Galway Shawl, The - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

An enigmatic and rather beautiful traditional Irish folk song, The Galway Shawl tells of a traveller's chance encounter with a beautiful young woman.  She takes him home to meet her (one supposes) fairly imposing six-foot tall father.  The traveller, as it turns out, is a musician (frankly, a skill that comes in handy for young men looking for young women).  He (ahem) 'performs' whilst her father is watching, and then, the next morning, hits the road for Donegal.  Unfortunately, he forgets his heart, leaving it with the Galway shawl, which all sounds a bit messy if you start to think about it.  I guess it was the woman, and not the item of clothing, that he fell for.

Levity aside, besides the fact that it is Irish, very little is known for sure about the origins of this song, though Wikipedia reports that it was first collected by Sam Henry in Northern Ireland in 1936.  It has been widely performed and recorded, by the Dubliners amongst others.

Chords

Verse

         C       G                  C           G

Near Oranmore in the county Galway

        Bm          Em                     D              C           D
One pleasant evening in the month of May,

   C           G                            C                 G
I spied a damsel - she was young and handsome.

       Bm       Em               D                      G        C     G
Her beauty fairly took       my breath away.




Chorus

       C             G                C          G

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
     
      Bm           Em                     D           C           D

No paint nor powder, oh no none at all;

       C           G                   C             G
She wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,

         Bm            Em                      D           G           C     G
And 'round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.



Play the chords with a lilting 6/8 rhythm.

Lyrics

Near Oranmore in the county Galway
One pleasant evening in the month of May,
I spied a damsel - she was young and handsome.
Her beauty fairly took my breath away.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, oh no none at all;
She wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,
And 'round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.

She kept on walking - she kept on talking,
'Til her father's cottage, it came in to view.
Said she, "come in sir and meet my father
And play, to please him, 'The Foggy Dew.'"

I played, 'The Black Bird', 'The Stack of Barley',
'Rodney's Glory' and 'The Foggy Dew';
She sang each note like an Irish linnet,
'Til tears weld in her eyes of blue.

She sat me down beside the hearthstone;
I could see her father - he was six feet tall;
And soon her mother, had the kettle singing.
All I could think of was the Galway shawl.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, oh no none at all;
She wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,
And 'round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.

'Twas early, early, all in the morning
I took the road for old Donegal;
Said she, "goodbye sir"; she cried and kissed me,
But my heart remain with the Galway shawl.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds,
No paint nor powder, oh no none at all;
She wore a bonnet with ribbons on it,
And 'round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.

 

The lyrics above are a little different to the ones that the Dubliners sing in the YouTube video - they omit the verse with the six-foot father (too frightening?).

Other Irish Folk Songs
Other Traditional Folk Songs