbs."

The ballad relates to a mare which Sweeney obviously used to plough in the area. The socks and coulter refer to parts of the plough. He relates how his master brought the mare to the fair in Bunlahy, Granard and she was bought by "Reynolds the odd jobber" for the Queen's Army and its military needs.
Sweeney laments the loss of his mare and reflects on the torture she will suffer in battle.
"But if I was a horseman who rode her
of corn I'd give her her fill
and with my gun and bayonet
it's Ryenolds the auld jobber I'd kill."

He rounds off the ballad on a hopeful note –
"But if she comes back to Ireland
and lands on Erin's green shore
I'll send for my master to buy her
and I'll plough her in Creevy once more."
The Sweeney family descendants are living in Mullahoran to this day. Sweeney himself joined the British army along with his plough horses. It's uncertain whether he died or deserted. Some rumours said he went to live in America. One doggrel verse popular in the bars of new york many years ago contained a reference to Sweeney:

"There were charming maids from Cavan
as graceful as the fawn
and poor old gallant Sweeney
sang the Rocks of Bawn."


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Brakn
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 08:50 AM

Very interesting! Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Declan
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 09:44 AM

Very interesting Kiernan.

The song seems now definitely linked to Bawn (Bawnboy?) in County Cavan.

I heard Cathal McConnell saying this before, but I also heard other theories.

Interesting that it appears Sweeney was the man doing the ploughing -I had assumed that Sweeney was the employer in the song, who the ploughman starts off praising but ends up cursing. So the verses with Sweeney are reported speech where the singer is mimicking what the boss had been saying to him.

As for ploughing rocks, my interpretation would be that our man was hired to plough a 'field', but he is saying that there was nothing to plough in the field except roocks.

Apart from that I think it is pretty much what you see is what you get. There are many allegorical songs in the Irish tradition which refer in an oblique way to driving the English out of Ireland, but I don't think this is one of them.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,thurg
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 12:39 PM

Kiernan - Thanks for the note; it elucidates much about not only the song but the time, place, people, culture, etc. A pleasure to read!


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: michaelr
Date: 11 Mar 06 - 12:55 PM

"Kiernan"'s story sounds like a wind-up to me.

Cheers,
Michael


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 May 06 - 11:01 AM

Hey there everyone,

i just began searching for this song on the internet this morning as my Dad from Donegal mentioned that his father used to sing it to him when he was little and he has never heard it since. I thought i might have trouble finding it but im pleasantly surprised at the results so far. ive got it downloaded now and cant wait to give it to my Dad. Does anyone know when it was written? The ideas and stories of the meaning of the song are interesting to say the least.

Thanks for the info guys,

Louise Monaghan

Oh...u can email me at (louise.monaghan666@gmail.com) if u have any info that might be of help to me.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: GUEST,Berney Hill
Date: 07 Dec 06 - 12:43 PM

Definately a Cavan song to my mind. The use of language is typical of the area. Indeed the tradition of making up ill-fitting rhymes is still alive in the county.

The spelling and pronunciation of dudgeen derives from the local way of speaking Gaelic. The stress on the first syllable and the d is pronounced as a hard g whereas in the west its a soft g.

Remember that dawn refers to sunrise and not to daylight. It wouldnt be strange for ploughmen to be working from first light in those latitudes. Cavan is closer to the Artic circle than to the tropics hence the long delay between daylight and dawn.

The soil in the part of Cavan that Kiernan refers to (Mullaghhoran) is indeed rocky and stoney and local ploughboys became expert or had to quit. Drills for potatoes were still being ploughed with horses in the sixties in the area.

I can confirm the accuracy of all Kiernan's geographical and historical references and his claims are so far convincing. I will be in Ireland soon and hope to visit Bawn townland in Mullaghoran to see for myself.   

Bawnboy is in West Cavan and is referred to locally as Bawn but I have never heard that the song is about there.


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Subject: RE: ROCKS OF BAWN - MEANING?
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 12:59 AM

You may as well plough the rocks of Bawn as try to come up with one definitive meaning for the song, although there are some real beauties here. Thanks to all.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,kiernan
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 02:41 PM

"Now my socks are getting worn and my coulter is getting thin." Sweeney didn,t wear socks,but the plough did.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Dec 06 - 03:59 PM

The rocks taken out of the rocky fields are the stones used to build the walls between the fields.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Ryan Edwards
Date: 06 Feb 07 - 06:02 PM

This is a super tune and is available on CD from a band called Footstick on their debut cd called Rivercrossing. Worth a listen!


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,scottie in mullaghhoran
Date: 11 Mar 07 - 11:09 AM

hey people just flicking through see some of your comments and inquiry's.. very intresting!! it is indeed rocky and wild pastures in this part of the country but no castles (bawns) as i see someone was commenting.. any way just a hello and slan from me... i may see at a later date if i have any replies.. thanks


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Jim
Date: 12 Mar 07 - 09:04 AM

*


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,A Non-Irish (but nevertheless curious) Perso
Date: 12 Aug 07 - 04:29 PM

Greetings!

I just came upon this thread while googling "Rocks of Bawn". Personally, I became familiar with the song via Arcady's recording, and I too was interested in the meaning.

According to this website, the Rocks of Bawn were a symbol of the labour and workaday toil of the Irish:

http://www.mustrad.org.uk/vop/655.htm

(He seems to know what he's talking about, but I think that it's open to interpretation.)

Peace and good wishes


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Greg B
Date: 12 Aug 07 - 07:01 PM

I think about this song a lot when observing the fact that, each
Spring, the pastures here in Pennsylvania spring forth with a fresh
crop of sedimentary rock, seemingly out of nowhere. The more you
take out, the more seem to float up to the surface. And that's in
well-kept and lightly grazed pastures.

No wonder so many Pennsylvania farmers headed for the Great
Plains.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Mickey191
Date: 12 Aug 07 - 08:01 PM

We've 2 threads running with same subject-anyone care to read my 7:45 post with an explanation of the lyrics see other thread. Thanks


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Celtaddict
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 10:47 PM

I keep hoping Joe Offer or a tech expert will figure out a way to stop those intrusions as above (10:14).

Here in southern New England where the frost pushes a new crop of rocks to the surface every season, when we go out to garden or plant, we refer to it as 'digging potatoes' as we fetch out many fist-sized chunks of granite and gneiss, often rounded by water, with each spade full.

Besides 'white' and 'flat land' the word ban [bhan, bawn, all its myriad spellings] has a general meaning along the lines of 'blank' hence without color (white as a color, or blonde or fair (pale) about a person), or without feature (land or paper), or without covering.
One of the things I love about Irish, like English, is the variety of ways a word can have one general idea and then be applied in such varied ways it seems to acquire multiple unrelated meanings, which are actually related in a larger sense.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Aaron K Donnelly
Date: 22 Jun 08 - 01:55 PM

The poet who wrote the Rocks of Bawn was Patrick Kelly. i think to know what the meanings of bawn or ban, you would have to know the history behind the man Patrick Kelly, who was from Cashel, Connemara.

The area where he lived was very barren land and very hard to on. However, he also was a republican. So his reference to the land might be a reference to the land of Ireland.

In the first verse he says "Come all ye loyal heroes and listen on to me. Don't hire with any farmer till you know what your work will be".

I dont think he is just talking about farming but I feel it's a reference to the britsh army and saying to the Irish people instead to concentrate on working towards Ireland's freedom.

In the last verse the actual words are "I wish the Sergeant-Major would send for me in time, And place me in some regiment all in my youth and prime, I'd fight for Ireland's glory now, from the clear daylight till dawn, Before I would return again to plough the Rocks of Bawn."

In this last verse, I think he refers to Sweeney who he cursed for staying in and not ploughing the field. I think Sweeney is a metaphor for young Irish men. Then refers to himself saying he would fight for Ireland from the clear daylight till dawn.
The words are Sergeant Major not the Queen, the old IRB had sergeant majors and other military positions.

So in conclusion, I think Patrick Kelly was talking about the freedom of Ireland. And the Rocks of Bawn a metaphor for Ireland. What do you think? Does anyone agree with me?


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 22 Jun 08 - 04:48 PM

The words are Sergeant Major not the Queen, the old IRB had sergeant majors and other military positions.

The IRB was a secret society, organised in a cell structure. The idea of "regiment" and "sergeant-major" would have been totally alien.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 22 Jun 08 - 05:06 PM

Found some interesting background on the Patrick Kelly connection:

Click here

Regards


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Brakn
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 02:46 AM

Not the best and maybe not the worst - click here for my version on MySpace.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Aaron K Donnelly
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 11:26 AM

the IRB was not a secret society, however they never announced their membership due to British rule in Ireland at that time.The positions such as sargent would not have been allien to Patrick kelly for he was an educated man and a teacher in kilceron conemara.To write poems at this time about freeing Ireland in a hidden manner was not unusual, for w.b. yeats wrote   "no second troy" which is about freeing Ireland. To any other reader it would seem yeats was talking about a women he loved. Austin Clarke wrote the lost heifer refering to ireland.
check it out
http://www.poetryconnection.net/poets/Austin_Clarke/19554   

thanks
aaron


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,k donnelly
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 11:38 AM

sorry check this sit out about w.b.Yeats
http://homepage.tinet.ie/~splash/NST.html


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: greg stephens
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 12:21 PM

Aaron K Donelly suggests Patrick Kelly's original poem was a clandestine piece of Irish nationalism, and the true meaning had to be hidden because of the attitude of the British government.Donelly explains:" To write poems at this time about freeing Ireland in a hidden manner was not unusual".
Now, this would be convincing, were it not for the fact that we see the original poem in Kelly's book contains the line

"For Ireland will be free".

Not so very well hidden, really!


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 12:39 PM

Yes, however we are talking about the lyrics for the song which could have been writen before this poem was published. We do know that the poem was published in 1977. We can also say that he was young man when he wrote this poem "all in my youth and prime". Also knowing that he lived from 1879-1940.

http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiROCKBANN.html

I know the poem that was published does say "For Ireland will be free". however, i think this backs up my original meaning of the words.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: MartinRyan
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 12:42 PM

Sorry, GUESTAaron, but you're quite wrong about the Fenians.

There are indeed, lots of allegorical songs about Ireland (though, I suspect, not as many as is sometimes thought!). It's just that I find it very hard to believe that The Rocks of Bawn is one of them.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,aaron k donnelly
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 02:46 PM

MartinRyan
i dont think im wrong about the Fenians maybe my education has decived me.
on another note its a good song!!
regards
aaron


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Declan
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 08:19 PM

AAron,

I have to say I agree with Martin on this one.

As for the IRB not being a secret organisation, I think you'd need to back that assertion up with some proof. Most things I've read about the organisation say that they were organised in cells of 10 people or less around a 'centre'. The idea being that no one person knew more than 9 other people so informers could not infiltrate more than a small portion of the organisation.

While it mightn't seem as romantic as your notion, I think the poet was saying that even fighting a war would be preferable to having to Plough the rocks. If so the ploughing must have been tough!


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Mary
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 10:21 PM

I love the fact that this particular poem/song (in whatever version it is) has caused so much discussion to have been 'going around the table until all hours of the night' (basically since the early 1960's).

I would point out that the poem was origianlly published in March 1941, when family/friends published Mr. Kelly's work in "The Salley Ring". It is also possible that it is in the book "Ballads".

Mary


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Mary
Date: 23 Jun 08 - 10:29 PM

Another thought, in reply to Greg Stephens:
Patrick Kelly had no intention of any of us reading his work when he wrote the poems. He didn't think his work was interesting to 'city folk'. For him to use the phrase 'For Ireland will be free', would not be interpreted (sp) as being obviously nationalistic, since he wasn't planning on this kind of publicity.

Mary


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Flavio from Buenos Aires
Date: 18 Sep 08 - 01:22 AM

Hello, I'm trayin to find out if the song Rock of Bawn talk about a some real fact, I'm not find nathing in historical Irish sites. But I find diferents letters (lyrics I think?)....why?

Thank's any data


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Oct 08 - 04:38 AM

I was looking for the lyrics of that song and got to this recording at :

http://www.stumbleaudio.com/#patfloodyfriends/4


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Micheal
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:41 AM

Haven't read all the thread, but has anyone mentioned the Dominic Behan recording? I had this in the 60's, but it's gone the way of all 78's......
    Slainte,
          Micheal OhAodha


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Frank_Finn
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:35 PM

I always thought that the line
"Oh my shoes they are well worn and my stockings they are thin"

referred to the shoes and socks of the narrator, but lately a person told me that it refers to parts of a plough. Does anyone else agree with this?


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,j o'reilly
Date: 09 Jan 09 - 06:22 PM

i have family who live on the farm were the rocks of bawn are . There is a mass held there every year . its in pottle bawn lane in mulahoran my aunt is married to the man who owns the land which in the family name of cook.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,rocks of bawn
Date: 26 May 09 - 05:53 AM

A modern interpritation of a classic song

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFGVy44sePw


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,mick f
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 09:33 AM

look up the word BAWN and you will have your answer !


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Good Soldier Schweik
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 09:49 AM

is it not allegorical,although horse ploughing is obsolete,we are still ploughing our own particular rocks,and battling with the hopelessness of life.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,Guest Kiernan Update
Date: 04 Dec 09 - 04:51 PM

I heard a man called Jimmy Dunne (Mullaghoran Co cavan) Sing 26 verses of this song in Bradys Pub Dundevan Kilcogy Co Cavan- A few miles from the Rocks of Bawn farm in the early 1970/71.
Sadly Jimmy has passed away and I did not write the verses down.
In the song when Sweeney says "come on you loyal heroes" he is referring to the horses,AS I mentioned earlier the widow Bawn was married three times and two of her husbands were killed ploughing the Rocks of Bawn by the plough springing up forcefully as it hits a rock . Hence as it says in the song -it was more dangerous to plough than to join the British army.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 30 Jul 11 - 08:16 AM

it would be nice to piece together the original words to this.Its obviously allegorical but unconsciously so like many others,and another fine product of the tradition. it has achieved an epic & iconic status chiefly thru Joe Heaney.The mixed up words are just the equivalent of archaeological layers.Dominic Behan has Patrick Sarsfield instead of the sergeant major which sounds like a bit of political correcting.It probably was Queen Victoria but it sounded uncool.It does sound Ulster to me.It may have been pentatonic originally and sounds even a bit Scottish.What an amazing discussion.Erudition and piss taking,both appreciated.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,guest marco
Date: 23 Jun 13 - 05:32 PM

Always loved this song in any of it's incarnations...think that it's universality springs from the admonition to young folks to consider how to balance working for "good pay" with finding their own voice/vocation...of course the same applies to a man who should consider that working (ind1scriminately)for a master is just the equivalent of "working to keep working" which means that you are giving your life to a cause not your own...think that the ideas of the Irish being called to join revolutionary forces rather than the Queen's army seem valid, though I haven't really heard a version which is clearly analogous, in that respect...the various historical references are great ...thanks so much


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Jun 13 - 07:46 PM

Since the clear meaning of ploughing the Rocks of Baun being a pretty hopeless task, it'd be very strange and defeatist for it to have been used in reference to the struggle for independence.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jul 13 - 07:04 PM

The mention of Dominic Behan's recording on a Collector EP is mentioned above (not a 78 I believe). The record actually called the song "The Rocks of Baun" but I'm sure this was a typo. I only recognise Joe Heaney's spelling "Rocks of Bawn" as being correct.

see

http://www.45cat.com/record/jei3&rc=203002#203002


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Nov 13 - 07:34 PM

http://www.rocksofbawn.com/

The thought plickens.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Nov 13 - 04:16 PM

how can you talk about typos when you're translating from one language to another- it's a nonsense to say one's correct and the other's wrong, the 'right' one, if any, is in the original language, and I bet they didn't agree in BAWN either


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: GUEST,THE LAST MAN TO PLOUGH THE ROCKS OF BAWN
Date: 18 Apr 14 - 02:26 PM

My father Terence Cooke was the eldest son of Patrick Cooke and Bridget Cooke he worked the farm with his mother as a child and grown man. His father was in America for about 15 years and so he had to become the man of the house at a very young age. He was the last man to plough the rocks of Bawn with shire horses. He was a very proud, kind and generous man with enormous dignity and wisdom.


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Subject: RE: Rocks of Bawn - Meaning?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 18 Apr 14 - 02:34 PM

Notes I've just written for the song
Jim Carroll

Rocks of Bawn – (Roud 3204) Tom Lenihan
For many of us coming to traditional song for the first time in the early 1960s, Joe Heaney's magnificent rendition of it played a major part in making us life-long adherents.
Ewan MacColl's introduction to Joe's singing of it in the BBC radio series, 'The Song Carriers' sums of it up perfectly, these, and all song of the hardships of manual labour.
"The early 19th-century seamen working on the packet ships, clippers and East-India tea-wagons did not see themselves as jolly jack tars- that is a landsman's concept.    For them, it was hard-tack and bluenosed mates, long voyages and short rations.    In the same way, songs made up by farm labourers often reflect the countryman's love-hate relationship with the land.    This is particularly true of the West of Ireland songs. To the hired farm-labourer working the submarginal lands of the west coast where they had learned to subsist on rocks, bogs, salt-water and sea-weed, the .land was an enemy compared with which even the British army appeared as a refuge. 'The Rocks of Bawn', expresses this attitude perfectly."
The BBC recorded this from Liam Clancy's mother 'Mamo' Clancy Ballinafad, Co. Galway in 1954; she said she had heard it as a young woman, but had been prompted to re-learn it from the singing of Seamus Ennis.
Tom Lenihan learned it from local ballad seller, 'Bully' Nevin, and Willie Clancy's aunt, Mary Haren of Clooneyogan; several people have told us that they recall Bully bawling out the song at Miltown cattle fairs. Tom strongly disapproved of the line, "I wish the Queen of England" and said he much preferred Bully's "Patrick Sarsfield", but the comparison of the British army being preferable to ploughing rocks stands as a powerful indictment of the hardships of West of Ireland life in the 19th century.
Dominic Behan claimed the 'Bawn' referred to was in Cavan, the home of Martin Swiney, to whom he attributed the song. Tom Munnely said there were eleven townlands in Ireland bearing the name 'Bawn' and that he had been frequently told that the rocky field referred to was on the outskirts of Granard in County Longford.
Refs
The Song Carriers, 10 BBC radio programmes on the British and Irish singing tradition broadcast Feb-March 1965.
Mount Callan Garland, Songs of Tom Lenihan, Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann 1994


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