Undaunted Mary or  “The Banks of the Sweet Dundee”

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“Undaunted Mary” or  “The Banks of the Sweet Dundee” is a nineteenth-century ballad reported in numerous broadside (since 1820) particularly popular in the British Isles (England, Scotland and Ireland) and also widespread in North America (USA) and Canada), still sung today (there are more than 170 versions)

Calling by Roy Palmer, “a 19th-century melodrama” it tells of a rich heiress who remains without parents,and she is forced by her uncle to take an arrogant husband; Mary is instead secretly in love with William, a simple peasant, but in the shadows her uncle plot to call the enlisters to take away her handsome William.
So the nobile suitor reoccurs or rather throws himself on the afflicted Mary trying to put her in front of the fait accompli, but she rebels, takes his pistols and kills him.
Her uncle hearing the shot runs to see and of course he wants to punish Mary, but she shoots her uncle mortally wounding him. At the point of death, his uncle leaves his estate in testament, paying tribute to the strength of mind demonstrated by his nephew (once when a girl of good family managed to shoot with guns it was considered an act of extreme courage)!

SEA SHANTY VERSION

So the version of John Short inserts the ballad “The Banks of the Sweet Dundee” in the structure of a sea shanty s following the melody and chorus of Heave Away, My Johnny (We’re All Bound to Go)
Barbara Brown from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor vol 3 ♪  accompanied in the chorus by Keith Kendrick and Jackie Oates
This is another shanty where, with the tune and structure fairly consistent, different texts were used over time.  Sharp had only three verses from Short – but they immediately show his text to have been the folksong Banks of the Sweet Dundee.  Colcord also notes the use of Banks of the Sweet Dundee to this tune and notes that “this version was seldom or never sung on American ships.” Other texts used for this shanty include, as Colcord notes, Mr. Tapscott – which Short used to the New York Girls tune (see Mr. Tapscott).   Hugill quotes both Mr. Tapscott and The Banks of Newfoundland texts as sung to Heave Away Me Johnny. Whall and Colcord both surmise an 1850s’ origin to the shanty, but this assumption seems to be based on the fact that their texts are both Mr. Tapscott versions.  Hugill says that the most popular way of singing this shanty in the latter days of sail was with the ‘Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool’’ set of words.  Perhaps we have an evolution here where the form, tune and chorus remains fairly consistent, but the texts used move from Banks of the Sweet Dundee to Mr. Tapscott to Sometimes we’re bound for Liverpool’.  Short, once again, gives us an early version and it may indicate that the shanty started life on the English side of the pond rather than the American. From Short’s three verses we have expanded the text from the closest broadside versions of Banks of the Sweet Dundee.  The full text would take too much time for even the longest of tasks so we have exercised some précis skills without, hopefully, destroying the story!   (from here)

I
It’s of a farmer’s daughter,
so beautiful I’m told
Heave away my Johnnies,
heave away
.
Her parents died and left her
five hundred pound in gold;
Heave away me bully boys,
we’re all bound to go.
Now there was a wealthy squire
who oft her came to see,
But Mary loved a ploughboy
on the banks of the sweet Dundee (1).
II
Her uncle and the squire
rode out one summer’s day,
“Young William he’s in favour,”
her uncle he did say.
“Indeed it’s my intention
to tie him to a tree (2)
Or to bribe the press gang (3)
on the banks of the sweet Dundee.”
III
Now the press gang came for William when he was all alone,
He boldly fought for liberty,
but they were six to one.
The blood did flow in torrents,
“Pray, kill me now,” says he,
“I would rather die (4) for Mary
on the banks of the sweet Dundee.”
IV
This maid one day was walking, lamenting for her love,
When she met the wealthy squire down in her uncle’s grove.
And he put his arms around her,
“Stand off, base man,” said she;
“For you vanished the only man I love from the banks of the sweet Dundee.”
V
And young Mary took his pistols
and the sword he used so free,
But she did fire and shot the squire
on the banks of the sweet Dundee.
VI
Her uncle overheard the noise
and he hastened to the sound,
“Since you have shot the squire
I’ll give you your death wound!”
“Stand off!” then cried young Mary, “undaunted (5) I will be!”
She the trigger drew
and her uncle slew
on the banks of the sweet Dundee.
VII
He willed his gold to Mary
who fought so valiantly,
Then he closed his eyes,
no more to rise,
on the banks of the sweet Dundee.

NOTES
1) Many question the name Dundee being a small town in Scotland but without a river of the same name. Obviously it can be any hill or mountain slope near Dundee, even a small stream in the surroundings. Among the hypotheses Ruairidh Greig suggests that it is a mispronunciation of a compound name Dun Dee referring to the river Dee (see more)
2) to leave him at the forest fairs as it was used in the past with poachers
3) The enlistment in the British armies was voluntary, so in the second half of the 1600s and until the mid 1800s, the recruiting sergeants with a young tambourine went around the countryside. They were good at convincing the young tipsy men who were in the inns, to take the infamous King’s Shilling.
And so on with crews for warships.
They used brutal methods with the system called “impressment” or forced recruitment by “press gangs” during mass raids, under the pretext of arrest for minor crimes in which the unfortunate person was just a vagabond and drunk tied up like a salami and boarded
4) we have some hypotheses (with related variations) on how it went: in fact some prefer the happy ending, so William is not killed, but only enrolled in the navy and then return and get married with the beautiful Mary
5) the archetype of the warrior woman corresponding to the strong and courageous adolescent female who does not lose her femininity, rather preserves it for the man who manages to marry her (usually after passing some tests). It is no coincidence that in some Piedmontese versions of the ballad, the virginity of the girl remaining in close contact with the male world is emphasized (see more)

FOLK VERSION

The June Tabor version stands out among all
June Tabor


I
It’s of a farmer’s daughter,
so beautiful I am told.
Her father died and left her
five hundred pounds in gold.
She lived with her uncle,
the cause of all her woe,
But you soon shall hear how this fair maiden  that causes his overthrow
II
Her uncle had a ploughboy young Mary loved fair well
And in her uncle’s garden
their tales of love they’d tell.
There was a wealthy squire
who oft her came to see
But still she loved her ploughboy
on the banks of sweet Dundee.
III
Her uncle and the squire
rode out once on summer’s day.
“Young William’s in favour,”
her uncle then did say,
“Indeed is my intention
to tie him to a tree
Or else to bribe the press gang
on the banks of sweet Dundee.“
IV
The press gang found young William when he was all alone;
He boldly fought for liberty,
but they were six to one.
The blood did flow in torrents,
“Pray, kill me now,” says he,
“I’d rather die for Mary
on the banks of sweet Dundee.“
V
One day this maid was walking, lamenting for her love,
She met the wealthy squire
down by her uncle’s grove.
He put his arms around her,
“Stand off, base man,” said she;
“I would rather die for William
on banks of sweet Dundee.“
 
VI
He put his arms around her
and tried to cast her down;
Two pistols and a sword
she spied beneath his morning gown.
Young Mary drew the pistols
and the sword he used so free;
And she did fire and shot the squire
on the banks of sweet Dundee.
VII
Her uncle overheard the noise
and hastened to the ground,
“Since you shoted the squire,
I’ll give you your death wound!”
“Stand off!” said Mary,
“undaunted I will be!”
The trigger she drew and her uncle slew on the banks of sweet Dundee.
VIII
The doctor was sent for
a man of noted skill,
And likewise a lawyer
that he maked  his will;
He left his gold to Mary
who’d fought so manfully
And closed his eyes,
no more to rise,
on the banks of sweet Dundee.

LINK
http://ontanomagico.altervista.org/arthur-mcbride.htm
https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/15084/transcript/1
http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/teach/ballads/mary.html
http://www.joe-offer.com/folkinfo/songs/255.html
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=113888

https://mainlynorfolk.info/lloyd/songs/heaveawaymyjohnny.html
https://mainlynorfolk.info/june.tabor/songs/thebanksofthesweetdundee.html

 

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