If I were king of Ireland's isle and had all things at my will,
I'd roam for recreation and I'd seek for comfort still;
The comfort I would ask for, so that you may understand,
Is to win the heart of Martha, the flower of sweet Strabane.
Her cheeks they are a ruby red, her hair a lovely brown,
And o'er her milk white shoulders it carelessly hangs down;
She is the fairest creature and the pride of all her clan,
And my heart is captivated by the flower of sweet Strabane.
Well I've been in the Phoenix Park and in Killarney fair,
The lovely glens of Antrim and the winding banks of Clare;
In all my earthly travels I never yet met one,
That could compare, I do declare, with the flower of sweet Strabane.
But since I cannot gain her love, no joy there is for me,
And I must seek forgetfulness in lands across the sea;
Unless she cares to follow me, I swear by my right hand,
McKenna's face you'll ne'er more see, my flower of sweet Strabane.
So it's farewell to sweet Derry Quay, New Mills and Waterside,
I'll sail out o'er the ocean, whatever may betide;
I'll sail away from Derry Quay out by the Isle of Man,
And I'll bid farewell to Martha, the flower of sweet Strabane.
####.... Author unknown. Variant of an Irish traditional collected in Northern Ireland in 1928 by Sam Henry [1878-1952] and published as #224 on p.191 in Sam Henry's Songs Of The People, edited, transcribed, and annotated by E. Gale Huntingdon [1901-1993]; revised with additions and indices by Lani Hermann (University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 1990) ....####
The lyrics above were arranged and recorded by Ryan's Fancy (Currahs, Minstrels, Rocks & Whiskey, trk#9, 1971, Gunn Records).
The YouTube video above features a lively variant arranged and recorded by The New Minstrel Revue.
Sam Henry noted [in 1928]: "The song tells of a draper's assistant named MacDonald who sought in vain the hand of his employer's daughter, Miss [Martha] Ramsay, of Strabane. The song is about 80 years old [c.1848]. It was first published in a Derry newspaper by Dan McAnew in 1909."
The YouTube video below features a variant recorded as Sweet Strabane on the last complete album released by Harry Hibbs before his death (A Musical Tour Of Ireland, trk#3, 1982, Fantasia Records and Tapes, Mississauga, Ontario); and (Bell Island Boy, trk#7, 1995 CD, a special limited edition of 1000 CDs produced by Marty Hibbs to help fund the Harry Hibbs Memorial Park scheduled to open on Bell Island that year).