DOWNLOAD THE SONGSHEET
YOU CAN PLAY ALONG WITH THE VIDEO! Mark is calling this our challenge song because he REALLY wants to keep it in Bb :) Great way to learn more challenging chords with a well-loved song!
The origins of the song are unclear, but it has been traced to an Irish-language song, "Do bhí bean uasal" ("There Was a Noblewoman"), which is attributed to the poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, who died in 1745 in County Clare.
The song appears on a ballad sheet in Cork City in the mid nineteenth century in macaronic form. The Irish lyrics were about a man being cuckolded, a bawdy and humorous ditty. By contrast, the English lyrics are nostalgic.
With the Industrial Revolution, a linen-trade developed between County Antrim (where Carrickfergus is situated), and County Cork. It is possible the English lyrics came from snatches picked up in interactions between the Cork men and the Antrim men.
Robert Gogan suggests Carrickfergus may have evolved from at least two separate songs, which would explain why it does not have a consistent narrative. For example, the Ancient Music of Ireland, published by George Petrie in 1855, contained a song called "The Young Lady" which featured many but not all of the lyrics used in Carrickfergus. Gogan also refers to a recording of a song called "Sweet Maggie Gordon" which is kept in the Music for the Nation section of the US Library of Congress. It was published by Mrs Pauline Lieder in New York in 1880. It contains verses which are similar to Carrickfergus, but the chorus is closer to another Irish/Scottish folk song called "Peggy Gordon".
In modern times, "Carrickfergus" became known after actor Peter O'Toole related it to Dominic Behan, who put it in print and made a recording in the mid-1960s. The middle verse was allegedly written by Behan.
The song has been recorded by many well known performers.