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The Monaghan grey mare

Posted by Henry on December 06, 2004

In Reply to: Skewbald & piebald posted by Lotg on December 06, 2004

: : : : : Spurred by Goddesses admission that she drinks only wine and not beer [Oz wine's nearly as good as South African], who can help me with the second line of this catchy lyric, the title, date, singer and where I can find the full text? It's one of these frustrating tunes that's been going round in my head, and I haven't been able to locate it: Is it Peter, Paul and Mary?

: : : : : Here's the tale of a racehorse
: : : : : [Da da da da da]
: : : : : He never drank water
: : : : : He only drank wine.

: : : : : --Keith

: : : : South African wine's better than ours? Wow, I'll have to try some. I never have, and while I'm thrilled with what we have to offer, I'm always willing to accept there could be better - but ONLY if I can have some. ---GODDESS

: : : Oh, "Stewball" was a racehorse
: : : And I wish he were mine
: : : He never drank water
: : : He only drank wine...

: : : It's a pretty standard folk ballad though there are many versions. Peter, Paul, and Mary did a nice rendition of one version.

: : : There was apparently a match race between a skewbald horse and a grey mare in Ireland in the 18th century that was the inspiration for the song.

: : That was just great. With your tip, I got straight away the PPM lyric and also the quite different Cisco Houston one which I didnt know about. These are quite Americanized versions. If there's an Irish version I'd be interested. Help a lazy man with "skewbald". (I'm still waiting for my OED). Also, what about Oz, GODDESS? (know you'll read this). Lots of Irish influence, any sign of that song there? Hope S African wine travels well, you'll get a taste of the best one day.

: : (BTW I dont think this chat is off topic because song and poetry, with their more fixed form, transmit idiom more faithfully than prose and speech. And its great to see how songs mutate as they travel.

: Skewbald...

: Main Entry: 1skew·bald
: Pronunciation: -"bold
: Function: adjective
: Etymology: skewed (skewbald) + bald
: of an animal : marked with patches of white and any other color but black

: Piebald...
: Main Entry: 1pie·bald
: Pronunciation: 'pI-"bold
: Function: adjective
: 1 : of different colors; especially : spotted or blotched with black and white
: 2 : composed of incongruous parts

: Actually, I'm glad you asked cos as a kid who grew up in the bush, we had horses that we called skewbald and piebald, but frankly I never knew the difference. Looking at these two MW definitions, it appears to me that the only difference is that skewbald horses have no black on them.

: And yet, when I think back, mum was always very precise about it. She referred to our brown and white patchy horse as skewbald and our black and white patchy horse as piebald - so clearly, though I hate to admit she was right (and I have no intention of telling her) - she knew the difference.

: I also notice in that verse that the horse's name was 'stewball', so we don't really know if he was a skewbald horse.

: As for Aussie versions. Well possibly, but I must say I've never heard that song. I'll have a look around, you just never know. ---GODDESS

The Digitrad collection on the Mudcat site is a good place to look for folk songs. Here's a great Irish version compiled by Andy Irvine which he called The Plains of Kildare. It was released on the album simply titled 'Andy Irvine & Paul Brady.'

The Plains of Kildare
New words and music: Andy Irvine

Come all you bold sportsmen and listen to my story
It's about noble Stewball that gallant racing pony
Arthur Marble was the man that first brought Stewball here
For to run with Miss Griesel on the Plains of Kildare.

O the fame of his actions we've heard of before
But now he is challenged by young Mrs. Gore
For to run with Miss Griesel that handsome grey mare
For ten thousand gold guineas on the Plains of Kildare.

And the cattle they were brought out with saddle whip and bridle
And the gentlemen did shout at the sight of the gallant riders
And in viewing the cattle just as they came there
O they all laid their money on the Monaghan grey mare.

And the order it was given and away they did fly
Stewball like an arrow the grey mare passed by
And if you had've been there for to see them going round
You'd've thought to your heart their feet ne'er touched the ground.

And when at last they came to half way round the course
Stewball and his rider began to discourse
Says Stewball to the rider "Can you tell to me
How far is that grey mare this moment from me."

Says the rider to Stewball "You run in great style
You're ahead of the grey mare almost half a mile
And if you keep your running I vow and I swear
That you never will be beaten by the Monaghan grey mare."

The last winning post, Stewball passed it quite handy
Horse and rider both called for sherry wine and brandy
And they drank up a health to the noble grey mare
For she emptied their pockets on the Plains of Kildare.