Jon credits Planxty as his source of this one saying, “This is possibly the first song I ever learnt, probably aged about 14, although I think I was mostly attracted by the alligator line at the time. You’ll find this sung a lot at Irish sessions.”
Tellingly Mainly Norfolk reveals Mike Waterson as Christy Moore’s source, albeit from the notes to a later solo album, rather than Cold Blow And The Rainy Night, the Planxty album that includes the song and of course features Christy. I note too the sentiment that it has entered the National Irish repertoire, which confirms Jon’s comment. Another of Planxty’s alumni, Paul Brady, has made this a bit of a signature tune and I’m sure I’ve seen a cracking version performed on The Transatlantic Sessions. Martin Simpson is another, who does a great version and Wiki names a few others, who I really can’t comment on except for the most unlikely version being by Tangerine Dream!!! Wiki also does its best to date this and suggests the American civil war era, with a number of compelling clues. The essential story may be a little older getting a bit of a makeover as it seems a vaguely familiar sort of a plot. The tune is robust enough to escape the obvious embellishments that those I have chosen to highlight above can inevitably deliver and Jon brings out the essential sadness at the core of this. Broke, drifting with the prospect of sleeping rough, things take a turn for the better with the hospitality of a beautiful, young woman. Regrettably her heart is taken by another, so it’s time to move on again. Sigh!