The Tri​-​Coloured House

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about

Tom Munnelly (1944–2007), the well-known folklore collector from Dublin, recorded this ballad from Mrs Mary Kate McDonagh in July 1973. Mary, a settled Traveller living in Mohill, Co. Leitrim, told Tom that she had learnt it from her father. At the time Tom was working as a fulltime collector for the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin. During his lifetime he recorded, indexed and transcribed over 20,000 songs, many of which came from the Travelling community who had retained many of the older ballads for a long time after they were widely believed to have died out. ‘The Tri-Coloured House’ is related to Child’s ‘Elfin Knight’, a song in which one party (often described as an elf in older versions of the ballad) sets another a series of impossible tasks. Many different versions have been collected in Ireland, as well as further afield, and Child noted that the basic plot occurs in narrative form in India, Russia and Arabia.

lyrics

Were you ever down at the tri‐coloured house, where every rose grows merry and fine
It's there you will meet with a neat bonnie lass, will you tell her she'll be a true love of mine

Will you tell her to make me a fine new shirt, where every...
Without any seams nor needlework, and its then she will be...

Oh and tell her to wash it in yon spring well...
Where water never sprung nor never fell...

And tell her to hang it on yon whitethorn...
Where there ne'er grew a thorn since Adam was born...

Will you tell her to iron it all with a millstone...
And when she has it done for to send it right home...

Where you ever down at the tricoloured house...
It's there you will meet with a neat bonny lad, will you tell him hell be a true love of mine

Will you tell him to farm an acre of land...
Between the salt water and the sea sand...

Oh and tell him to plough it all with a deer's horn...
And tell him to sew it with one grain of corn...

Will you tell him to thrash it again you castle wall...
And to let neither chaff nor corn fall...

Were you ever down at the tri‐coloured house, where every rose grows merry and fine
It's there you will meet with a neat bonnie lass, will you tell her shell be a true love of mine

credits

from Cold Old Fire, released May 25, 2014
Trad. arr. Lynched

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Lynched Dublin, Ireland

Gritty folksongs from the heart of Dublin city.

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