Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 8 September 2011

Detective work

Mumblety years ago, on a brief trip to Munich, I heard in the distance some buskers playing a tune that took me in a Proustian rush back to my childhood: my mother sang it going about the house, as I recalled, and I hadn't heard it since. I had no idea what it was, though it was clearly Irish in origin. The buskers had gone by the time I got near them. There was no internet to track it down: nor were there any words I knew to look up anywhere.

Rather more recently, it suddenly appeared again in an old film from the 1950s on the TV one rainy afternoon, but it was only a fragment, gone too quickly to note down any words. But when I signed up to a DVD library, that was one of the titles that went on the reservation list.

And today the DVD turned up; a few words noted, the internet searched, and bingo: "The Gentle Maiden", a traditional tune to which sentimental words were added in Edwardian times, and an even more soupily sentimental recording made by John McCormack. That's probably where my mother got it from, and no doubt it's well known to those who knew it all along. Since McCormack's style doesn't appeal to everyone these days (and certainly not to me), here's a purely instrumental version:

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