....Just Another Tune

Songs & Their History



"Eileen Aroon" & "Robin Adair" 
A Chronological List: 1729 - ca. 1900


First version: 20.3.2011
with some additional information added since August 2011




The first part is an attempt at collecting and listing as much information as possible about the history of the songs "Eileen Aroon" (or "Ellen A Roon", "Aileen A Roon" etc) and "Robin Adair" for the years between  1729 - when the first printed version appeared -  and 1811/12 when  John Braham introduced the "new" "Robin Adair". I do not in anyway claim this to be complete but I hope I have included all the important versions, editions and performers. For the years since 1812 I have only listed selected items to show the two songs' subsequent history and development during the 19th century. 

I am deeply indebted to these two outstanding and indispensable works:

These databases were also used:

For the rest of the literature and online resources used here please see the Bibliography. I have added links if the sources are available online. Google Books and the Internet Archive (here especially the collection of the National Library of Scotland) are great treasure troves but sites like Irish Collections Online, the IMSLP and abcnotation.com have also a lot to offer.

I have included the scores for some of the of the variants (either self-made or as images from the books), some midi-files and have also occasionally embedded the bookreader of the Internet Archive.


Part I: 1729 - 1811/12

001. 1729, Ellen A Roon (tune)

  • in: Charles Coffey, The Beggar's Wedding. A New Opera. As it is acted at the Theatre in Dublin, with great applause. And at the Theatre in the Hay-Market. To which are added the new prologue and epilogue, and the musick to all the songs, The Third Edition, London 1729 (ESTC N033008, ECCO), p. 63 (3rd Act, Air XVIII: text), Appendix, p. 12 (tune No. 18) 

[SITM I, No. 600, p. 111]
In 1729 Charles Coffey borrowed the tune of "Ellen A Roon" for his ballad opera The Beggar's Wedding that was performed both in London and Dublin that year. John Gay's Beggar's Opera had been a great success the year before and "there was a rage for these ballad operas [...] between 1728 and 1733" (Kidson, p. 102) and Coffey was among the first to jump  on the bandwagon. The premiere in Dublin was on March 24th at Smock Alley but it seems it was a failure there. Only two more performances are documented (Boydell, DMC, p. 45, Greene & Clark, The Dublin Stage, p. 118-9, Moffatt 1898, p. 500). In London "The Beggar's Wedding" was first performed on May 29th at the New Haymarket Theatre and there it was much more successful: 35 performances are known (London Stage 2.2, p. 1036; London Stage 3.1, p. cxxxix).

Coffey used the tune in the 3rd act as "Air XVII" (Air XVIII since the third edition) for this text:

How bashful Maids appear,
Till once they're try'd,
But they soon banish Fear,
Commencing Bride:
Were wives assur'd to be
Posses'd of Liberty,
Sure marriage then wou'd be
Wholly our pride.

The first two editions did not include the music. But for the third edition he added an appendix with all the tunes. It was announced in an ad in the Daily Courant (August 8, 1729, BBCN, Gale DocNr. Z2000213474):

This Day is published
The Third Edition, beautifully printed, with the Musick to all
the Songs, engraved by Mr. Cross, of
As it is acted at the Theatre in Dublin, with great Applause;
and at the Theatre in the Hay-Market. To which are added
the New Prologue and Epilogue. By Charles Coffey.
Printed for James and John Knapton, at the Crown in St.
Paul's Church-yard. price 1 s.

The tune can be found in Moffat 1898, p. 338 and - in abc-notation - at Bruce Olson's site (S1.ABC, tune 1):  

1. "Ellen A Roon", tune from: Charles Coffey, The Beggar's Wedding, 3rd Edition, London 1729, app. p. 12

The B-part is little bit different from later versions! But it also would be a little difficult to sing the Coffey's text to this tune because the second half of this variant is some bars longer than necessary. 

It seems that this version of "Ellen A Roon" didn't have much influence. I am not aware of any reports about more performances of "Ellen A Roon" in the following years, except one remark by W. Grattan Flood  (in: History of Irish Literature, 1905, Chapter VII) that it  was "sung to phonetically written Irish words in 1731 at the old Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, by Mrs. Sterling, in an opera epilogue to 'Richard III."


002. (ca. 1735/36), "Ellin A Roon" (tune)

  • in: The Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing-Master: Containing Great Variety of Dances, both Old and New, Particularly Those Perform'd at the Several Masquerades: Together with All The Choicest and most Noted Country Dances Perform'd at Court, the Theatres, and Publick Balls [...], the 3rd Edition, London, Printed for & Sold by I. Walsh, Musick Printer & Instrument maker to his Majesty at ye Harp & Hoboy in Catherine Street in the Strand, [ca. 1735/36] ), No. 18  (This is available as pdf-file together with the 4th edition of the 1st book [ca. 1740?] at IMSLP)

Listed by Bruce Olson, Country Dances after 1730, who says it was published in 1735. According to the Bibliography of English Dance Books of the Colonial Music Institute it's from 1736.

2. From: John Walsh, The Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing Master, 3d Edition, London ca. 1735, No. 18


003. 1739 - Robin Adair (tune)

  • Eliz. Young, Her Book (Music for the Harpsichord, including minuets by Handel and others, and Scottish Tunes), MS 5.2.23 (National Library of Scotland) 

[SITM, No. 849, p. 156]
According to a list of Bagpipe Music Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland on the site of the Piobaireachd Society "the name Eliz. Young and the date February 21st 1739 appear inside the front cover":

3. "Robin Adair", in: Eliz. Young, Her Book, NLS MS 5.2.23,

This is clearly a variant of "Eileen Aroon"  but, alas, it's only the first half of the song: the B-part is missing. But at least this version shows  that the tune was known in Scotland already at this time and it was associated with the  song called "Robin Adair".


004. 1741/42, "Ducatu Non Vanna" (tune & text: 3 verses) - Kitty Clive

  • Aileen Aroon, An Irish ballad. Sung by Mrs. Clive at ye. Theatre Royal.., London, [n. d., ca. 1742]; 1 score ([1] leaf). Arr. on two staves for voice and harpsichord; with a version for the flute. Irish words. First line: Duca tu non vanna tu aileen aroon. (Bodleian: Harding Mus. G.O. 14 (6) or Mus. 9 c.5 (140); British Library: see Copac; facsimile reprint in Maunder 1993, p. 449)

The complete text:

Du ca tu non Vanna tu Aileen aroon,
San Duca tu non Vanna tu aileen aroon,
Duca tu non Vanna tu,
Duca tu non Vanna tu,
Duca tu, Duca tu, Duca tu non Vanna tu,
O Duca tu non Vanna tu aileen aroon.

    Kead mille Faltie rote aileen aroon,
    Kead mille Faltie rote aileen aroon,
    Kead mille Faltie rote,
    Kead mille Faltie rote,
    Oct mille, nee mille, deh mille Faltie rote,
    O Faltie gus fine rote aileen aroon.

    Tuca me sni anna me sgra ma chree stu,
    O Tuca me sni anna me sgra ma chree stu,
    Tuca me sni anna me,
    Tuca me sni anna me,
    Tuca me sni anna me sni anna me sgra me chree stu.

 According to Bruce Olson (Scarce Songs: Eileen Aroon; see also the translation quoted there) "the song is in Gaelic, spelled phonetically, and apparently in Ulster dialect". A transcription of the melody can also be found in Moffat 1898, p. 338. Here is the first verse:

4.  "Aileen Aroon", as sung by Kitty Clive, tune and first verse from song sheet, London ca. 1742

Kitty Clive (1711 - 1785) was a very popular actress and singer. She started her career in London at the end of the 1720s. In 1728 she joined the "Drury Lane company [and] remained in it, with very few absences, for over forty years" (Fiske, English Theatre Music, p. 625).  From June to August 1741 she visited Dublin and performed in plays like The Miser - a comedy -, Othello, The Devil To Pay, The Provoked Husband, King Henry VIIII, King Lear and Thomas Arne's Comus. At that time it was common to perform song of all kinds between acts. For example on July 27th she sang the "celebrated Scots Song called Mary Scott" during The Double Dealer.

A performance of "the celebrated Song called Ellen a Roon, by Mrs Clive" in The Miser for August 19th was announced in the Dublin News-Letter (4.- 8. 8. 1741). It seems this was the very first time she sang it on stage. According to a report in Faulkner's Dublin Journal (8. - 11. 8. 1741) she learned the song "in Compliment to the Irish Ladies and Gentleman, for the Civilities which she hath received" (quoted from Boydell, DMC p. 72-3). Her first documented performance of this song in London was on 8. 3. 1742,  after the third act of the comedy The Man Of Mode at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane:

"The celebrated Irish Ballad Elin a Roon, sung by Mrs. Clive in Irish, as she perform'd it at the Theatre Royal in Dublin" (London Stage 3.2, p. 974) .

"Ellen a Roon" was also announced for March 22nd - "at the particular desire of several ladies of quality"-when the plays The Confederacy and The Mock Doctor were performed, for April 5th (Conscious Lover & The Mock Doctor), for April 6th again during The Man Of Mode, for April 20th (The Committee & Chrononhotonthologos, Emporor Of Queermania) , for May 1st (The Miser & The King And The Miller Of Mansfield) and for May 17th (The Provoked Husband & The King And The Miller Of Mansfield; see London Stage 3.2, p. 977, 981, 982, 983-4, 989,994). It seems it was one of the greatest hits of the season and therefore the song was also published on a single sheet.

"Ellen a Roon" remained in her repertoire at least until 1757. On March 10 that year the Public Advertiser (BBCN, Z2001073165) published an ad for a performance of  "a Comedy call'd The Wonder; a Woman keeps a Secret" on Monday, March 28 at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane: "And by particular Desire, Ellen-a-roon to be sung by Mrs. Clive" (see also London Stage 4.2, p. 589). 

Kitty Clive was responsible for the song's great popularity. Since 1742 other singers and instrumentalists added "Aileen Aroon" to their repertoire and it was regularly performed on stage both in London and in Dublin. Boydell (Rotunda Music, p. 158; see also his Dublin Musical Calender, Index, p. 299) lists nearly 20 artists who performed or published versions the song in Dublin between 1743 and 1784. For example on February 1, 1743  young violin virtuoso John Neale,  "a child of ten years old" played "Ellin a Roon, with all his variations" during a concert at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin (Cummings, p. 25-6). This was also published as sheet music that year (Boyndell, Rotunda Music, p. 158).

In London it became equally popular. For example London's  Daily Advertiser on Thursday, December 15, 1743 (BBCN, Z2000149046) had an ad for a "Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music" the next day  at the Mitre Taven in Duke's Place with  "Ellin A Roon, on the Violin by Mr. Walsh". The same paper on  Saturday, September 7, 1745 BBCN, Z2000151706 announced another show including  "by Desire, Ellen A Roon by Miss Lincoln."


005ca. 1742 [poss. 1733-35]: "Ellin A Roon" (tune)

  • in: Wright's Compleat Collection of Celebrated Country Dances, Vol.2, London, Printed for J. Johnson, ca. 1742, p. 86 (see the entry in the bibliography of Early American Secular Music and Its European Sources, 1589-1839, Colonial Music Institute); this book was was most likely compiled between 1733 and 1735 and also possibly published at that time in London by Daniel Wright, sen. & jun. as A Collection Of 200 Celebrated Scotch and English Country Dances, which are perform'd at Court, and likewise at most publick and private Balls, which were never before published.

[SITM I, No. 892, p. 161; here the title of the book is given as John Johnson, A Choice Collection Of 200 Favourite Country Dances, Vol. 2. But by all accounts this series was published under that name only from Vol. 3 onwards.]

This variant is quite similar to Kitty Clive's version but it is not derived from hers because it was collected nearly a decade before she sang the song in London. It probably also predates the "Ellin A Roon" published in John Walsh's Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing-Master.

Daniel Wright was a "musical instrument maker, and musick printer" in London. He started publishing books around 1709/10. His first documented publication was Lessons for the Harpsichord or Spinnet by Baptist Lully (Kidson, British Music Publishers, pp. 156-7). Like other printers of that era he often preferred roughshod methods and Sir John Hawkins later quipped in his General History of the Science and Practice of Music that he "never printed anything that he did not steal" (1776, Vol. 5, p. 342). His son, Daniel Wright, jun. followed him in his footsteps and set up his own business in 1725 (Kidson, p. 157).

Already in the late 1720s they published collections of country dances. In Fog's Weekly Journal, July 25, 1730 (Gale DocNr. Z2000333847, BBCN) I found an ad for the  Second Book of an hundred and twenty Country Dances for the Flute. In 1733 they announced an even more comprehensive compilation of popular dance music: “There is not one Dance in this Book, but what is useful, and the Directions to them are set after the most Modern Manner” (Grub Street Journal, April 12, 1733, Gale DocNr. Z2000498511 and  Fog's Weekly Journal, Saturday, April 14, 1733, Gale DocNr. Z2000334569, BBCN):

A Collection Of 200 Celebrated Scotch and English Country Dances, which are perform'd at Court, and likewise at most publick and private Balls, which were never before published, Printed for and sold by Daniel Wright next the Sun Tavern on Holbourne, and D. Wright, jun.at the Golden Bass in St.Paul's Church-yard, and Tho. Wright at the Golden Harp on London Bridge.

No copies of the original edition of this book or of the second volume have survived. It is not even clear if the latter  - the one that  included "Ellin A Roon" - was ever published by the Wrights. If so it must have been between 1733 and 1735.  Kidson (p. 157) claims that "the two volumes are advertised on one of Wright's books" but this note in The Second Book of the Flute Master - "[...] where may be had the 1st and 2nd Country Dances for the Flute" (dt., p.159) -  surely refers to the two books of Hundred and twenty Country Dances for the Flute of which the second one was published in 1730.

The elder Wright "gave up business or died sometime near the year 1734" and his son - whose last documented publication dates from around 1735 (Kidson, p. 157, 159 ) - also quickly vanished from the scene. Maybe the younger Wright only stopped publishing music and concentrated on building musical instruments. C. Stainers Dictionary Of Violin Makers (1890, p. 101) lists one with that name who "lived in London about 1745 and is only known by his label: 'Made by Daniel Wright in Holborn, London'". It is possible the Wrights had compiled this volume and prepared it for print but - with he death of the father and the apparent demise of the son's publishing business - hadn't managed to put it out.

Thankfully around the year 1740 John Johnson, "musical instrument maker [...] in Cheapside, London" started publishing music books  and  he bought at least a part of the Wrights' stock (Kidson, p. 66, 157). In 1740 and 1742 he published both volumes of the Collection Of 200 Celebrated Scotch and English Country Dances as Wright's Compleat Collection of Celebrated Country Dances, Vol.1 & 2. Kidson (p. 66)  notes that  "from the early character of the engraving it appears likely that the books are from plates originally issued" by the Wrights.  Johnson - who became one of the most important music publishers of that time - continued with this series and issued six more volumes between 1744 and 1765, but now with the title A Choice Collection Of 200 Favourite Country Dances, Vols. 3 - 8 (see the list in SITM II, p. 1253).

This massive collection was still available many years later. Robert Bremner acquired some of Johnson's plates. "Country Dances, (excellent) [...] 8 vols." were listed in Bremner's Catalogue of Vocal and Instrumental Music, March 1782 and also in the Additional  Catalogue Of Instrumental and Vocal Music [...]  late the property of that eminent dealer, Mr. Robert Bremner (p.11, see also Kidson, BMP, p.17)  by Preston & Son who had bought up Bremner's stock after his death in 1789.


006. 1745, "Ailen Aroon" (tune with variations)

  • in: Burke Thumoth, Twelve Scotch And Twelve Irish Airs, London, No. 13, p. 26-7 (at the Internet Archive)


[SITM, No. 1022, p. 194]
The first 21 bars of this version are completely identical to "Ellin A Roon" from Wright's Compleat Dancing Master. Thumoth has even retained the same grace notes and trills.

A performance of this piece can be found at YouTube. It is online available at Irish Music Collections Online   (from a later edition). See also Moffat 1898, p. 338. The complete book is also available as pdf-file at  IMSLP.

Burk Thumoth (c. 1717-1747; see Highfill, Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 14, pp. 428-9) was a popular instrumentalist. He played trumpet, the German flute and the harpsichord and it seems he was a kind of child prodigy. I find him first mentioned in English newspapers in 1730. His earliest documented performance was on May 13 that year at the New Theatre at Goodman's Field. During the play The Constant Couple the audience saw "a Lesson perform'd on the Harpsichord upon the Stage by Burk Thumoth, a Youth of 13 Years of Age; also a Trumpet Piece called Sellano [sic!], accompanied by the Rest of the Musick" (see Daily Post, May 13, 1730, Gale DocNr. Z2000275101; also London Stage 3.1, p. 60). Four more dates during that year are listed in The London Stage (Vol. 3.1) as well as four in 1731 and five in 1732. Interestingly a bill for a "Benefit of a Family in Distress" at Haymarket on May 10, 1731, published the same day in the Daily Post (Gale DocNr. Z2000276655, also quoted in Highfill, Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 14, p. 428 ) states that "Mr. Thumoth, a Youth of Fourteen Years of Age" belonged to Sir Charles Wills  (1666 - 1741) who was a general, member of the Privy Council and M.P.

On April 27, 1732 the plays Rule A Wife, And Have a Wife and Stage-Coach were performed at Goodman's Field. Thumoth, "a Youth of Fifteen" appeared on stage three times. At the end of the second act of Stage-Coach he played a "trumpet Concerto", at the end of the fourth act "a Solo on the German Flute" and "a Grand Lesson of Mr. Handell's, on the Harpsichord [...] at the End of the Play" (Daily Post, April 25,1732, Gale DocNr. Z2000277645). In September 1732 "a new Dramatic Entertainment call'd The Envious Statesman,Or, The Fall of Essex" was performed at "Fielding's and Hippisley's Great Theatrical Booth, In the George Inn Yard in West-Smithfield, during the Time of Batholomew-Fair [...] An Extraordinary Band of Musick is provided, to entertain the Audience, of Violins, Hautboys, Bassons, Kettle-Drums and Trumpets; one of the latter to be founded by Mr. Burk Thumoth" (Daily Post, September 6, 1732, Gale DocNr.  Z2000278078)

During the following years he only occasionally played in London. From between 1733 and 1738 only nine dates (London Stages 3.1) are documented. From 1738 to 1740 he was in Dublin and performed a couple of times  at Smock Alley (Green/Clark 1993, pp. 70, 233, 247, 251, 260, 263  Boydell, DMC, pp. 64 - 66). From January to May 1743 he appeared nearly 30 times at Drury Lane. This was his busiest schedule ever (see London Stage 3.2, pp. 1025 - 1048). For example on January 6, 1743 the audience saw  Shakespeare's As You Like It with Kitty Clive as Celia. After the second act Thumoth played a "Concerto on the German Flute" (London Daily Post and General Advertiser, January 6, 1743, Gale DocNr. Z2000628130; London Stage 3.2, p. 1026). In 1744 he performed occasionally at other places, for example at Ruckholt-House (see General Advertiser, August 4, 1744, Gale DocNr. Z2000413070)

This irregular schedule strongly suggests that Thumoth was not a professional musician. According to an advertisement in the Bristol Oracle in August 1745 he belonged "to his Majesty's First Regiment of Foot Guards". In fact Sir Charles Wills was for some time commander of the Foot Guards. It is not unreasonable to assume that Thumoth was a soldier who could only perform on theatre stages when he had time or when he was allowed to do so by his superiors. Thumoth had also problems with the money. An ad in the Daily Advertiser on December 20, 1744 (Gale DocNr. Z2000150625) called upon "All Persons to whom Mr. Burk Thumoth is indebted since the 1st of January last [...] to bring an Account of their Demands to Mr. Simpson's Musick -Shop [...] on or before the 31st instant, in order to receive Satisfaction for the same". John Simpson was a "musical instrument maker [and] the publisher of many important works during the early parts of the eighteenth century" (Kidson, pp. 116-7). Possibly Thumoth compiled his book first and foremost to earn some money and used the payment received from Mr. Simpson to pay off his debts.  

The book was first announced by Simpson on February 23, 1745 in the Daily Advertiser (Gale DocNr. Z2000150910).  As already noted his version of "Ailen Aroon" was clearly borrowed from Wright's Compleat Dancing Master, Vol. 2. But interestingly only three more of his 12 Irish tunes were already available in print at that time, one of them - No. XV, "Past One O'Clock" - in the first volume of Wright's collection.  The other eight had never been published before and Thumoth's book offered the earliest printed versions of these songs.

At this time he had some serious problems with his health. An ad  for a "Benefit of Mr. Burk Thumoth" at the Swan Tavern in Exchange-alley, Cornhill  featured an additional note: “Mr.Thumoth hopes his Friends will excuse his not waiting on them, by Reason of his long sickness" (Daily Advertiser, May 1,1745, Gale DocNr. Z2000151185). This was his last documented appearance in the London area. On August 27 another benefit for him was held, this time in Bristol (see Highfill, Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 16, p. 429) and it seems that this was his very last public performance.

Early in 1746 his second book -  Twelve English And Twelve Irish Airs (available at the Internet Archive) - was published in London by Simpson. It was first mentioned in an ad in the General Advertiser on March 24 that year (Gale DocNr. Z2000415039). But unfortunately his promising career was cut short by his premature death in January or February 1747. This was reported not only in London newspapers like The London Evening Post (February 7 - February 10, 1747, Gale DocNr. Z2000650329, see also London Stage 3.2, p.1286) but also in Ireland in George Faulkner's Dublin Journal (February 17 - February 21, 1747, Gale DocNr. Gale Document Number: Z2000492826):

"A few days since died at Bristol, Mr. Burk Thumoth, well known for his excellent Manner of Performing on the German Flute."

Although he died much too young his books remained available for a very long time and in the 1780s London publishers S.A & P. Thompson even issued them again, both as single volumes but also "neatly bound in 1 Vol." (see Thompson, Catalogue, p.26) .


007. 1746,  "Ellen-A-Roon with Variations" - Matthew Dubourg

  • in: Matthew Dubourg, Select Minuets, To Which Is Added Ellen-A-Roon with variantions by Mr. Dubourg, set for the Harpsichord (Bibliographical data from Boydell, Dublin Musical Calendar, p. 109: the publication was announced in Faulkner's Dublin Journal 27. - 30. 12 that year; also in BUCEM I, p. 293, where it is wrongly dated as from c. 1750)


008. ca. 1752, "The Roast Beef Of Old England. A Cantata" (tune for two verses: "Ellen A Roon")

This cantata is a long piece based on William Hogarth' painting The Gate Of Calais (1748). Two verses are sung to the tune of "Ellen a Roon":

Sweet beef, that now causes my stomach to rise,
Sweet beef, that now causes my stomach to rise,
So taking thy fight is,
My joy that so light is,
To view thee, by pailfulls, runs out at my eyes.

While here I remain, my life's not worth a farthing,
While here I remain, my life's not a farthing,
Ah hard-hearted Lewy!
Why did I come to you?
The gallows more kind, would have saved me from starving.

These are surely the most unusual lines ever written for this melody. According to John Ireland's Hogarth Illustrated (Vol. 1, London 1791, p. 288) this cantata (which should not be confused with the older song "The Roastbeef Of  Old England", 1731) was "written soon after the publication" of the painting and "approved of by Mr. Hogarth". It seems it was first published on single sheets during the first half of the 1750s :

  • The Roast Beef Of Old England : A Cantata. By Young d'Urfey, London : printed for W. Tringham, [1752?] (Copac)
  • The Roastbeef Of Old England. A Cantata, Printed for R. Withy, at the Dunciad, in Cornhill, London [1755?] (ESTC To16288, ECCO) 

"Young d'Urfey" (surely a tribute to the late great writer Thomas d'Urfey) was a pseudonym of Theodosius Forrest (1728 - 1784), "the solicitor to Covent Garden Theatre, and the friend of Colman and Garrick [...] a good amateur painter, a song-writer, and a kind of notability in his day" (Dobson 1891, p. 128).

It was also included in Forrest's own publication: 

  • Ways to kill care. A collection of original songs, chiefly comic. Written by Young D'Urfey, London 1761, p. 1-7  (ESTC N025303, ECCO)

This cantata must have been really popular for some time as it was reprinted in a couple of songsters, for example as "Song XCVIII: The Roastbeef of Old England. A Cantata. Taken from a celebrated print of the ingenious Mr. Hogarth" in:

  • The Bull-finch. Being a choice collection of the newest and most favourite English songs which have been sett to music and sung at the public theatres & gardens., London, ca. 1760, p. 80 - 84 (ESTC T066048, ECCO)

Or, 20 years later in: 

  • The Chearful companion or, complete modern songster. Being an elegant collection of the most favourite new songs, ...London ca. 1780, p. 31 - 35 (ESTC T129232, ECCO)

A reprint of the complete cantata is available in:

  • Ian Dyck, William Cobbett And Rural Popular Culture, Cambridge 1992, p. 111 (at Google Books)



009. 1753, "The Irish Cries" (one verse to the tune of "Ellen-o-roon")

  • in: The Merry Lad: Or, A Choice Collection of Songs; Sung by Mr. Warner Bennett, at Sheffield, Scarbrough, &c. Interspersed with several humorous tales, prologues, poems, Epilogues, Odes, Epigrams, &c to which is annex'd, a set of new country dances for this season , Sheffield 1753 (ESTC T178789, ECCO), p. 12 (Song IV)

The first verse is sung to the tune of of "Ellen-o-roon":

How do I long for that sweet Month of May,
When Juggy Mulrooney cries Curds and sweet Whey:
But sweet Whey; sweet Butter, strong Butter for Servants my Life


010. 1755, "Aileen A Roon" (tune) 

  • in: James Oswald,  Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V, London, 1755, No. 21 (at the Internet Archive; Vol. 5 & 6 of this series were first announced in an ad in the Public Advertiser on January 20, 1755, [BBCN, Gale DocNr Z2001069095]  )  

[SITM I, No. 1213, p. 231]
James Oswald (1710 - 1769) was the "most prolific and successful composer of 18th-century Scotland", also a publisher, music teacher, arranger and cellist. He worked at first in Dunfermline and Edinburgh, moved to London in 1741 and in 1761 he even became chamber composer to King George III. Between 1745 and 1765 he published 12 volumes of the Caledonian Pocket Companion, a "cheap collection of one-line tunes suitable for flute, violin, or [...] any other instrument. This work was to be the success of Oswald's life" (Johnson/Melvill in New Grove, 2nd ed., Vol. 18, pp. 790-1, see also Kidson, British Music Publishers, pp. 84-87).  His arrangement is clearly based on Kitty Clive's version but interestingly he didn't identify "Aileen A Roon" as an Irish song. It would be interesting to know if had been aware of this song already during his time in Scotland or if he had learned it only in London, maybe from a live performance by Ms. Clive herself.



011. ca. 1755, "Aileen Aroon" (tune only?)

  • in: The Compleat Tutor For Guittar: Containing the Best Instructions for Learners To which are Added a Choice Collection of Italian, English & Scotch Tunes, etc., published by J. Johnson, London (Copac).

 Not listed in SITM but according to Moffatt (p. 51) this book includes a version of "Aileen Aroon". The exact date of publication is not known. In the catalog if the British Library it is dated as from c. 1755 but that is a little bit too early.

The "guittar" -  not the Spanish guitar but a close relative of the cittern (see Atlas Of Plucked Instruments, Armstrong 1908, pp. 5 - 24, Coggin 1987, McKillop 2001)  - was introduced in England only in the 1750s. It became "all the rage" (Hutton 1857, p. 318) among the ladies of the upper classes when young actress Maria Macklin (see Highfill, Biographicalal Dictionary, Vol. 10, p. 33 - 37) played the "pandola"  in 1753 - 1755 on stage in Samuel Foote's farce The Englishman in Paris (first performance: March 24, 1753, see London Stage 4.1, p. 360; see Manuscripts Delaval, p. 201) and in David Garrick's revival of John Fletcher's The Chances (first performance November 7,1754, see London Stage 4.1, p. 450).

The first advert offering lessons for the "citter, other wise guittar"  appeared  in 1754 (Public Advertiser, March 2, 1754; Gale DocNr. Z2001067114), the first  known teacher was one Thomas Call  who claimed that he had "had the Honour of teaching [...] Miss Macklin, this being the Instrument which she plays in the Chances, and in the Englishman in Paris" (Public Advertiser, April 8, 1755; Gale DocNr.  Z2001069589).

The first one to offer this instrument in an advert was Frederick Hintz from Germany who "Makes and Sells all Sorts of the completest Guittar". He had a shop in London and was a member of the Moravian church where the cittern played an important role and was even "considered a 'divine' instrument"  (see Graf 2008, p. 8, also p. 26, 29, 32). Hintz later claimed to be "the Original Maker of that Instrument, call'd The Guittar or Zittern, who has for many Years made and taught that Instrument [...]" (Public Advertiser November 17, 1755; Gale DocNr. Z2001070925). There is good reason to assume that he had in fact "invented" the "guittar". By all accounts he was an extremely gifted craftsman. It would have been no problem for him to develop it from the citterns he knew in Germany and "it is possible that he introduced a modified version to Britain". He is also reported to have played that instrument for a dying friend already in 1751 (Holman 2010, p.145-6). How Mr. Hintzen's new "Guittar or Zittern" then came to be used by Miss Macklin on stage is at the moment way beyond my understanding.

The very first book with a  "Set of Airs for the use of the Guittar only" was published by Thomas Call in 1756 (see Public Advertiser, August 26, 1756; Gale DocNr. Z2001072239, Public Advertiser, November 5, 1756; Gale DocNr. Z2001072556). The earliest instruction book  - The Ladies' Pocket Guide or The Compleat Tutor for the Guittar, containing Easy Rules for Learners with a choice Collection of the most famous Airs - was most likely thrown on the market by music publisher David Rutherford in the same year (see Kidson, British Music Publishers, p.113, see also Coggin,p. 210). But the great flood of "guittar"-books only started in June 1757 with James Oswald's  Eighteen Divertimentis or Duetts, properly adapted for the Guittar, or Mandolin (London Chronicle, June 21, 1757 - June 23, 1757, Gale DocNr. Z2001662974). Johnson's tutor could have been published at any time between 1756/7 and 1761/62. He died in 1761 (see the advert in the Public Advertiser, May 29, 1761, Gale DocNr. Z2001081887) but his widow used his name and imprint for some time after his death.  


012. 1757, "Ellen-a-Roon" - performed by John Parry

This ad was published in the Public Advertiser on May 12, 1757 (BBCN, Gale DocNr. Z2001073508, see also London Stage 4.2, p. 599):

For the benefit of Mr. Varney,
At the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane,
on Saturday May 14, will be presented a Tragedy call'd
The Earl  of Essex
[...] End of Act IV. (by particular Desire) Ellen-a-Roon,
with Variations on the Harp, by Mr. Parry [...]

 John Parry was a famous Welsh harpist.


013. 1758, "Allen A Roon" (tune)

  • in: Robert Bremner, Instructions for the Guitar; with a Collection of Airs, Songs and Duets fitted for that Instrument, Edinburgh, n. d. [1758]. 

A pdf-copy of this book can be found on Rob McKillop's website


014. ca. 1760, "Elin A Roon" (tune)

  • in: MS JM 5467, 57a (National Library of Ireland)

[SITM I, No. 1605, p. 303]


015. ca. 1760, "The Courtship. A Cantata", by George Rollos (uses the tune of "Ellen A Roon")

  • in: The Nightingale. Being A Coice Collection Of the newest and most favourite English Songs Which Have Been Set To Music And Sung At The Public Theatres And Gardens, Southwark, ca. 1760,  p. 25 - 31, Song XXXIII (ESTC TT116559, ECCO)
  • in: The Chaplet, Or Gentleman and Lady's Musical Companion, Consisting of a Variety of Entire New Songs [...] Written and Selected by George Rollos,  London ca. 1765, Song I, p. 1 - 10  (ESTC T124504, ECCO)

In The Chaplet Rollos is identified as the writer. These kind of cantatas based on medleys of old tunes were very popular at that time: Here the tune of "Ellen A Roon" is used as "Air II" for these verses:

Arrah Honey, how will I my love make appear?
Arrah Honey, &c.
De'el burn me, dear creature,
My anguish is greater
Than tongue can imagine, or silence declare.

At night as I sit with my friends all alone,
At night, &c.
Your sweet face intruding,
My senses deluding,
For the loss of your absence I bitterly moan.

From the banks of the Shannon for your sake I come,
From the banks, &c.
Then if you are cruel,
By St. Patrick! dear jewel,
When I'm dead I will say that you hasten'd my doom.

But if you're determin'd poor Phelim to sa'ave,
But if, &c.
Make haste to declare it,
Or sait, gra, I'll shwear it,
I'll never come back when I'm once in my grave. 


016. 1764/65, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text)

  • The Black Bird: A Choice Collection Of The Most Celebrated Songs. Few of which are to be found in any other collection, By William Hunter , Philo-Architectonicae, Edinburgh, 1764, p. 155 (ESTC T188251, ECCO)
  • The Lark: Being A Select Collection Of The Most Celebrated And Newest Songs, Scots and English. Vol. I, Edinburgh 1765 (p. 268, available at The Internet Archive)

This was the very first text published for "Robin Adair". Already at this point it was known as a song in it's own right - sung "To its own Tune" - and not as a  descendant of "Aileen Aroon".

You're welcome to Paxton, Robin Adair, 
You're welcome to Paxton, Robin Adair, 
How does Luke Gardner do, ay, and Johnie Macharil too? 
0 ! Why did they not come with you, Robin Adair ?

I will drink wine with you, Robin Adair, 
I will drink wine with you, Robin Adair,      
I will drink wine with you, good rack and brandy too,  
By my shoull I'll be drunk with you, Robin Adair

Come, let us drink about, Robin Adair, 
Come, let us drink about, Robin Adair, 
Come, let us drink about, and drink a hogshead out, 
O then we'll be drunk, no doubt, Robin Adair.

This text was reprinted 20 years later  in:

  • The Sky Lark, or the Lady's and Gentleman's Harmonious Companion; Being a Select and Polite Collection of The most Favourite Scotch and English Songs, Edinburgh ca. 1785, p. 12  (ESTC T177893, ECCO)


017. ca. 1765, "Allen A Roon" (tune)

  • in: Book Of Dance Tunes, MS 5449 (National Library of Scotland)

[SITM I, No. 1742, p. 330]


018. 1765, "When O'er The Wide Deep" (tune: "Ellen A Roon")

  • in: The Spanish Lady, A Musical Entertainment In Two Acts; Founded on the Plan of the Old Ballad. As performed at the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden, London 1765, p. 28 

 This was another play that used the tunes of old songs.  I found this piece of information in the database of Early American Secular Music And Its European Sources, 1589 - 1839 (Colonial Music Institute). In the two editions of this play that are available at ECCO (a possible first edition 1765?, N023987; 2nd edition 1769, T001558) the names of the tunes are not mentioned.

When O'er the wide Deep, the spread Canvas I view,
And send all my Soul out in Wishes for you,
All pale as I languish,
Quite spent with my Anguish,
If in my last Sigh your Loss I deplore,
Oh let me be pitied; I ask for no more.

Yet tho' your promised Joy be the Bane of my Peace,
If, Ages o'er Ages, my woes must encrease,
My Heart sorely rending,
Devotely when bending,
For you and, your Fair One, this pray'r I'll not miss,
Oh, ne'er may you know an Abatment of Bliss! 


019. 1769, "Duca Tu Non Vana (Aileen Aroon)" - performed by G. F. Tenducci.

 Tenducci (1735 - 1790) was a popular Italian opera singer who spent considerable time in England and Ireland. (see Fiske, English Theatre Music, p. 636-7 and Fiske, Scotland, p. 25 - 27, also Fiske in The New Grove, 2nd. ed., Vol.25, p. 281). William Chappell in in Grove's Dictionary (Vol. 3, 1883, p. 138) notes:

"He was one of the original singers in Arne's opera of 'Artaxerxes,' produced in 1762, and was afterwards engaged to accompany him to Ireland, where he probably learnt this song. It is certain that he sang 'Eileen Aroon' in the Irish language, the words being written out phonetically for him. He sang also at Ranelegh Gardens, and an edition with Irish words 'sung by Signor Tenducci,' was published in London on a half sheet".

According to Bruce Olson (Scarce Songs: Eileen Aroon) a "copy with music, crediting Sigr Tenducci with singing it, was printed in Dublin in Exshaw's London Magazine, 1769. Although Exshaw's magazine was largely pirated from the London edition, the song was not in the 1769 issue of The London Magazine." 


020. ca. 1770,  "Duca Tu Non Vana (Aileen Aroon)" - performed by Gasparo Savoi

  • Duca  tu non vana. Aileen Aroon. A favourite Irish song, as sung by Sigr. Savoi at the Rotunda, Dublin ca. 1770 (BUCEM I, p. 294)

For more about Gasparo Savoi see Highfill, Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 13, p. 221-2 and Boydell, Rotunda Music, p. 69.


021. ca. 1770, "Aileen Aroon (How Sweet And Pleasing)"

  • Aileen Aroon. : A favorite Irish ballad.., London? : s.n., ca. 1770?], 1 score ([1] leaf), Song, arr. on two staves for voice and keyboard. First line: How sweet and how pleasing (Bibliographical data from Copac; also listed in BUCEM I, p. 508)

This version with a new text was published again in:

  • Vocal Music, or the Songster's Companion. Containing a new and choice collection of the greatest variety of songs, cantatas, &c. with the music prefixed to each. Adapted to the violin and German-flute, London 1775, p. 151 - 153 (complete book available at The Internet Archive)

The complete text:

How sweet and how pleasing the birds sing in tune!
How sweet and how pleasing the birds sing in tune!
Gay prospects abounding, All nature surrounding,
And all to delight my sweet Aileen Aroon!
And all to delight my sweet Aileen Aroon.

The roses and lilies in May and in June,
The roses and lilies in May and in June,
So charming and blooming, Around all perfuming,
So charming and blooming, Around all perfuming,
Are not half so sweet as my Aileen Aroon.

When sultry bright Phoebus makes fervid the noon,
When sultry bright Phoebus makes fervid the noon,
In the grove or the bow'r I'll pass the long hour,
And sing in the praise of sweet Aileen Aroon!
And sing, sing in praise of sweet Aileen Aroon!

It seems this version was not so successful but many years later it was published again:

  • How sweet and how pleasing. Aileen Aroon, a favorite Irish air, adapted to English words ... for the piano forte, flute or violin, [London] : Printed by G. Shade, [1817] (Copac)

Even more years later the text appeared again in Hyland's Mammouth Hibernian Songster (Chicago 1901, p. 195)


022. ca. 1770, "Aileen Aroon" (tune only?)

  • in: Charles McLean, A Collection Of Favourite Scots Tunes: with variations for the violin &c. and a bass for the violoncello & harpsichord / by the late Mr. Chs. McLean and other eminent masters, Edinburgh, p. 28 (Copac)

 Information from Bruce Olson, Incomplete Index Scottish Song; Moffatt, p. 51; Dick, p. 366.


023. 1770, "Elin A Roon" ("Ducca Tu Non Vanuatin Eilin a roon") - performed by Elizabeth Linley

 "Thomas Sheridan [Irish actor and educator] moved to Bath at the close of 1770 for the purpose of establishing an Academy of Oratory, and began by giving a series of Attic Entertainments, when his lecturing and declamation was diversified by the singing of  Elizabeth Linley, then a beautiful girl of sixteen. In spite of her youth, she had a voice of "angelic" purity; at the first of these entertainments on November 24th she sang such ballads as "Black-Ey'd Susan" and "Eileen Aroon," while he followed with his celebrated recitation of the "Ode Upon St. Cecilia's Day." From that time onward, Elizabeth Linley was known as 'St. Cecilia'."  (Rhodes 1933, p. 20)

 The program for the first show on November 24, 1770 (from: Proceedings Of The Bath Natural History And Antiquarian Field Club, Vol. X, Bath 1905, p. 135): 

5. Program of T. Sheridan's first "Attic Entertainmant", 24.11.1770, from: Proceedings Of The Bath Natural History And Antiquarian Field Club, Vol. X, Bath 1905, p. 135

See also Walter Sichel, Sheridan, Vol. 1, pp. 191-2103


024. 1773, "Aileen Aroon" (tune only?)

  • in: John Clark, Flores Musicae, Or: The Scots Musician. Being A General Collection Of the Most Celebrated Scots Tunes, Reels, Minuets, and Marches,  Edinburgh 1773 (Bibliographical data from The Scots Magazine, Vol. XXXV, 1773: May, p. 256 (Google Books) and BUCEM I. p. 340: see also Kidson, British Music Publishers, p. 181)

According to Moffat, p. 51 this book  includes a version of "Aileen Aroon". 


025. before 1775-6, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text only)

  • first published in: Hans Hecht, Songs From David Herd's Manuscripts, Edinburgh 1904, p. 275334/5

A two-verse fragment of a variant version of "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" was found in David Herd's manuscripts. Here Robin's drinking companions had different names. It's not known where or when this was collected by Herd, but - according to Hecht - most of his manuscripts date from before the publication of the second edition of his Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs in 1776.

You're welcome to Paxton, Robin Adair!
You're welcome to Paxton, Robin Adair!
How does Dick Woolrich do ?
Ay, and Will M'Carril too ?
I wish they'd come along with you, Robin Adair !

I will drink wine with you, Robin Adair !
I will drink wine with you, Robin Adair!
I will drink wine with you,
Ay, and good rack punch too
By my shoul I'll get drunk with you, Robin Adair! 


026. 1772 - 1775, "Aileen Aroon",  performed by Mrs Woodman 

Mrs. Woodman was another popular actress of that era (see Highfill, Biographic Dictionary, Vol. 16, p. 240) Neither her first name nor the dates of birth and death are known. She performed "the favourite song Ailen Aroon" at least since 1772 (see London Stage 4.3, p. 1630/32/36/40).

On  Tuesday, January 17, 1775 the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser  (BBCN - Gale DocNr. Z2000835148, see also London Stage 4.3,  p. 1866) published an ad for a performance of the comic opera Love In A Village  at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden "For the Benefit of Mrs Woodman" on February 2, 1775: "At the end of the Opera, Mrs. Woodman will sing the celebrated Irish song, called "Aileen A Roon".

The Public Advertiser on  Monday, May 22, 1775 (BBNC - Gale DocNr. Z2001154330) announced another show  "for the Benefit and Mrs. Woodman, and her five children" at the Crown And Anchor Tavern, Strand: a "Concert of Vocal and Instrumental Music" where "(by particular desire) Mrs. Woodman will sing the celebrated Irish Song called 'Aileen Aroon'".

The catalogue of the British Library (see Copac) lists this songsheet:

  • Ducatu non vanna tu. Aileen Aroon. A favourite Irish ballad as sung by Mrs Woodman at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden, [London] : Printed by F. Linley, [1798?] (this date is clearly much too late as she was busy as an actress between only 1768 and 1789 and she used to sing that song between 1772 and 1775)


027. 1775,  "Aileen Aroon" - performed by Ann Catley as duets with Miss Brown and Sarah Wewitzer etc

Actress and singer Ann Catley (1745–1789; see Fiske, p. 623 and Baldwin/Wilson in New Grove, 2nd. ed., Vol.5, pp. 284-5) used to perform "Aileen Aroon" as a duet, often with visiting singers. Boydell (Rotunda Music, p. 158) lists  performances with Michael Leoni and  Fidele Rosselini in 1770 and Signora Salvagni in 1775, all in Dublin.

One of her regular partners in London was Miss Brown - her first name is not known -, another popular actress (see Fiske, p. 622). On Friday, December 23, 1774  the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (BBCN, Z2000834820, see also London Stage 4.3, p. 1858) announced a show at the Theatre Royal , Covent Garden: "This Present Evening will be presented The West-Indian [...] At the end of Act II. Miss Catley and Miss Brown will sing the celebrated duet of 'Ellen a roon'". ThePublic Advertiser on  Thursday, March 2, 1775 (BBCN, Z2001153070) published an ad for a performance of comic opera The Jovial Crew  on March 21 in "which will be sung the favourite Duet of 'Ellen-a-Roon', by Miss Catley and Miss Brown". Five years later this duet  was still included as an additional song in The Jovial Crew (Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, March 17, 1780, BBCNZ2000942808; London Stage 5.1, p. 327).

But Ann Catley also sang it  with Sarah Wewitzer (for more about her see Highfill, Vol. 16,  p. 23) in performances of the Beggar's Opera in Dublin that year. A reviewer in  The Morning Chronicle And London Advertiser (June 15, 1775, BBCN, Gale DocNr Z2000837503) was very impressed: 

"The Beggar's Opera was served up to us here in the most exquisite gusto [...]A duet was introduced in the third act, to the tune of 'Ellen a Roon' and was repeated three times with extravagant bursts of applause, it was allowed by the best judges to be to be the finest piece of harmony that ever feasted on the ears of the audience". 

This version was also published on a song sheet.  

  • Aileen Aroon made a Duett. As introduc'd by Miss Catley and Miss Wewitzer in the Beggars Opera. [Dublin] : T. Walker, [c. 1780.] (see Copac; 1775 would be a more logical date for this sheet's publication.)

SITM (I, No. 1878, p. 355) notes that this was published in Walker's Hibernian Magazine (Dublin, 1775, p. 308) but I couldn't find it in the online-version of this magazine that is available in the British Periodicals Collection

According to SITM  and BUCEM (I, p. 96) the tune was used for the song "A Curse Attends That Woman's Love"). This is Air  XLIX in the third act, a duet between Polly and Lucy (see Beggar's Opera, edition published in London, 1765, p. 80). It was originally sung to the tune "O Bessy Bell" and it seems that in this staging of Gay's opera "Aileen Aroon" was used as the tune for this duet.

Even a songbook with these two popular singers' names on the title-page was published: 

  • Miss Catley and Miss Weiwitzer's [sic!] New London and Dublin Song-Book: Or, Polite Musical Companion. Being a choice Collection of the most favorite Songs and Airs, from Operas, Plays, the Public Gardens, &c. &c. and Private Persons, many of which have never appeared before in Print [...], Dublin [1770?] (ECCO, ESTC T195654)

I wonder if this was an authorized edition. "A Curse Attends That Woman's Love" can also be found here (p. 170, Song CCLVIII). For some reason the editors have also included the Cantata about the "Roastbeef of Old England" (p. 105 - 108) but I don't know if Miss Catley and Miss Wewitzer used to sing that too.


028. 1776, "Aileen Aroon" ("Ducatu Non Vanutu", text only)

  • The Charms Of Melody, Being A Select Collection Of The Newest And Most Approved Hunting And Sporting Songs, &c., Dublin 1776, Song LXIV, p. 68 (ESTC T170208, ECCO)


029. ca. 1776, "Ailen A Roon"

  • Ailen a Roon : a favorite Irish Air, with Variations for the Harpsicord or Piano Forte, German Flute or Violin, London : Longman, Lukey and Broderip, [1776?] (Bibliographical data from Copac; also listed in BUCEM I, p. 12)


031. 1779, "Mournful Melpomene" ("To the tune of Robin Adair")

  • in: The True Loyalist; or, Chevalier's Favourite: being a collection of elegant songs, never before printed. Also, several other loyal compositions, wrote by eminent hands, [Edinburgh?], 1779, p. 65 - 72  (ESTC T114471, ECCO; reprinted - without the reference to "Robin Adair" -  in  Fly Leaves, Or Scraps And Sketches, Literary Bibliographical and Miscellaneous, London 1855,  p. 41, also available - with music - on a website about Jacobite Songs): "Written by Princess Elisabeth Daughter of His most sacred Majesty King Charles I of England, &c, &c." 

This ballad is very long, there are two parts with together 10 verses. Here I only quote the first two:

Mournful Melpomene,
Assist my quill,
That I may pensively 
Now make my will;
Guide thou my hand to write,
And senses to indite,
A Lady's last goodnight:
Oh! Pity Me

I that was nobly born,
Hither am sent;
Like to a wetch forlorn,
Here to lament,
In this most strange exile;
Here to remain a while,
'Till heav'n be pleased to smile,
And send for me.

The song is much older. For example a critic in the Monthly Review in November 1762 (p. 394, Google Books) quoted some lines and called it "an old dismal ditty, which we have heard the dish-washing damsels melodiously chant forth.". Princess Elizabeth died at the age of 14 in 1650 and this ballad was first licensed for printer Thomas Vere in 1656 (Rollins, Analytical Index, No. 1409, p. 123): 

  • The Lamenting Ladies last Farewel to the World. Who being in a strange exile, bewails her own misery, complains upon fortune and destiny, describeth the manner of her breeding, deplores the loss of her parents, wishing peace and happiness to England, which was her native country, and withal resolving for death, chearfully commended her soul to heaven, and her body to the earth, and quietly departed this life, anno 1650. To an excellent new tune; O hone. o hone., Printed for T. Vere, at the Angel, in Guilt-spur-street, without Newgate, [London, between 1650 and 1656?], (Roxburghe 3.42  , available at the English Broadside Ballad Archive; later editions: Pepys 2.38 , Euing 1.183 and Roxburghe 3.568, also at EBBA, see also Roxburghe Ballads VII, p. 629 - 632)

According to this broadside the original tune for the song was called "O Hone,O Hone". This melody was also known as "Franklin Is Fled Away" and first used for this ballad:

  • A mournful Caral: Or, An Elegy, Lamenting the Tragical ends of two unfortunate Faithful Lovers, Frankin [sic!] and Cordelius, he being slain, she slew her self with her Dagger. To a new Tune, called, Frankin [sic!] is fled away. Printed for William Gilbertson, London [ca. 1650?] (Douce Ballads 2(221b) at the allegro Catalogue; a later edition from the 1680s:  Pepys 2.76 and Pepys 2.348-349 at EBBA, see also Roxburghe Ballads VII, p.  418 - 420, Chappell, p. 369 - 370, Simpson, p. 232 - 235)

The broadside was licensed for printer William Gilbertson in May 1656 (Rollins, Analytical Index, No.1823, p. 159). But song and tune were already available some years earlier. There is a reference to "Francklin's Is Fled Away" in Patrick Carey's Trivial Poems And Triolets (p. 39), a little book published in 1651. This ballad was immensely popular. Simpson (p. 233-5) lists 12 other songs that have also used its tune (see for example Pepys 3.325, Pepys 3.363 and Pepys 5.73 at EBBA).

The melody was first printed in John Playford's Apollo's Banquet For The Treble Violin in 1669/70 (reprinted in Simpson, p. 233). A slightly different variant can be found  in Nathaniel Thompson's A Choice Collection Of 180 Loyal Songs (London 1685, p. 120, Wing  T1003 at EEBO) where it was used for the song "Whig Upon Whig, Or A Pleasant Dismal Song On The Old Plotters Newly Found Out" (text also in Roxburghe Ballads V, p. 317, tune reprinted and arranged with the first verse of "Franklin Is Fled Away" in Chappell, p. 370):

6. Tune and first verse of "Franklin Is Fled Away" (or "O Hone, O Hone"), known since the 1650s, quoted from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature And Popular Music Of The Olden Time, Vol.1, London 1855, p. 370

It is easy to see that "Franklin" has the same meter and structure as "Robin Adair" and the modern "Eileen Aroon". The internal refrain is in exactly the same place. Of course the tune is different but it is clearly a closely related song.

Another ballad from the 17th century is also of interest here. Let's quote the first verse:

Sweet Englands pride is gon,
Welladay, welladay,
Which makes her sigh and grone
Evermore still:
He did her fame advance,
In Ireland, Spaine, and France ,
And now by dismall chance,
Is from her tane.

Again the structure and meter is nearly identical to "Franklin", "Robin Adair" and the modern short "Eileen Aroon". Only the internal refrain is missing. This text can easily be sung to the tunes of these songs. The verse is from a ballad about the execution of the Earl of Essex in 1601:

  • A lamentable Dittie composed vpon the death of Robert Lord Deuereux late Earle of Essex, who was beheaded in the Tower of London, vpon Ashwednesday in the morning. 1601. To the tune of Welladay. Imprinted at London for Margret Allde, and are to be solde at the long shop vnder Saint Mildreds Church in the Poultry. 1603. (HEH Britwell 18290 at EBBA, see also a later edition, ca. 1625: Pepys 1.106-107)

This broadside was licensed in 1603 but most likely already available in 1601 at the time of the execution (Rollins, Analytical Index, No. 1401, p. 122). A tune called "Welladay" was known at least  since the 1560s (see Chappell 1855, p. 174-5, Simpson, p. 747)  and it seems that the original text is lost. During 17th century this particular tune was regularly used for other ballads, for example for one about the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh (1618, Pepys 1.110-111 at EBBA) or another one called "Murder Unmasked,Or Barneviles base Conspiracie against his owne Country" (1619, Pepys 1.108-109, see also Simpson, pp. 747-8).

The melody was never published but it "is preserved in a mid-seventeenth-century set of keyboard variations in Paris Conservatoire MS Rés 1186, fol. 25" (Simpson, p. 747, No. 496). Interestingly in the first two bars of "Welladay" we find a stepwise movement from the fifth upwards that is somehow similar to the opening phrase of "Aileen Aroon". William Chappell (p. 174)  knew this version from "a transcript of virginal music made by Sir John Hawkins" (1719 - 1789). There is also tune of only eight bars called "Essex' Last Goodnight" in Elizabeth Rogers' Virginal Book (ca. 1656) that could be a variant but I'm a little bit skeptical. Chappell combined parts from both melodies for his arrangement (p. 176). Another tune from Hawkins' manuscripts was used by Woolridge in his revised edition of Chappell's great work (1893, p. 130, see also Ward 1967, p. 83/4, who calls it a "far better musical setting for the ballad texts than the tune printed by Chappell and Simpson [No. 496]" )

It is not unreasonable to assume that the writer of the original "Aileen Aroon" was familiar with these popular English ballads. They are all built on the same pattern and may have served as a model. At least it would be worth discussing why they are so similar. Maybe "Aileen Aroon" was at first only a local Irish variant of "Franklin" and/or "Welladay".


032. ca. 1770s, "Aileen Aroon" ("Ducca Tu Non Vanatu") -  performed by Michael Leoni

According to Edward Bunting in his Ancient Music of Ireland (1840, p. 90) the song was performed by "an Italian named Leoni, in Dublin, about sixty years ago, with Irish words commencing, 'Ducca tu non vanatu Eibhlin a Ruin'". Michael Leoni (ca. 1745/55 - ca. 1797) was not an Italian but of German-Jewish descent. He was a popular tenor singer and performed on stage in London and Dublin for some years  until he emigrated to Jamaica. He is also sometimes said to have been John Braham's uncle who gave the boy a new home after his parents had died (see Boydell, Rotunda Music, p. 66, Fiske, pp. 632, 621). According to Brian Boydell (Rotunda Music, p. 158, 111 ) he sang  "Aileen Aroon" in Dublin already in 1770 in Dublin as a duet with Ann Catley and then again solo in 1777.


033. ca. 1780, "Aileen Aroon" ("Ducatu Non Vanatu")

  • Aileen Aroon. : A Favourite Irish Song, Glasgow : Printed for & sold by Iames Aird Glasgow, [ca. 1780]. 1 score ([1] leaf). Arr. on two staves for voice and harpsichord. First line: Duca tu non vana tu aileen aroon. (Bibliographical data from Copac)


034. ca. 1782-3, "Ducatu Non Vanatu" (tune & 1 verse)

  • in: Domenico Corri, A Select Collection of the Most Admired Songs, Duetts, Etc, Vol. 3, London, n. d. [ca. 1782-3], p. 21; available online at ECCO: ESTC N025713, Gale DocNr. CB132594271; reprinted in: Richard Maunder (ed.), Domenico Corri's Treatises on Singing: A Select Collection of the Most Admired Songs, Duetts, Etc., A  Four-Volume Anthology, Vol. 1: Domenico Corri's A Select Collection of the Most Admired Songs, Duetts, Etc, Volumes 1 - 3, New York & London 1993 (according to Maunder, p. viii "1782 or even 1783 seems [...] to be the earliest possible publication date for his first three volumes". The whole set was reissued in the mid-1790s)

I don't know if it's Corri's own arrangement of Kitty Clive's version or if he has taken it from another earlier printed variant.

7. "Ducatu Non Vanatu", tune & one verse, in: Domenico Corri, A Select Collection of the Most Admired Songs, Duetts, Etc, Vol. 3, London, n. d. [ca. 1782-3], p. 21


035. 1786 - Cormac Common's anecdote about the origin of "Eibhlin A Ruin"

  • in: Joseph  C. Walker, Historical Memoirs Of The Irish Bards. Interspersed With Anecdotes Of, And Occasional Observations on The Music Of Ireland [...], London 1786, Appendix,  p. 60, 2nd Edition, Dublin 1818,  p. 281 (at Google Books)

Here Walker recounts a story he had heard from harper Cormac Common (1703 - ca. 1790):

"A man of Cormac's turn of mind must be much gratified with anecdotes of the music and poetry of his country. As he seldom forgets any relation that pleases him, his memory teems with such anecdotes. One of these, respecting the justly celebrated song of Eibhlin-a-ruin, the reader will not, I am sure, be displeased to find here. Carroll O'Daly[...], brother to Donough More O'Daly, a man of much consequence in Connaught about two centuries ago, paid his addresses to Miss Elinor Kavanagh. The lady received him favourably, and at length was induced to promise him her hand. But the match, for some reason now forgotten, was broken off, and another gentleman was chosen as a husband for the fair Elinor. Of this, Carroll, who was still the fond lover, received information. Disguising himself as a Jugleur or Gleeman he hastened to her father's house, which he found filled with guests, who were invited to the wedding. Having amused the company a while with some tricks of legerdemain, he took up his harp, and played and sung the song of Eibhlin A Ruin, which he had composed for the occasion. This, and a private sign, discovered him to his mistress. The flame which he had lighted in her breast, and which her friends had in vain endeavoured to smother, now glowed afresh, and she determined to reward so faithful a lover. To do this but one method now remained, and that was an immediate elopement with him: this she effected by contriving to inebriate her father and all his guests".

It's interesting to follow this story's dissemination during the 19th century. It was first revived in 1812 by Matthew Weld Hartstonge in his Minstrelsy of Erin (p. 168). Here this anecdote was retold in an even more romantic fashion while Elinor Kavanagh turned into "Ellen, daughter of M. Kavanagh".  I haven't seen this book but Hartstonge's version was quoted by John Ryan in his History And Antiquities Of The County Of Carlow (Dublin 1833, p. 383). In 1826 a slightly different variant of the tale was published in a rather obscure book, The History, Topography, And Antiquities of the County and City of Limerick by Rev. P. Fitzgerald and J. J. M'Gregor (p. 164 ).  This text was then quoted in a review of this publication in Bolster's Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 4: November 1826, p. 308, from Google Books):


Two months later the text from this Irish journal was reprinted word for word in the English Gentleman's Magazine (Vol. 97, 1827: January, p. 60) with these introductory remarks:

"The origin of this beautiful Irish air, which was first introduced to the British public a few years ago (most unfairly) as a Scotch melody, by the name of " Robin Adair," is thus historically and correctly related in a new publication".

 This story then was recycled regularly in other journals in England (see for example The Kaleidoscope; Or, Literary And Scientific Mirror, February 6, 1827, p. 251; The Musical World, 26.3.1840, p. 190), in the USA (see the New York Mirror, 17.2.1827, p. 238)  but also in Germany (in the Blätter Für Literarische Unterhaltung, 11.4.1841, p. 407). A "Lady Of Boston" (in: Tales Of The Emerald Isles, Or: Legends Of Ireland, New York 1828, p. 27 - 34)  even turned it - with a lot of fantasy - it into a much longer tale.

 In 1831 James Hardiman included the story from the Gentlemen's Magazine in his influential Irish Minstrelsy (p. 356) but claimed that it all had  happened much earlier, maybe in the 13th century. Edward Bunting in his Ancient Music Of Ireland (1840, p. 69) mentioned in passing "Gerald O'Daly, the reputed composer of 'Aileen A Roon' [who] is said to have been  a man of rank and learning and cultivated music only as an accomplishment". Thomas D'Arcy McGee in the Memoirs Of The Life And Conquests Of Art MacMurrogh King Of Leinster published in 1847 (2nd. ed. 1886, p.105-6) assumed that the song was written some time in the late 15th century:

"On another lady of this family [the Kavanaghs], who lived probably about this time, the celebrated melody of 'Aileen a Roon' was composed. The author was Carol O'Daly, one of the silver-tongued bards of Ulster - himself of a high chieftain house [...]"

In 1861 an anonymous writer turned this story into a long romantic tale that was published in the Illustrated Dublin Journal (pp. 182-184) as "O'Daly's Bride":

"[...] 'What is the name of that song, minstrel,' said Talbot, 'and by whom is it composed? Methinks I heard it before.' 'Melody nor words you have never heard, sir knight,' answered O'Daly; 'both were born of my brain today, as I thought of a girl I loved very dearly, and whose friends by falsehood estranged her from me and wedded to another. My song will live when I am gone, and the tale will be told by cottage-fires in Irish land many an age to come, when the minstrel and Eileen a Ruin, the girl he sung, both sleep quietly in the dust. Such is the power of the bard, and such to his pride. Now,' he continued, waking a prelude on his harp, 'let the bride hear the utterance of a heart in which there never was untruth'.

The minstrel ceased to speak, and from his touch swelled upon the air the plaintive and thrilling notes of his melody—soon his voice joined in concert with his instrument, and the song of Eileen d Ruin charmed his auditory. During the performance the Chieftain's daughter bent her gaze upon the singer, and the hot Mood rushed in flushing waves across her cheeks. As the bard told his tamth and constancy in the cadences of the song, her eyes flashed with pride, and one glance which he cast towards her was returned by another which told him he was understood [...]".

Grove's Dictionary in 1880 (Vol. 2, p. 19)  simply declared Gerald O'Daly the composer of  the song. Adair-Fitzgerald in his Stories Of Famous Songs (1898, p. 16) again reanimated the old text from the Gentleman's Magazine as a "true story"  while William Grattan Flood in his Story Of The Irish Harp (1905, p. 62; see also his article in Grove's Dictionary, 2nd ed., Vol. 1, 1911, p. 770-1 and Grattan Flood 1922 ) gave his own version of the events and even claimed to know the exact year: "'Eibhlin a Ruin' [...] was composed in 1386 by Carrol O'Daly, a famous Irish harper". 

Carroll or Gerald O'Daly is the anglicized form of Cerbhall Ó Dálaigh. This name was ubiquitous in Irish literature and folk tradition (see Doan 1990, the most informative treatment of this topic so far, also the short summary in Ó hÓgáin 2006, pp. 389-392). For example one Cerbhall Ó Dálaigh - a harper and a poet, the son of Donnchad Mór Ó Dálaigh and nephew of Macaomh Inse Creanha - is the hero of a romance written in the late 15th or early 16th century, Bás Chearbhaill agus Fhearbhlaidhe or The Death of Cerbhall and Fearbhlaidh  (see Doan 1985).

But Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was also the protagonist of many Irish folktales. "He is often depicted as a trickster [...] possessing a multitude of talents”  (Doan 1990, p. 307). In one popular circle of tales he falls in love and the elopes with a lady named Eleanor Kavanagh. Usually he wins her by making a pair of shoes or with the help of a love ball (see Doan 1990, pp. 349-50, 352) but there are also many versions where he is a harper - or sometimes a piper - and manages to woo her with the song "Eibhlin a Ruin". In many variants the name of the heroine is given as "Eibhlin" or "Eileen" instead of "Eleanor".

Cormac Common's anecdote is the earliest known version of the folktale and according to Doan (1990, p. 147) more variants were collected since the early 19th century. The printed versions of this story - widely available in magazines and books during the 19th century – surely played an important role not only for the dissemination and survival of the folktale but also for the the change of the lady's name.

But Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was not only a folk hero. There were also a couple of "real" poets by that name. In fact the Ó Dálaighs were a famous family of poets known all over Ireland since the middle ages (see Doan 1990, pp. 1 - 23, 28, 29, see also Ó hÓgáin 2006, p. 390 and O'Daly, The Tribes Of Ireland, 1852, pp. 3 - 15). One Cearbhall Ò Dálaigh  died in 1404. According to the Annals Of The Four Masters (Vol. 4, p. 781) he was an ollamh, that's a man of learning, a doctor or professor. The Annals Of Loch Cé (p. 108-9) say that he was "ollamh of poetry [ollam dana] of Corcumruadh". In the Annals of Clonmacnoise (p. 325) "Kerruell o'Daly" is described as the "chief composer of Ireland, dane of the Country of Corcomroe".

William H. Grattan Flood (1922, p. 171) claimed that "the song of  'Eibhlin a Ruin' has been definitely traced" to this Cearbhall, a "wonderful bard and musician, famed alike for his lyrics as well as for his skill on the harp" but of course that's pure fantasy. He simply subtracted "four centuries from the date of publication of Walker's 'Memoirs'" (O'Rahilly 1922, p. 100, n. 3) and then invented "Eileen Kavanagh, of Polmonty Castle, Co.Carlow" (in Story Of The Harp, 1905, p. 62) or - in the later version (Grattan Flood 1922, p. 171)  - "Eleanor Kavanagh, the daughter of the Leinster chieftain" to complete the story. But there is no evidence that this Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh  ever was associated with a lady by that name. Grattan Flood's fairy-tale was an attempt at making "Eibhlin a Ruin" as old as possible by misusing the name of an innocent poet.

More interesting in this respect are a couple of Cerbhalls from the 17th century. Thomas O'Rahilly (p. 100)  notes that a "'Carrol O Dale, of Pallice', Co. Wexford" was named in a fiant - that means he was pardoned by the Queen - in 1597 and a "'Carroyle boye [buidhe] O Dalie' of some unspecified place in Co. Wexford" on another one in 1601. Unfortunately there is no evidence that these two men were poets or musicians. But a poet by the name of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh is said to have flourished in the 1620s (see Doan, p. 153-5). Five poems are ascribed to him and two of them are said to be dedicated to one Eleanor Kavanagh: one reputedly "written by Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh as a love letter for Eleanor, the daughter of Lord Kavanagh, in 1602", the other one "a small love poem from Cearbhall to his sweetheart, Eleanor Kavanagh". But this is not of much help because "the ascription to Ó Dálaigh is found only in manuscripts written by Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin in Cork between 1810 and 1818" . In other manuscripts these two poems are attributed to different poets (Doan 1990, pp. 147, 153-5, 167, 171).

There have also been attempts at identifying the "real" Eleanor. Already in the early 19th century Clonmullen Castle, Co. Carlow "is said to have been the residence of Ellen [sic!] Kavanagh, the heroine of the celebrated Irish ballad Aileen Aroon" (Lewis 1837, p. 188, also Ryan 1833, p.333 and Doan, p. 19-21). This castle was the residence of one branch of the Kavanagh family. Sir Morgan Kavanagh was the son of Daniel Kavanagh (d. 1631) - or Don Espagne - , a notorious "Robin Hood" who had been regularly pardoned by the Crown (see Calendar of the State Papers 1615 - 1625, p. 146, Ryan, p. 158, see also McHugh 2003).

Sir William Brereton (p.148) visited him in 1635 and noted that he "seems to be a very honest, fair dealing man, and his lady a good woman, but both recusants". His castle was

"an old, high, narrow and inconvenient building; the stairs leading up into the dining-room and chambers being narrow and steep, like a steeple stair; this also seated in a most solitary, melancholy place, woods on two sides, and plains on the other; these are moors and mountains, whereon they say there are wolves".

According to Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1847, p. 119) he "married early in life Eleanor, daughter of the second Viscount Mountgarret,  by whom he had sixteen children" but I found no independent verification of this claim. Nonetheless this was accepted rather uncritically by both O'Rahilly (p. 101) and Doan (1990, p. 19) who both speculate that "one of his daughters, named Eleanor after her mother and paternal grandmother, was the woman associated with the poet, Cearbhall Ò Dálaigh" (quoted from Doan 1990, p. 19) and take the two aforementioned poems as evidence that there really had been an affair between Cearbhall and Eleanor Kavanagh. That is entirely unconvincing. There is simply no evidence that Sir Morgan had a daughter by that name.

Not at least this is some kind of circular reasoning because it is based on Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin's claim that these two poems were written by one Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh for a Eleanor Kavanagh. But - as already noted - Ó Longáin most likely attributed them to this particular poet because he knew the folktales about Cearbhall and Eleanor (Doan, p. 147). So of course they can't be taken as evidence for the existence of a "real" Eleanor. Also this identification doesn't take into account that Ó Longáin had dated one poem as from 1602 (Doan, p. 167). That year this particular Eleanor - if she ever existed -  hadn't been born yet.

Sir Morgan became one of the leaders of the Irish rebellion in 1641 and died in battle in 1643 (D'Arcy McGee, p. 120-1). His estate was forfeited after the war and the castle was abandoned and later fell into ruins. Samuel Lewis in his Topographical Dictionary Of Ireland (1837, p. 260, also p. 188) notes that "some traces" of the castle had been "in existence fifty years since" but are "now  obliterated by the plough".

The folktale was also sometimes associated with Poulmounty Castle, Co. Carlow (see Doan, p. 22). There lived another Morgan Kavanagh (d. 1636). He was Sir Morgan's uncle - a brother of his mother Elinor - and according to Burke's  Genealogical And Heraldic History Of The Landed Gentry (1879, p. 888) it was him who was married to Elinor, the daughter of  the "2nd Viscount Mountgarret". Unfortunately he also had no daughter by that name but his son Brian married two Elinors - not at the same time of course - and one of his daughters was also called Elinor.

It is easy to see that we are walking on very thin ice here, or better no ice at all.  It is of course possible that this tale had originally been inspired by a popular scandal involving members of the Kavanaghs and O'Dalys but any attempts at identifying the "real" persons behind the heroes of the folktale will only lead to unfounded speculations. Perhaps it was simply a generic folktale based on well-known motifs that used the name of Cearbhall Ò Dálaigh because he was a popular folk hero. It is not unreasonable to assume that this story was first inspired by the abandoned castle at Clonmullen. In this case it would have been natural to include a - fictitious - member of the Kavanaghs.

Even more so the folktale surely can not serve as evidence that a Cearbhall  Ó Dálaigh was the author of "Eibhlin a Rúin". Both O'Rahilly (p. 100)  and Doan arrive at this conclusion and the latter notes correctly that this attribution was "a result of Cearbhall's great power of attraction as a folk hero" (p. 404):

"Originally, the folk song does not seem to have been connected with Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, but the similarity of the two names, Eilíonóir and Eibhlìn, as well as Cearbhall's fame as a poet and lover, brought the song into the orbit of Cearbhall's folk persona" (Doan 1990, p. 376-7)

But it would be too easy to dismiss this story only as a forgery. Walker in his Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards had clearly marked it as an "anecdote". It became a "true" story only during the 19th century where it served an important cultural-political purpose.  At that time "Robin Adair" was a great hit. In fact this story was first recycled by Hartstonge in his book in 1812, only one year after Braham's successful performance of the new "Robin Adair".  From then on this anecdote was taken as the proof  that the tune was originally from Ireland and that the Scots had stolen it from the Irish. Moreover the song now acquired authenticity as well as a historical context and could be associated with a legendary Irish poet while the heroine turned out to be a member of an equally legendary Irish family.


036. 1787, ["Sheela, My Deer"] Song XXXIX, (Tune: Aileen Aroon)

  • in: The New Vocal Miscellany, Or, A Fountain of Pure Harmony; Containing Sixty New Songs. (Not one of which ever appeared in print before,), To which is added, A Humorous Cantata, Called The Alehouse Politicians; By William Collins, London 1787, p. 50 (ESTC T126451, ECCO)

Another set of new lyrics for the old tune: 

Ah haste to these arms sweet Sheela my dear,
Ah haste to these arms sweet Sheela my dear,
Poor Murtagh no ease can find
Your image still haunts my mind;
When Sheela is absent, each day seems a year,
When Sheela is absent, each day seems a year.

I'll travel to Dublin in search of my love,
I'll travel to Dublin in search of my love,
There, fly to the play each night,
To meet my own heart's delight;
And then to Kilkenny return with my love,   
And then to Kilkenny return with my love.

My Sheela's too lovely I own for a clown,
My Sheela's too lovely I own for a clown,
Grandbucks at her feet will sigh,
And she may at last comply - 
Ah! then my poor Sheela must go on the town,
Ah! my poor Sheela must goon the town


037. 1790, "Ailen Aroon" (tune)

  • in: The Hibernian Muse; A Collection of Irish Airs: Including the most Favorite Compositions of Carolan, The Celebrated Irish Bard. To which is prefixed, An Essay on Irish music; with Memoirs of Carolan, London 1790, No. X, p. 6 (This book is available the Internet Archive &  IMSLP)

[SITM, No. 2794, p. 526]

8. From: The Hibernian Muse; A Collection of Irish Airs: Including the most Favorite Compositions of Carolan, The Celebrated Irish Bard. To which is prefixed, An Essay on Irish music; with Memoirs of Carolan, London 1790, No. X, p. 6


038. ca. 1790/91, "Ailen A Roon" (tune)

  • in: I. Brysson, A Curious Selection Of Favourite Tunes with Variations : to which is added upwards of fifty favourite Irish airs for the German flute or violin, with a bass for the harpsichord or violoncello, Harmonized by an eminent master, Edinburgh, ca. 1790/91, p. 20 (Copac)

[SITM, No. 2926, p. 536]


039. 1792/3  "Ellen a Roone" (tune)

  • in: Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840 (available at  IMSLP;  p. 94: "Very Ancient, Author and date unknown. Varied by Lyons in 1702".)

[SITM II, No. 6037, p. 1099]

Edward Bunting (1773 - 1843) wrote down a version of "Ellen A Roon" from the playing of harper Dennis Hempson (1695 - 1807) in Magilligan in 1792. Hempson had played at the Belfast Harper's Festival in 1792. Bunting, a young musician from Belfast, had been hired to write down the harpers' music. The same year he travelled to Magilligan to see Hempson again and to get some more pieces. According to Bunting this was  an arrangement originally written in 1702 by Cornelius Lyons, "harper to the Earl of Antrim [...] another of Carolan's [(1670 - 1738)] contemporaries". Bunting only published this variant in 1840 in his third collection of Irish Music in a piano arrangement and claimed  that in "this setting" the song was "restored to its original simplicity" (p. 70,  90). Here is the melody line of the first 20 bars:

9. "Ellen A Roon", melody line transcribed from piano arrangement in: Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840, p. 94

Edward Bunting's notebooks are now available online on the website of the Queen's University, Belfast. "Elen a roon" as written down from Hempson's playing can be found on pages 59 - 61 (or 55-57) in a "Book of Irish Airs" started "in the year 1792 and finished in 1805" (see MS4/29/56 and the two following pages, Queen's Special Collections; thanks to Simon Chadwick for sending me the link). A slightly edited version of the original tune was published in 1983 in Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland, edited from the original manuscripts by Donal O'Sullivan and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (No. 123, pp. 175-6, also SITM No. 6038, p. 1099). Interestingly Bunting had also collected a text although it's not clear to me if he got it also from Hempson or from another source (dto. pp. 176-7). This is to my knowledge the earliest text where the name of the lady was not "Aileen" or "Ellen" but instead "Eilionóir" as in the folktale (see 035):

"A' dtiocfadh tú nó a' bhfanadh tú,
Eilionóir a rúin?
A' dtiocfadh tú nó a' bhfanadh tú,
Eilionóir a rúin?"
"Tiocfadh mé 's ní fhanfadh mé,
A' gcreideann tú a gcana mé?
Seól romham mar leanfadh mé,
Gradh mo chroidhe thú!"

"Sheólfainn-se na gamhna leat,
Eilionóir a rúin.
Sheólfainn-se na gamhna leat,
Eilionóir a rúin.
Sheólfainn-se na gamhna leat
Síos go Tír Amhlaigh ar fad,
I ndúil go mbéinn i gcleamhnas leat,
Eilionóir a rúin!"

For more about Edward Bunting see The Bunting manuscripts at earlygaelicharp.info and also Roy Johnston, Bunting's Messiah, Belfast 2003. For more about Dennis Hempson see Comhaltas.ie and Nancy Hurrell, Historical Harps. Dennis Hempson and the Old Harp Music in the Folk Harp Journal No, 131, Spring/Summer 2006,  p. 56 - 58 (pdf).


040. early 1790s, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text only, 4 verses)

  • The Edinburgh Syren; or, Musical Bouquet; Being A New Selection Of Modern Songs Sung At The Various Places Of Amusement In Great Britain and Ireland, Edinburgh 1792, p. 41, Edinburgh 1792,  p. 41 (at the Internet Archive)
  • The Syren or Musical Bouquet. Being A New Selection Of Modern Songs Sung At The Various Places Of Amusement In Great Britain and Ireland, Dublin [1791?], p. 37 (ESTC T210832, ECCO)  and Edinburgh [1795?], p. 41 (ESTC T180124, ECCO)

In the first half of the 1790s this new variant of "Robin Adair" with one additional verse appeared in a couple of songster's:



041. 1793, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text: 4 verses & tune)

  • in: David Sime (ed.), Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, A Collection Of The Most Approved Scotch, English, And Irish Songs, Set To Music Vol. 2, Edinburgh 1793,  p. 304/5 (this book is now available at the Internet Archive) 
  • reprinted a year later in Sime's The New Edinburgh Musical Miscellanyp. 306/7 (ESTC T301078, ECCO)
  • also reprinted in: The Songster's Favorite Companion,  A Collection Of New And Much-Esteemed Songs, Adapted For The Flute, Voice, And Violin. Glasgow ca. 1800, p. 166-7 (ESTC T301079 , ECCO)

10. "Robin Adair", text and first verse from David Sime (ed.), Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, A Collection Of The Most Approved Scotch, English, And Irish Songs, Set To Music Vol. 2, Edinburgh 1793, p. 304/5

This was the very first time a complete tune for "Robin Adair" was published. It is a simplified variant of "Aileen Aroon": the B-part is some bars shorter. Here's again Kitty Clive's version from 1742. I have transposed it to the the same key as Sime's variant and marked the additional bars in the B-part: 

11. "Aileen Aroon", as sung by Kitty Clive, 1742 (see No. 4), original key "G", here transposed to "Bb"



042. 1793, Robert Burns

This year Robert Burns tried his hand at "Robin Adair" and produced three new sets of lyrics for this tune: "Phillis The Fair", "Had I A Cave" & "Address To General Dumourier"  (Lockhart 1835, pp. 403-422220383; Dick 1903, pp. 545247352366 ,456; Kinsley II, No. 401, pp. 680, Nos. 418 & 419, pp. 698-9, III (notes), pp. 1425, 1435; Ferguson/Roy Letter, Vol. 2, Nos. 575 & 576, pp. 228-230).

The first one was "Phillis The Fair". Burns sent the text to George Thomson in a letter in August 1793:

While larks, with little wing, fann'd the pure air, 
Tasting the breathing Spring, forth I did fare: 
Gay the sun's golden eye 
Peep'd o'er the mountains high; 
Such thy morn! did I cry, Phillis the fair. 

In each bird's careless song, glad I did share; 
While yon wild-flowers among, chance led me there! 
Sweet to the op'ning day, 
Rosebuds bent the dewy spray; 
Such thy bloom! did I say, Phillis the fair. 

Down in a shady walk, doves cooing were; 
I mark'd the cruel hawk caught in a snare: 
So kind may fortune be, 
Such make his destiny, 
He who would injure thee, Phillis the fair.

But he had some problems finding the right words for this melody:  

"I likewise tried my hand on 'Robin Adair, and you will probably think with little success, but it is such a damned, cramp, out-of-the-way measure, that I despair of doing any thing better to it [...] So much for the namby-pamby. I may, after all, try my hand on it in Scots verse. There I always find myself most at home" (Lockhart, No. XXXI, p. 403, Ferguson/Roy, No. 575, p. 228). 

 Thomson was pleased to see him "give 'Robin Adair' a Scottish dress. [...] Robin's air is excellent, though he certainly has an out-of-the-way measure as ever poor Parnassian wight was plagued with" (Lockhart, No. XXXII, p. 403). Burns sent him his second attempt with the next letter : "That crinkum-crankum tune, 'Robin Adair, has run so in my head, and I succeeded so ill in my last attempt, that I have ventured, in this morning's walk, one essay more" (Lockhart, No. XXXIII, p. 404, Ferguson/Roy, No. 576, p. 229) . The result was "Had I A Cave", here with the right tune from George Gebbie's The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Self-Interpreting), 1886 (1909), p. 204

12. Robert Burns, "Had I A Cave", from The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Self-Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909, p. 204

 The "Address To General Dumourier" was an  "impromptu" created spontaneously at a public house (Cunningham, Songs of Scotland, Vol. 4, 1825, p. 221):

One day Burns happened to be in the King's Arms Inn, Dumfries, when he overheard a stranger vindicating the defection of General Dumourier from he ranks of the French army. The poet presently began to croon words to the tune of Robin Adair, in a low tone of voice: on being asked what he was about, he said he was giving a welcome to General Dumourier, and repeated the verses as they are printed."

French General Charles-François Dumouriez had just deserted from the Republican army and fled to Austria. (see Dick 1903, p. 456):

You're welcome to despots, Dumourier; 
You're welcome to despots, Dumourier: 
How does Dampiere do? 
Ay, and Bournonville too? 
Why did they not come along with you, 

I will fight France with you, Dumourier; 
I will fight France with you, Dumourier; 
I will fight France with you, 
I will take my chance with you; 
By my soul, I'll dance with you, 

Then let us fight about, Dumourier; 
Then let us fight about, Dumourier; 
Then let us fight about, 
Till freedom's spark be out, 
Then we'll be damn'd, no doubt, 

 It's not  clear if Burns had learned the song from Sime's book or if he had already known it. Interestingly in the second letter to Thomson he noted that he had "met with a musical Highlander [who] well remembers his mother singing Gaelic songs to both 'Robin Adair' and 'Gramachree'".

All three of Burns' new texts were only published posthumously. Only "Had I A Cave" became a popular song in it's own right although it was never as successful as the old Irish "Aileen Aroon" had been during the 18th century and John Braham's "Robin Adair" throughout the 19th century. But this song played an important role in the subsequent development of both "Eileen Aroon" and "Robin Adair". Thomson used Burns' "Had I A Cave" for the arrangements of "Robin Adair" by Pleyel and Haydn that were published in his Select Collection in 1799 respectively in 1803 [see 048]. This helped spread the Scottish variant and in the end - via Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies (1809) -  it even superseded the old Irish version á la Kitty Clive as the standard melody for "Eileen Aroon".

"Had I A Cave" was published regularly in song collections during the 19th century, for example in:

  • Crosby's Caledonian Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Scottish  Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London, [n.d.], ca. 1811, p. 211-2 (at the Internet Archive)
  • R. A Smith, The Irish Minstrel. A Selection From The Vocal Melodies Of Ireland, Ancient And Modern, Edinburgh 1825, p. 96 (available at the Internet Archive; also in SITM II, No. 5841, p. 1048)
  • Anderson's Budget Of  Scotch, English & Irish Slow airs For The German Flute, Edinburgh ca. 1827, p. 4 (tune only, at the Internet Archive)
  • The Beauties Of Melody. A Collection Of The Most Popular Airs, Duets, Glees, &c., London 1827, p. 155-6 (as a duet, this is Pleyel's arrangement, see 048)
  • Davidson's Universal Melodist, London 1853, p. 115 

For reasons I do not understand James Dick in his Songs of Robert Burns (1903,  p. 45) tried to use "Aileen A Roon"  from Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (V, 21) instead of the tune of Sime's "Robin Adair" for his setting of "Phillis The Fair":

13. Robert Burns, "Phillis The Fair", from James C. Dick (ed.), The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1903, p. 45

Of course this doesn't sound right. Oswald's "Aileen A Roon" was an instrumental variant of Kitty Clive's Irish  version and Dick had to leave out four bars: 

14. "Aileen A Roon", from James Oswald,  Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V, London, ca. 1753, No. 21

"Phillis The Fair" from Gebbie's edition  (p. 202) is of course a much more appropriate musical setting:

15. Robert Burns, "Phillis The Fair", from The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Self-Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909, p. 202,

Disappointingly also Kinsley in his otherwise definitive edition of Burns' poems and songs (II, p. 698) included the truncated version of Oswald's "Aileen A Roon".  Donald Low in his Songs of Robert Burns even used it as the tune for all three  songs (Nr. 228, pp. 590-1; No. 239, pp. 616-7; No. 240, p. 618-9).  Burns did in fact own an "entire copy" of Oswald's collection  (see Lindsay 1980, p. 62-3) but there is no evidence that he used his version. His three  songs are clearly based on "Robin Adair" á la Sime.


043. 1794, "Ailun A' Roon; or, Welcome My Ellun, An Old Irish Air"

  • in: The European Magazine And London Review , Vol. 25, 1794: April,  p. 314 - 316 (Google Books)

 The tune here another variant of the well known Irish version:

16. "Ailun A' Roon; or, Welcome My Ellun, An Old Irish Air", tune as published in  The European Magazine And London Review , Vol. 25, 1794: April, p. 314 - 316

The new text is credited "to the Right Hon. J. H. H.[John Hely-Hutchinson] Secretary of State for Ireland". There are seven verses. That's much too long so I will only quote the first:

Oh! welcome, my Aileen; the moment is blest
That brings thee to soothe ev'ry care of my breast;
These eyes that behold thee,
These arms that enfold thee;
This faithful heart beating,
In joy of our meeting,
Welcome a thousand times, Aileen a Roon.

This text was later reprinted in a song collection:

  • The Charms Of Melody; or Siren Medley. Being the most extensive collection of love, sentimental, war, hunting, bacchanalian, humorous, sea, -and political songs, old English, Irish, Scotch and German ballads, legendaries, &c. Ever brought together in a single publication, selected from the best poets and most admired writers, Dublin 1795, p. 98 (at the Internet Archive, also ESTC N069013 at ECCO)

There the song was introduced with this note:

"The following very elegant paraphrase on the celebrated song of Aileen a Roon, by the late Rt. Hon. John Hely Hutchinson, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and first Secretary of State, is now published for the first time, from the original manuscript".

 For some reason the first four verses were also reprinted many years later on an American songsheet published in New York, ca. 1860 (Harding B 18(4) at the Bodleian's allegro Catalogue).


044. 1795, "Ah Dearest Love..." (tune: "Aileen Aroon")

  • in:  The Wicklow Mountains : A Comic Opera : As Performed at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden : Consisting of National Airs, &c, composed & compiled by Willm. Shield ; the poetry by J. O'Keefe, London 1795,p. 12 (Copac)
  • A later edition without the music is available at ECCO (ESTC N024967): The Wicklow Mountains; Or, The Lad Of The Hills, A Comic Opera, In Two Acts. Written by O'Keeffe, Dublin 1797, p. 12 

[SITM I, No. 3139, p. 567].

The premiere was on October 3, 1775 at the Theatre Royal. From the Oracle and Public Advertiser (Saturday, October 1, 1796; BBBCN, Gale DocNr. Z2001032929):

"[...] will be produced a new Musical Piece in two acts (taken with vatious alterations, from the opera of The Lad of the Hills) called WICKLOW MOUNTAINS. The music partly compiled, and the Overture, New Music, and the Accompaniments to the National Airs, composed by Mr. Shield [...]"

 The words of this song can be found in Vol. 2 of John O'Keeffe's Dramatic Works (London 1798, p. 110, available at The Internet Archive).  It's a duet by Felix and Rosa, two of the play's protagonist, at the end of Scene II of the first Act  (p. 120-1):

17.  From: John O'Keeffe's Dramatic Works, London 1798, p. 120-1,


045. ca. 1795, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (tune & text)

  • Robin Adair, Set To Music By A Gentleman. Edinburgh : Printed for Stewart & Co. ... , [ca. 1795]. Song arr. for voice and harpsichord; with versions for the flute and for the guitar. First line: You're welcome to Paxton Robin Adair [Bibliographical Data from SOLO]


046. 1796, Robin Adair of Hollybrooke, Co. Wicklow (Ireland)

  • B. de Latocnaye, A Frenchman's Walk Through Ireland 1796-7, Belfast & Dublin 1917 (The Internet Archive; translation of: Promenade d'un Français dans l'Irlande, 1797)

In 1796 a  French traveller visited Hollybrooke in the county of Wicklow in Ireland (p. 40/1) :

"I came at last to Hollybrook, where I was received by Lord Molesworth, of whose goodness I had already had experience during my sojourn at Dublin [...] It was here that there lived Robert Adair, so famous in  Scotch and Irish song. I have seen his portrait ; he is the ancestor of Lord Molesworth and of Sir Robert Hodson, to whom Hollybrook belongs".

He was also told a story of a drinking contest with a Scotsman who had dared to challenge Robin Adair and - of course - lost. Already at that time a local tradition had developed about Sir Robert Adair  from Hollybrooke, a hard-drinking Irishman, who had died in 1737. Later it was claimed that he was the "real" Robin Adair (see: Since the 1830s: The first "real" Robin Adair [B13]).


047. ca. 1797,  "Aileen Aroon" (tune)

  • in James Aird, A Selection Of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs. Adapted for the Fife, Violin or German Flute, Vol. V,  Glasgow, ca. 1797, No. 72  p. 29  (from a later edition of Vol. 5 & 6, 1801, available at the Internet Archive).

[SITM I, No. 2712 , p. 515]

 This version can also be found at abcnotation.com (from Jack Campin's great collection. He has transcribed Aird's complete series. It's available on his website in abc-notation):

18. From: James Aird, A Selection Of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs. Adapted for the Fife, Violin or German Flute, Vol. 5 & 6, Glasgow 1801 (first published ca. 1797), No. 72  p. 29


048. 1798/1803, "Had I A Cave" (Robert Burns, tune: "Robin Adair") - arranged by Pleyel & Haydn

  • in: George Thomson (ed.), A Select Collection Of Original Scottish Airs For The Voice, Vol. 2,  London, 1798/1803,  No. 92

 Music publisher George Thomson gave the tune of "Robin Adair" to Austrian composer Ignaz Pleyel whose arrangement for two voices, cembalo, violin and violoncello was included in the first edition of Volume 2 of this collection. Interestingly Thomson used the words of Burns' "Had I A Cave" instead of the original text. The tune was clearly borrowed from David Sime's Edinburgh Musical Miscellany [041]. Thomson  kept most of grace notes from Sime's version and also the upbeat note before the first measure. This arrangement can be found in a songbook published in London in1827, The Beauties Of Melody. A Collection Of The Most Popular Airs, Duets, Glees, &c (p. 155-6, available at The Internet Archive) : 


Pleyel's arrangements of Folksongs for Thomson are now available in a modern edition:

  • Marjorie Rycroft (ed.), Ignaz Pleyel, Scottish Songs for George Thomson. 32 Schottische Lieder für 1-2 Singstimmen, Violine, Violoncello und Klavier (in 2 Bänden). Gesamtausgabe mit kritischem Bericht, Musikverlag Doblinger, Wien 2007 ("Robin Adair": Vol. 2, No.22, p. 32)

In the second edition (1803) Pleyels "Robin Adair" was replaced by a new arrangement by Joseph Haydn, also for two voices, pianoforte, violin and violoncello. Haydn's version was also included in the first volume of the octavo edition (see McCue 2003, pp. 114-5), but here only for one voice. Interestingly Thomson added six verses of "an old song for the same air",  the lyrics of the old Scottish ballad "Cromlet's Lilt" - "Since All Thy Vows, false made [...]" [see B03] - and also noted that the tune of "Robin Adair" was "Irish": 

  • Thomson's Collection Of The Songs of Burns. Sir Walter Scott Bart. And Other Eminent Lyric Poets Ancient & Modern, United To The Select Melodies Of Scotland, Ireland & Wales. With Symphonies & Accompaniments For The Piano Forte By Pleyel, Haydn, Beethoven &c. The Whole Composed For & Collected By George Thomson F. A. S. Edinburgh In Six Volumes, Vol. 1, Printed & Sold by Preston, Robinson & G. Thomson, London & Edinburgh [1825], pp. 45-6 (at the Internet Archive)

Haydn's original arrangement is also available in a modern edition:

  • Joseph Haydn, Volkliedbearbeitungen Nr. 151 - 268: Schottische Lieder Für George Thomson, ed. by Marjorie Rycroft et al., München 2001 (= Joseph Haydn, Werke, Herausgegeben vom Joseph Haydn-Institut Köln, Reihe XXXII, Band 3), pp. 198-9


049. 1799, "The Air of Aileen Aroon with Giardini's Rondeau"

  • in: The Vocal Magazine, Containing a Selection of the most esteemed English, Scots, and Irish Songs, Antient and Modern : Adapted for the Harpsichord or Violin, Vol. 3, Edinburgh 1799, p. 11 (available at the Internet Archive)

[SITM I, No. 3502, p. 642: "Variations on tune, set to the song 'Gentle Gales In Pity Bear My Sighs'"]


050. ca. 1800, "Elan A Rùn"

  • in: The MacLean-Clephane Harp Music NLS MS 14949 (b), ca. 1800

[SITM I, No. 3712, p. 675: "...taken from the playing of O'Kain by Mr. Macdonald"]


052. 1802, "Ailen A Roon" - Niel Gow

  • Niel Gow, Part Second Of The Complete Repository, Of Original Scots Tunes[,] Strathspeys[,] Jigs And Dances (the dances arranged as medleys in their respective keys) for the Harp, Piano-forte, Violin and Violoncello etc, by Niel Gow & Son's, Edinburgh 1802, p. 11 (available at the Internet Archive)

[SITM I, No. 3558, p. 653; No. 3680, p. 671, from Keith, Complete Repository, Glasgow 18--?  is completely identical to this one].
This version is also available in abc-notation at The Fiddler's Companion

20. "Ailen A Roon", from Niel Gow, Part Second Of The Complete Repository, Of Original Scots Tunes[...], p. 11


053. 1804, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text & tune)

  • You're welcome to Paxton. Robin Adair. A favorite Scotch song, London : Printed by Muzio Clementi & Co, [1804] (Bibliographical data from Copac)


054. 1804, "Ailen Aroon" (tune with Variations)

  • in: O'Farrell's Collection of National Irish Music for the Union Pipes. Comprising a Variety of the Most Favorite Slow & Sprightly Tunes, Set in proper Stile & Taste [... ], London 1804, p. 30

[SITM II, No. 3903, p. 715]
Online available at Irish Music Collections Online

Published again in:

  • O'Farrell's Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes, Being a grand Selection of favorite Tunes both Scotch and Irish. Adapted for the Pipes, Flute, Flageolet and Violin, Some of which was never before Published, with some favorite Duetts for the above instruments, Vol. 1, London ca. 1805/6,  p. 20 (available at the Internet Archive)

[SITM II, No. 3965, p. 728]
Also online available at Irish Music Collections Online and abcnotation.com.


055. ca. 1805, "Aleen Aroon" (tune)

  • in: Smollett, Holden,  A Collection of Old Established Irish Slow and Quick Tunes', Arranged for the Harp, Piano Forte, Violin, Flute, Flageolet or Bagpipes, Vol. 1, Dublin ca. 1805, p. 29

[SITM II, No. 4541, p. 827]
Online available at Irish Music Collections Online


056. ca. 1807/08, "Now Is The Spell-Working Hour Of The Night" (tune: "Aileen Aroon")

  • in: Smollett Holden, A Collection of the Most Esteem'd Old Irish Melodies, Vol. 1, Dublin ca. 1807/08, p. 17

[SITM II, No. 4685, p. 851]


057. 1808, "Now Is The Spell-Working Hour Of The Night" (Air: “Aileen Aroon”)

  • in: Crosby's Irish Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Irish Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London, [n. d., published 1808, first announced in The Morning Chronicle,  August 26, 1808, Gale DocNr. BB3207104410, BNCN; see also COPAC], p. 272-3 (at the Internet Archive)

21. From: Crosby's Irish Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Irish Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London, ca. 1808,, p. 272-3

[SITM II, No. 4845, p. 873]

I am not sure which of these two books was first, Holden's or Crosby's, but whoever was second surely took the song from the other one. The tunes are exactly the same, except that Crosby's is in C and Holden's is in Bb. The two "c"-s (or "bb"s in Holden's version) in the ninth bar were surely a copyist's or printer's error. They don't sound right, there should be "e"-s (resp. "d") instead. Unfortunately I don't know who has written this new text. 


058. 1808, "Erin, The Tear And The Smile In Thine Eyes" - Thomas Moore

  • in: A Selection of Irish Melodies, With Symphonies And Accompaniments by Sir J. Stevenson and Characteristic Words by T. Moore, First Number, London & Dublin 1808, p. 14 (first announced as "now printed and ready for delivery" in The Morning Chronicle, April 19, 1808, Gale DocNr. BB3207103372, BNCN;  p. 5 in later complete edition, London 1859, available at the Internet Archive, also at Google Books)

The text:

Erin! the tear and the smile in thine eyes
Blend like the rainbow that hangs in thy skies!
Shining through sorrow's stream,
Saddening through pleasure's beam,
Thy sons, with doubtful gleam,
Weep while they rise!

Erin! thy silent tear never shall cease,
Erin! thy languid smile ne'er shall increase,
Till, like the rainbow's light,
Thy various tints unite,
And form, in Heaven's sight,
One arch of peace!

It is a little bit surprising that Moore and  Stevenson didn't use the well-known Irish original version that had been so popular during the 18th century but instead decided for the simplified Scottish variant. Veronica ní Chinnéide in an article about The Sources of Moore's Melodies (1959, p. 118)  thinks that they took the melody from Thomson's Select Collection Of Scotish Airs but of course it could have also been lifted directly from Sime's collection. The only difference is that they left out the upbeat note at the start.

22 Thomas Moore, "Erin, The Tear And The Smile In Thine Eyes", Text & Tune from Moore's Irish Melodies, London 1859, p. 5

This version was of course reprinted very often. But - as was the case with Burns' "Had I A Cave" - his words were never as popular as those of "Robin Adair" as introduced by John Braham two years later in 1811. 

In 1895 a new edition of Moore's Melodies was published:

  • Thomas Moore, The Irish Melodies. The Original Airs Restored And Arranged For The Voice By Charles Villiers Stanford, London & New York 1895 (available at the Internet Archive and at  Library Ireland

 Here Stanford (in Notes To The Airs: 3: 'Erin The Tear') claimed that "Moore's  version is wholly wrong".  Instead (on p. 5/6) he tries to set the words to the tune published  in 1840 Bunting's Ancient Music Of Ireland because he regarded that variant as an older and more original variant. Of course it doesn't work.


059. 1809, "Ailen A Roon" (tune)

  • in: John Murphy, A Collection of Irish Airs and Jiggs with Variations, Adapted for the Piano Forte, Violin, & Violoncello by John Murphy, Performer on the Union Pipes; at Eglinton Castle, London? 1809 , p. 27

[SITM II, No. 5040, p. 918]

 Online available at Irish Music Collections Online


060. ca. 1810, "Aileen Aroon" (tune) 

  • in: Hime's Pocket Book for the German Flute or Violin, Containing a Variety of the Newest and Favourite Airs, Duets, Marches, Songs etc., carefully selected from celebrated operas and works of eminent composers, Vol. IV, Dublin, ca, 1810, p. 16 

[SITM II, No. 5246, p. 955]


061. 1811, "Had I A Cave" (Burns)

  • reprinted in: Crosby's Caledonian Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Scottish  Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London, [n.d.], ca. 1811, pp. 211-2



051. 1811/12, "Now Is The Spellworking Hour Of The Night" (Air: Aileen Aroon)

  • in: A Select Collection of Scottish and Irish Airs for the Voice with an Accompaniement (expressly composed) for the Harp-lute by Ed. Light.  London, the editor (c. 1800[sic!]). 2 vol. in-8, 28 p., 27 p., Vol. 2, No. 4, p. 4. (Bibliographical data from Lesure, Recueils imprimés, XVIIIe siècle, München 1964, p. 105; see also entries in the catalogues of the LOC and the BNF),

 [SITM I, No. 2976, p. 542; here dated as from 1790]. 1790 and 1800 are clearly wrong as possible publication dates of this work. Edward Light (1747-1832) introduced the harp-lute first in 1802 (see Morning Post on July 19, 1802, p. 2, BNA; see Armstrong 1908, pp. 67-96) and in the following years he regularly published music for his new instrument. In an advert in the Morning Post, November 2, 1811 (p. 1, BNA) he announced the publication of the "first number of Scottish and Irish Melodies, with Accompaniments, expressly composed for the Harp-Lute and Apollo Lyre". The second volume must have followed shortly later.

19. "Now Is The Spell-Working Hour Of The Night", in: Edward Light, A Select Collection of Scottish and Irish Airs, London ca. 1800, tune from SITM I, No. 2976, p. 542, text from Crosby's Irish Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Irish Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London ca. 1808, p. 272-3

 The melody is the same as the one used by Sime, Burn, Thomson and Moore. I think Mr. Light simply borrowed it from Moore's collection, and for legal reasons replaced his text with "Now Is The Spell-Working Hour Of The Night" from  Crosby's or Holden's collection.


062. 1811, "Robin Adair" - performed by John Braham

John Braham (1774 - 1856, see Crichton in The New Grove, 2nd. ed., Vol. 4, pp. 178-9) was one of the most important and most popular singers of that era. He introduced a new version of "Robin Adair" in a concert the Lyceum, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on December 7, 1811. A reviewer in the Morning Post two days later wrote that "he sung with exquisite feeling, and with all that simplicity of manner which is necessary to render it perfect justice"  and on December 13th the reader learned in the same newspaper that Mr. Braham had "sung it divinely" (Morning Post, London, 9./13.12.1811, p. 3, available at BNA).  In an ad published in the Times on December 14th and 16th for a show on the 17th this song was already highlighted as a "favourite ballad":

"For the BENEFIT of Mr. Braham.
THEATRE-ROYAL, Lyceum, - On Tuesday next
 will be presented (not acted this season), the favourite 
Opera THE AMERICANS. In the course of the Evening, Mr.´
Braham will sing the favourite ballad, 'Robin Adair,' and 'Aber-
crombie [...]"

 Braham's version had been arranged by composer William Reeve and was published as sheet music in on December 14th, 1811 by Button & Whittaker in London (see the ad in the Morning Post, 14.12.1811, p. 1, BNA) :

  • Robin Adair : The Much Admired Ballad Sung With Enthusiastic Applause By Mr. Braham At The Lyceum Theatre, The Symphony & Accompaniments Composed & Arranged For The Harp Or Piano Forte by W. Reeve, Button & Whitaker, London 1812 (pdf of original sheet music from my collection) 

The original text:

What's this dull town to me,
Robin's not near.
What was't I wish'd to see,
What wish'd to hear;
Where all the joy and mirth,
Made this town heaven on earth,
Oh, they're all fled with thee,
Robin Adair.

What made th' assembly shine,
Robin Adair.
What made the ball so fine,
Robin was there.
What when the play was o'er
What made my heart so sore.
Oh, it was parting with
Robin Adair.

But now thou'rt cold to me,
Robin Adair,
But now thou'rt cold to me,
Robin Adair.
Yet he I loved so well
Still in my heart shall dwell,
Oh, I can ne'er forget,
Robin Adair.

 The writer of this text is not known. It could have been Braham himself or maybe he had bought it from some unknown street- and tavern poet.  Until today these words are often attributed to Lady Carolina Keppel (1737 - 1769 ) but that is wrong and misleading. According to an immensely popular legend she wrote it in the 1750s because her family did not allow her to marry the Irish surgeon Robert "Robin" Adair. Here is the story as it was printed in the Canadian newspaper Family Herald And Weekly Star (Old Favourites,  p. 59) some time between 1895 and 1898: 

23. From  Old Favourites, Reprinted From The Family Herald And Weekly Star, Montreal 1898, p. 59

 In fact this fairy-tale was invented in 1864 by William Pinkerton in an article in the magazine Notes & Queries (p. 500-504, see B21). 

The tune:

24. Text & tune from: Robin Adair : The Much Admired Ballad Sung By Mr. Braham, The Symphony & Accompaniments Composed & Arranged For The Harp Or Piano Forte by W. Reeve, Button & Whitaker, London n. d [1812]

This is of course the variant first published by Sime in theEdinburgh Musical Miscellany, but with one characteristic change: the eighth-notes in the third, seventh and sixteenth bar. This kind of acciaccatura has been called the "Scotch Snap" (see Grove's Dicionary, Vol. 3, 1883, p. 139)

 The new "Robin Adair" immediately became a great hit. According to a report in the Metropolitan Magazine in 1837 (p. 136) "the publisher sold, (for Braham's profit,) in one year, for home consumption and exportation, upwards of two hundred thousands copies" and "such was its popularity, that it was sung in every theatre, and ground on every barrel in every alley, lane, street, and square, within the bills of mortality"

Other singers and instrumentalists added the song to their repertoire and the market was flooded with new arrangements. Here is an incomplete list. The bibliographical data is taken from library catalogs (via Copac) and magazines:

  • The Much Admired Ballad of Robin Adair : Sung by Mr Braham, with new accompaniment for the piano forte or harp by Madame [Sophia] Dussek 
  • Robin Adair / with an introductory movement arranged for the piano forte, from the new edition as sung by Mr Braham,  by P. Antony Corri, London 1812
  • Robin Adair, a simple Irish Ballad, sung with unbound applause, by Mr. Braham, at the Lyceum Theatre; arranged, with an accompaniment for the Harp or Pianoforte (also may be had, with Variations for the Piano-Forte, Harp, and Flute), by J. Mazzinghi, London 181225. From: Monthly Magazine And British Register, Vol. 33, No. 223, February 1, 1812, p. 53
  • Robin Adair : The Popular Ballad As Sung By Mr Braham At The Lyceum Theatre / for the harp or piano forte, also with embellishments for flute & piano forte by J. Peile.
  • "Robin Adair,", the Favourite Air sung by Mr. Braham, at the Lyceum Theatre. The Words, Symphonies, and Accompaniments, written, composed, and arranged, by J. Parry, London 1812
  • Robin Adair : A Celebrated Ballad : as sung at the Lyceum Theatre, with universal applause by Mr. Braham, London 1812
  • Robin Adair, Ballad. The accompaniment for the Harp or Pianoforte by Madame Krumpholtz, London 1812 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Louis Jansen, Robin Adair, arranged as a rondo, for the piano forte, etc., London 1813

The song was regularly reprinted republished in the following decades both as sheet music and in songbooks, like this one from 1821:

  • A Selection Of Scots, English and Irish Songs with Accompaniments for the Piano-Forte. From the most Eminent Composers, Edinburgh n. d. [ca. 1821], p. 17-19 (at the Internet Archive)


 The text could also be found on broadsides like these from the Bodleian's allegro Catalogue:

Parodies were published too, for example:

  • "Moggy Adair, A Parody On The Popular Ballad Of Robin Adair" ( Harding B 16(151b) [London, "between 1813 and 1820"])

A songbook from 1842:

  • Bingley's Select Vocalist, Vol. 2,  London 1842, p. 124  (at the Internet Archive):



Part II: 1812 - ca. 1900

Here I can only include selected items: important versions, books and legends and some influential performers. "Robin Adair" was immensely popular throughout the whole century both in the USA and in Britain. For example many more reports about performances can be found in British and American newspapers.


B01. 1813, "Ailen A Roon" (tune)

  • in: Charles O'Hara, The Gentleman's Musical Repository; Being A Selection from the Ancient and Modern Music of Erin with a number of Scotch and Welsh airs, and several original pieces by the compiler. Adapted to the Violin, Flute, Flageolet, Hautboy, and Union Pipes, New York 1813, p. 11

 Available at Irish Music Collections Online


B02. ca. 1813/14, "Robin Adair" (tune) - F. Kalkbrenner

  • Frederic Kalkbrenner, Fantaisie for the Piano Forte  in which is Introduced the Favorite Air of Robin Adair, with Variations, Composed and Respectfully Dedicated to the Honorable Miss Burrell, London ca. 1813/14 [It seems the exact date is not known, I saw 1813, 1814, 1816 and 1820 in different catalogues] (available at NAIC)


B03. 1814 (1860), Ludwig van Beethoven - "Irische Volksweise (Robin Adair)"

In 1814 Beethoven wrote an arrangement of "Robin Adair"  for George Thomson. As far I could find out it wasn't published at that time. Only 46 years later it was included in:

  • Volkslieder für eine oder mehrere Singstimmen, Violine, Violoncello u. Pianoforte, componirt von Ludwig van Beethoven. Nachgelassenes Werk; herausgegeben von Franz Espagne, Heft 2, C. F. Peters, Leipzig & Berlin 1860, (WoO 157), No. 7, p. 2  (available as a pdf-file at IMSLP, but the quality is not so good. They also have a later edition [Breitkopf & Härtel's Beethovens Werke, Serie 24, Lieder, No. 259, Volkslieder, here p. 18] that is much better readable)

Burns' "Had I A Cave" was only included as an alternate lyric. Instead for some reason the text of "Cromlet's Lilt" was used here:

26. "Irische Volksweise (Robin Adair)", tune and first verse from: Ludwig van Beethoven, Volkslieder für eine oder mehrere Singstimmen, Violine, Violoncello u. Pianoforte, 1860, No. 7

This is in fact a much older Scottish ballad that was usually sung to a different melody. By all accounts it was already known in Scotland in the early 1680s.  In 1683 William Geddes used "the Tune of that which is called Cromlicks" for his hymn "The Path-way To Paradice, Or The Pourtraiture Of Piety [...]" (in: The Saints Recreation, Third Part, Edinburgh 1683, p. 73; Wing G447, available at EEBO):

Since richest treasures all
In Christ are found.
And I'm by Adam's fall,
Wretched and bound;
I'll to Immanuel,
My sins and sorrows tell,
My woes I will bewail
With mournful sound.

This song is sometimes ascribed to songwriter Tobias Bowne (see Copac) - also the author of ballads like "The Doubting Virgin" (Roxburghe 4.43) and  "Tobias Advice" (Pepys 3.154, both at EBBA) -  who was busy at around the same time. It seems that the earliest extant broadside is one printed in Edinburgh (?) ca. 1701 (as "Chromlets Lilt", ESTC  T166092, available at the NLS, see Copac). Otherwise we only have an edition published in the 1740s (Roxburghe 3.647, see also Roxburghe Ballads VII , p.396 and Maidment II, p. 52 - 61). The text can also be found in Allan Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany (Vol.2, 1725, here on p. 145 of the 10th Edition, Dublin 1734). The - original (?) - tune was first printed in 1733 in the second volume of William Thomson's Orpheus Caledonius (No.I, p. 1, see also SMM II, No. 199, p. 207; and notes on p. 185 - 187):


As can be seen from Beethoven's arrangement the meter and the phrase structure of "Cromlet's Lilt" is more or less identical to "Robin Adair", "Eileen Aroon", "Welladay" and "Franklin Is Fled Away" and all their offsprings (see 031) . In fact the song belongs to the same family and all these melodies and lyrics are interchangeable. Interestingly Robert Chambers in his Scottish Songs (Vol. 2, 1829, p. 385)gives "Robin Adair" as the tune for "Cromlet's Lilt" although he doesn't tell his readers where or when he had heard it that way. Ebsworth (in Roxburghe Ballads VII, p. 394) even seems to insinuate that is was originally sung to the tune "popularly known as Robin Adair" but unfortunately he  provides no evidence for this assertion.


B04. 1814, "Robin Adair" (tune "with variations")

  • in: Thomas Light, A Selection of Favorite Airs with Varns Rondos, Waltzes, Marches &c. Composed & Adapted for the Harp-Lute, to which is added a Divertimento, as a Duetto, for Two Harp-Lutes, London [1814]

[SITM I, No. 3226, p. 584]
Here dated as from "c. 1795" but this is misleading. The date given in the catalogue of the British Library (via COPAC) is surely more likely. In fact this version is clearly a variant of Braham's "Robin Adair". Thomas Light was a relative - or possibly the son - of Edward Light, the inventor of the "harp-lute" and this is another songbook for this instrument. A version of "Robin Adair" for the harp-lute was reprinted in Armstrong's Musical Instruments, 1908, p. 89. This seems to be the one from this book but it's not exactly the same as the tune transcribed and published in SITM.


B05. 1815, "Aileen Aroon" (tune)

in: One Hundred Airs (Principally Irish), Selected and Composed by  Lieut. Gen. Dickson, Arranged for the Piano Forte, Violin, Flute &c by Mr Thomson, Organist of St. Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne [...]  by Alexr. Monro Kinloch, Dancing Master, London ca. 1815, I 10

[SITM II, No. 5492, p. 998]
Online available at Irish Music Collections Online.
This is actually a variant of "Robin Adair" that was influenced by Braham's version (see the triplet in the third bar of the B-part)


B06. 1816, "Robin Adair" - mentioned in Jane Austen's Emma

See chapter 28, p. 216 in this edition from 1896.


B07. 1818, "Robin Adair" (tune)

  • in: Edinburgh Repository Of Music; Containing the most Select English, Scottish & Irish Airs, Reels, Strathspeys &c, Arranged For The German Flute Or Violin, Vol. 1, Edinburgh ca. 1818,  p. 70 (available at the Internet Archive)

27. Robin Adair, from: Edinburgh Repository Of Music; Containing the most Select English, Scottish & Irish Airs, Reels, Strathspeys &c, Arranged For The German Flute Or Violin, Vol. 1, Edinburgh ca. 1818, p. 70


B08. 1818, "Eiblin A Ruin - Ellen a Roon" (tune)

  • in: Joseph C. Walker, Historical Memoirs Of The Irish Bards; An Historical Essay On The Dress Of The Ancient And Modern Irish [...], 2nd Edition, Vol. 1, Dublin 1818, No. XXI, p. 18 (available at Google Books)

[SITM II, No. 5605, p. 1016]
Also available at Irish Music Collections Online.

For some reason the writer didn't include an "old" Irish variant of "Aileen Aroon" but a version that is clearly recognizable as being derived from Braham's "Robin Adair":  


B09. 1818, "Robin Adair" - Henry Phillips 

Though the sheet music of Braham's version of "Robin Adair" was also published in the USA it took seven years until it became a great hit there too. Young English  singer Henry Phillips (1801 - 1876, see Biddle in The New Grove, 2nd ed., Vol. 19, pp. 598-9) introduced this song to American audiences on his successful tour in 1817 and 1818. One reviewer was very impressed with the concert in Philadelphia:

"The Philadelphia Theatre was crowded to overflowing on Monday night last, for the benefit of Mr. Philipps [sic!]. It is said there were between 14 and 15000 in the House. Mr. Philipps was in capital voice, and gave his songs (to the last) with the highest effect - particularly 'Is there a heart', the Scotch duet, 'At Childhood's Dawn,'. 'Said A Smile to a Tear,' 'Robin Adair,' and the beautiful Polacca, 'No more by Sorrow,' were encored."  (New York Columbian 18.2.1818, repr. in City Gazette, Charleston, 28.2.1818, AHN).

Another critic noted that "Mr. Philipp's performances excite universal applause wherever he is seen" (New York Evening Post, 11.3.1818, AHN) and Poulsen's American Daily Advertiser on December 17th, 1817 (AHN) correctly foresaw that "Robin Adair [...] will long vibrate in our ears, when the singer and actor has taken his leave".

On some editions of the sheet music Phillips' name was added and on others  Braham's  was dropped altogether.

  • The Much Admired Ballad Of Robin Adair As Sung By J. Braham and Mr. Philipps, Arranged by Mr. Reeve. With an aditional [sic] verse written by a young gentleman from England, New York 1818 (at 19thCASC)
  • The Much Admired Ballad Robin Adair, As Sung By Mr. Philipps, Arranged For The Harp Or Pianoforte, Philadelphia, n. d. [ca. 1818] (at Levy Collection and 19thCaSC )


B10. 1820s - "Robin Adair" - performed by Madame Catalani

Visiting singers were always glad to sing "Robin Adair" for their British audiences. For example Italian soprano Angelica Catalani used to perform the song regularly.  From a review in the Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, 6.12.1823 (BNCN, BB3205388566):

"But the most delightful and surprising part of the evening's entertainment was the air of Robin Adair, from which it appeared thatMadame Catalani had completely extended the despotic [purity?] of her all powerful voice over the Scots music. It was most beautifully given; never perhaps was this touching air clothed in such magnificence of musical grace. Yet her expression was most simple and touching, and in some passages the whole genius of Catalani seemed to be created to preserve and to heighten its peculiar character of a simple melody".

Composer Sir John Stevenson had written a special version for her that was also published as sheet music:

  • Robin Adair with Variations, expressly composed for Madame Catalini, by Sir J. Stevenson, arranged for the Piano Forte, by Pio Cianchettini, Dublin, n. d. (available at the NAIC)


B11. 1825, "Robin Adair" - in La Dame Blanche (Boieldieu)

 French composer François-Adrien Boieldieu  quoted a little bit of the tune  in his opera La Dame Blanche  (1825): first in the Ouverture and then in the 3rd Act (see the Piano-vocal score, p. 322-3 ). In 1826 the song also migrated to Germany where it became immensely popular (see my new text on this site: "Treu und herzinniglich, Robin Adair" - A British Song in Germany)



B12. 1831, "Eileen Aroon" - two Irish texts with English translations 

  • in: James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy, Or: Bardic Remains Of Ireland With English Poetical Translations, Vol. 1, London 1831 (Google Books)

This was a somehow influential book that offered two Irish texts of "Eileen Aroon" with English translations. Unfortunately it's not clear where he had found those texts and it all looks very dubious to me. 

 One version of "Eileen A Roon" (p.  211) is supposed to be  "the production of a Munster bard, of a seventeenth century,who endeavored to excel, by profusion of poetic embellishment, the original and sweetly simple song of Eileen a Roon" (p. 328). The English words are by John D'Alton:

Blind to all else but thee,
Eileen a Roon! 
My eyes only ache to see 
Eileen a Roon! 
My ears banquet on thy praise, 
Pride and pleasure of my days ! 
Source of all my happiness ! 
Eileen a Roon!
My dove of all the grove thou art,
Without thee sickness wastes my heart;
Who can alone the cure impart?
Eileen a Roon

 The other is called the "Old Eileen Aroon" (p. 265) and was translated by Thomas Furlong:

I love thee evermore,
Eileen a Roon!
I'll bless thee o'er and o'er,
Eileen a Roon! 
Oh! for thy sake I'll tread, 
Where the plains of Mayo spread; 
By hope still fondly led,
Eileen a Roon!

D'Alton's version - with one verse from Furlong's text - was  later included with music in:

  • Thomas Mooney, A History Of Ireland From Its First Settlement To The Present Times, Boston 1846, p. 535 (from a later edition, Boston 1857, available at Google Books; edition from 1853 available at the Internet Archive)  

The tune used here is the same as the one in Walker's Irish Bards (1818) so I assume it was simply borrowed from that book:

28. Eileen Aroon, from: Thomas Mooney, A History Of Ireland From Its First Settlement To The Present Times, Boston 1853, p. 535


B13. Since the 1830s, The first "real" Robin Adair (of Hollybrooke in Ireland)

In 1831 James Hardiman wrote in his Irish Minstrelsy, Or, Bardic Remains of Ireland (p. 329) that "[...] Robin Adair was an Irishman. He was ancestor of viscount Molesworth; lived at Hollypark, in the county of Wicklow ; and early in the last century, was a member of the Irish Parliament". A year later in November 1832 Lady Morgan visited Holly Brooke and was "delighted [...] The old tottering mansion full of the tippling memory of Robin Adair. His glass, half a yard high and half a yard round, was shown to me, and his drinking bout with a Scotchman related." (from Dixon 1862, p. 348). 

Sir George Hodson (1806 - 1888), owner of Hollybrooke did his best to promote this legend and in 1854 The Tourist's Illustrated Hand-book for Ireland (p. 21) noted:

"Hollybrook [...] was once the was once the residence of the ever-famous and beloved 'Robin Adair " - a name perhaps less likely to be forgotten than that of others who have figured more conspicuously in the affairs of the world, because of being identified with that most exquisite of Irish airs, 'Eileen 'a Roon' The long controversy as to whether it was of Irish or Scotch origin must excite curiosity in the enlightened visitor, tourist, or musician, to see the abode of him 'who made the assembly shine.' An old Irish harp and two drinking vessels belonging to the gentle 'Robin' are here ; and it is surely not a far-fetched conceit to imagine that the spirit of song and mirth once inspired by Robin's lyre and Robin's cup still remain as characteristic types of the hospitable feeling, refined tastes, and generous disposition of the present worthy descendant of the bard, the poet, and the host".

See also f. ex.:

  • J. Kynaston Edwards, Robin Adair, in Notes & Queries, 3rd Series, Vol. V, May 14, 1864, p. 404 (as E.K.J.) & Vol. VI, July 9, 1864, p. 35-6
  • C.H.I., Who Was "Robin Adair"?, in Leisure Hour, 1901: Jan., p. 205 - 210 (available at British Periodicals)


B14. 1831, "Soggarth Aroon" - John Banim

 John Banim (1798 - 1842) was an Irish novelist. This poem - an Irish peasant addressing his priest - was published in 1831 in a "small volume of national ballads and songs [...] only one of the ballads, Soggarth Aroon, ever emerged from obscurity [...] Banim's verses are often loose and careless in metre, and rude in construction, but they abound in national feeling and natural strength" (Charles Gavan Duffy, The Ballad Poetry Of Ireland, 1845, p. 68)

Am I the slave they say,
Soggarth aroon?
Since you did show the way,
Soggarth aroon,
Their slave no more to be,
While they would work with me
Old Ireland's slavery,
Soggarth aroon.


 Banim's poem has been reprinted regularly during the 19th century , for example in The Ballads Of Ireland, Vol. 2, 1856, p. 18 or Burke's Gems From Catholic Poets, 1859, p. 58..


B15. 1830s, "Eileen Aroon" - Gerald Griffin

The text most often used today for "Eileen Aroon" was written by Irish poet Gerald Griffin (1803 - 1840):

When, like the early rose,
Eileen Aroon!
Beauty in childhood blows,
Eileen Aroon!
When, like a diadem,
Buds blush around the stem,
Which is the fairest gem?
Eileen Aroon!

    Is it the laughing eye,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Is it the timid sigh,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Is it the tender tone,
    Soft as the stringed harp's moan?
    Oh! Iit is truth alone,
    Eileen Aroon!

    When, like the rising day,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Love sends his early ray,
    Eileen Aroon!
    What makes his dawning glow,
    Changeless through joy or woe?
    Only the constant know--
    Eileen Aroon!

    I know a valley fair,
    Eileen Aroon!
    I knew a cottage there,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Far in that valley's shade
    I knew a gentle maid,
    Flower of a hazel glade,
    Eileen Aroon!

    Who in the song so sweet?
    Eileen Aroon!
    Who in the dance so fleet?
    Eileen Aroon!
    Dear were her charms to me,
    Dearer her laughter free,
    Dearest her constancy,
    Eileen Aroon!

    Were she no longer true,
    Eileen Aroon!
    What should her lover do?
    Eileen Aroon!
    Fly with his broken chain
    Far o'er the sounding main,
    Never to love again,
    Eileen Aroon!

    Youth must with time decay,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Beauty must fade away,
    Eileen Aroon!
    Castles are sacked in war,
    Chieftains are scattered far,
    Truth is a fixéd star,
    Eileen Aroon!

Griffin wrote this  for "The Foreman's Tale - Sigismund", the first story of his Tales Of The Jury Room that were only  published posthumously:

  • Gerald Griffin, Talis Qualis, Or: Tales Of The Jury Room, Vol. 1, London 1842, p. 127 - 130

This story also includes (pp. 130 - 133) an interesting discussion of  "Eileen Aroon" and "Robin Adair" and the use of old Irish tunes by modern composers:

" This gentlemen," said the foreman after slightly acknowledging the renewed plaudits of his brother jurors, " you are aware, is the celebrated composition which was imposed upon the English public some years since as a Scotch melody, under the name of Robin Adair. It is amusing to witness how coolly our modern composers avail themselves of our ancient stores of melody, without the slightest acknowledgment. It is far easier with them to adapt an old, and far too often almost forgotten melody, than to trust to their own powers for making a due impression of their capabilities as composers, upon the Public mind [...]"

But ironically Griffin wrote his text not to the old Irish version of the tune from the 18th century used by Kitty Clive at al. but to "Robin Adair", the Scottish variant that had at this time become the standard tune for the song, surely because Thomas Moore had brought it back to Ireland:

29. Eileen Aroon, first verse (by Gerald Griffin) & tune from Helen Johnson, Our Familiar Songs, New York 1889, p. 241

 This poem was reprinted regularly in the following decades, for example in  M. J. Barry's  Songs Of Ireland (Dublin, 1845, p. 154 - 156), in O'Reilly's Poetry And Song Of Ireland (New York 1889, p. 210-2) and also found its way into  the Oxford Book Of English Verse (1906 edition, p. 770-7).  In 1889 Helen K. Johnson included it in her Our Familiar Songs (p. 241/2) and in 1894 composer Raymon Moore  even wrote a new melody for Griffin's poem (see the sheet music at the Kirk Collection/Indiana State University) .


B16.  early 1840s,  "Eibhlin A Ruin"  - Thomas Davis

Another new text was written by the Irish poet  Thomas Davis (1814 - 1845) some time in the 1840s:

When I am far away,
Eiblin a Ruin, 
Be gayest of the gay, 
Eiblin a Ruin. 
Too dear your happiness, 
For me to wish it less— 
Love has no selfishness, 
Eiblin a Ruin.

And it must be our pride, 
Eiblin a Ruin, 
Our trusting hearts to hide, 
Eiblin a Ruin.
They wish our love to blight, 
We 'll wait for Fortune's light— 
The flowers close up at night, 
Eiblin a Ruin. 

And when we meet alone, 
Eiblin a Ruin, 
Upon my bosom thrown, 
Eiblin a Ruin, 
That hour, with light bedeck'd, 
Shall cheer us and direct, 
A beacon to the wreck'd,
Eiblin a Ruin.

Fortune, thus sought, will com,
Eiblin a Ruin, 
We 'll win a happy home, 
Eiblin a Ruin; 
And, as it slowly rose, 
'Twill tranquilly repose, 
A rock 'mid melting snows,
Eiblin a Ruin. 

It seems this was first published in the Irish weekly newspaper The Nation but I couldn't find an exact date. The poem was then reprinted in:

  • The Spirit of the Nation: Ballads And Songs By The Writers Of "The Nation," , Dublin 1845,  p. 15 - 16
  • The Poems Of Thomas Davis. Now First Collected. With Notes And Historical Illustrations, Dublin 1846,  p. 39 - 40

Composer Dermot MacMurrough wrote new music for Davis' poem in 1909:

  • Eileen Aroon. Song, the words by T. Davis, etc. / [by Macmurrough, Dermot]. 1909 (see Copac)

 John McCormack recorded this version in 1909 and 1912 (see the discography on the site of the McCormack Society). One version is available at YouTube.


B17.  1847, "Robin Adair" 

  • in: Davidson's Universal Melodist, Vol. 1, London 1847,  p. 286 (at Google Books)

The third verse of this version is a little bit different from the original:



B18.  1853, "Aileen Aroon" - Charlie Converse

Occasionally songwriters did not only write new words to the tune of "Eileen Aroon/Robin Adair" but also a completely new melody:

30, Charlie C. Converse, Aileen Aroon, text & tune from sheet music published in 1853

Girl of the winning tongue, Aileen, aroon!
Flow'r of our maidens young, Aileen, aroon!
Sad was our parting day,
Fast flowed my tears away,
Cold was my heart as clay, Aileen, aroon.

Come ere the grave will close, Aileen aroon!
O'er me and all my woes, Aileen, aroon!
Come with the love of old,
True as the tested gold,
Pet lamb of all the fold, Aileen, aroon!

By the strand of the sea, Aileen, aroon!
Still I'll keep watch for thee, Aileen, aroon!
There with fond love I'll hie,
Looking with tearfull eye,
For thee until I die, Aileen, aroon!

 Here nothing is left of the old song except the structure (it's also possible to sing the words to the tune of "Robin Adair") and the words "Aileen Aroon". Nonetheless it's a nice song with a good melody. Charles C. Converse (1834 - 1918) later became a composer of religious songs. The tune for "What A Friend I Have In Jesus" (words by Joseph M. Scriven) may be his best-known work. 


B19.  1856, "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" (text only: 10 verses)

  • George Henderson, The Popular Rhymes, Sayings And Proverbs Of The County Of Berwick, Newcastle-On-Tyne 1856,  p. 13-15 (Google Books)

Paxton is a town in Berwickshire in Scotland. A version of  "You're Welcome To Paxton, Robin Adair" with ten verses was published in 1856 in this book. The first four were those that had been printed in songsters in the 1790s. The other six verses have never been found somewhere else. 


B20. 1859, "Robin Adair"

  • in: One Hundred Songs Of Scotland: Music And Words, San Francisco 1859, p. 25 (Google Books)



B21. 1864, The legend about Lady Keppel

  • in: William Pinkerton, Robin Adair, in: Notes And Queries, 3rd Series, Vol. V, June 18, 1864,  p. 501 - 504 (reprinted in the USA in: Dwight's Journal Of Music, Vol. XXIV, No. 10, Sat., Aug. 6, 1864,  p. 284/5)

This was the article that gave birth to the legend that Lady Carolina Keppel had written the words of the new version of "Robin Adair" for her future husband, the surgeon Robert Adair, (* ca. 1710, d. 1890) some time in the 1750s because her family at first opposed a marriage. Mr. Pinkerton took some pieces of the story from a little book published in 1790 shortly after that Adairs death (The Memoirs of Robert Adair, London 1790, ESTC T039149, available at ECCO). But neither this pamphlet nor any other source from that time offers any evidence for this theory. So he simply fabricated the missing parts:

"When Lady Caroline was taken by her friends´from London to Bath, that she might be separated from her lover, she wrote, it is said, the song of "Robin Adair," and set it to a plaintive Irish tune that she had heard him sing. Whether written by Lady Caroline or not, the song is simply expressive of her feelings at the time, and as it´completely corroborates the circumstances just related, which were the town-talk of the period, though now little more than family tradition, there can be no doubt that they were the origin of the song".

Nonetheless this legend  quickly became very popular and it seems that at the end of the 19th century nearly everybody believed in it, not at least because it was reprinted regularly in books, magazines and newspapers, for example her in 1894 in Reddall's Songs That Never Die (p. 120):

31. From: Henry Reddall, Songs That Never Die, New York 1894, p. 120

The story  has survived until today and is still recycled uncritically even in academic works. 


B22. 1860s, "Robin Adair" - Theodor Habelmann (in North America)

The song became even more popular in the USA in the 1860s when La Dame Blanche was performed with great success on American stages. German tenor  Theodore Habelmann  sang an extended version to universal acclaim and one critic in Dwight's Journal of Music  (29.10. 1864, p. 335) noted that his "exquisite rendering of 'Robin Adair,' may rank among the finest specimens that we have known of  tenor singing". Habelmann's version - with six verses -  was published as sheet music: 

  • Robin Adair. Scotch Song in "La Dame Blanche" - Only correct edition as sung by Mr. Theo. Habelmann, Arranged by L. M., Philadelphia 1865 (Levy Collection)

Other sheet music versions of "Robin Adair" also refer to this opera:

  • Robin Adair, "La Dame Blanche", in: Special Favourites Arranged For The Guitar By Sep. Winner, Philadelphia 1865 (at  19thCASC)
  • Robin Adair, For Soprano or Tenor, As Sung In The Opera "La Dame Blanche", Arranged by P. K. Moran  in: The Bromo-Seltzer Collection of 54 Popular Songs. Complete and Unabridged. Full Music Size With Piano & Organ Accompaniment., Baltimore, n.d. (at  Levy Collection)


B23. Since the 1860s - "Robin Adair" (Sheet music in the USA)

Since the1860s even more arrangements of "Robin Adair" were published like one printed in Chicago in 1866 (available at the Levy Collection) "composed by J. Sinclair" [sic!]. 17 different versions and arrangement for singers or instrumentalists can be found in the sheet music collections of the Library Of Congress. Some examples:

  • Robin Adair, in: Old Friends, Arranged very easy by William Gooch, Boston  1878
  • Robin Adair: in: Three Favorite Scotch songs Harmonized for Male Voices, Quartet or Chorus, by Dudley Buck, New York  1882
  • Robin Adair, Air And Variations, Flute solo, arr. by J. S. Cox in: Superb Solos For The Violin Or Flute, With Piano Accompaniment, Philadelphia 1882


B24. 1875, "Eileen Adair" - by Jules Lafort

This is a very strange song. The writer has borrowed one half of the title from both "Aileen Aroon" and "Robin Adair", otherwise it's completely different:


B25 since 1889, "Robin Adair" - published in popular collections of old songs.

Around the turn of the century "Robin Adair" was reprinted again and again in collections of old songs. At that time it had achieved the status of a "golden oldie", or, to paraphrase the title of one of these books, a "song that never dies".   

  • Helen Kendrick Johnson, Our Familiar Songs And Those Who Made Them, New York 1889, p. 355-7 (The32. From: Dolores M. Bacon (ed.), Songs Every Child Should Know. A Selection Of The Best Songs Of All Nations For Young People, New York 1907, p. 70 Internet Archive)
  • Henry F. Reddall & Dudley Buck, Songs That Never Die. Being A Collection Of The Most Famous Words And Melodies, New York, ca. 1894,  p. 132 (The Internet Archive)
  • Old Favourites, Reprinted From The Family Herald And Weekly Star, Montreal 1898, p. 59 (The Internet Archive)
  • The International Book Of Song. Sweet Melodies For The Home, Chicago & Philadelphia 1901, p. 71 (av. at the Internet Archive)
  • Louis C. Elson (ed.), Folk Songs Of Many Nations, Cincinnatti, New York & London c1905, p. 78 - 80 (available at traditionalmusic.co.uk;  also available at IMSLP)
  • Charles Villiers Stanford (ed.), The National Song Book. A Complete Collection Of The Folk-Songs, Carols, And Rounds Suggested By The Board Of Education, London & New York c.1906, p. 88 (The Internet Archive) 
  • Dolores M. Bacon (ed.), Songs Every Child Should Know. A Selection Of The Best Songs Of All Nations For Young People, New York 1907, p. 70 (The Internet Archive)
  • Max Spicker (ed.), Songs Of The British Isles, New York 1909, p. 76 (The Internet Archive) 


B26. 1898, "Erin, The Tear And The Smile In Thine Eyes"

  • in: Alfred Moffat, The Minstrelsy of Ireland. 200 Irish Songs Adapted To Their Traditional Airs, London 1898, p. 50/51 (at the Internet Archive)

 His notes on these pages were at that time the best and most competent discussion of the song's history. In the appendix on p. 338 are transcriptions of Coffey's, Kitty Clive's and Burke Thomoth's versions of  "Aileen Aroon"´.


B27. 1903, "Eileen Aroon" - O'Neill's Music Of Ireland (two versions)

  • in: Francis O'Neill, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, 1903 (available at Freesheetmusic.net)

No. 392, see also abcnotation.com (with midifile)
No. 393, see also abcnotation.com (dto.)


B28. 1890 - 1922, "Robin Adair" - Recordings

Between 1890 and the 1920s "Robin Adair" was recorded a couple of times, both as an instrumental and with vocals:



Images & Musical Examples

    All self-made sheet music and midi-files were created with the MC Musiceditor.

  1. "Ellen A Roon", tune from: Charles Coffey, The Beggar's Wedding, 3rd Edition, London 1729, app. p. 12 ; music sheet & midi-file created from Bruce Olson's transcription in abc-notation, available at S1.ABC.
  2. From: John Walsh, The Second Book of the Compleat Country Dancing Master, 3d Edition, London ca. 1735, No. 18, source: pdf-file downloaded from IMSLP
  3. "Robin Adair", in: Eliz. Young, Her Book, NLS MS 5.2.23, tune quoted from SITM, No. 849, p. 156
  4. "Aileen Aroon", as sung by Kitty Clive, tune and first verse from reprint of song sheet (London ca. 1742) in Maunder 1993, p. 449
  5. From: Proceedings Of The Bath Natural History And Antiquarian Field Club, Vol. X, Bath 1905, p. 135, source: The Internet Archive
  6. Tune and first verse of "Franklin Is Fled Away" (or "O Hone, O Hone"), known since the 1650s, quoted from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature And Popular Music Of The Olden Time, Vol.1, London 1855, p. 370
  7. "Ducatu Non Vanatu", tune & one verse, in: Domenico Corri, A Select Collection of the Most Admired Songs, Duetts, Etc, Vol. 3, London, n. d. [ca. 1782-3], p. 21
  8. From: The Hibernian Muse; A Collection of Irish Airs: Including the most Favorite Compositions of Carolan, The Celebrated Irish Bard. To which is prefixed, An Essay on Irish music; with Memoirs of Carolan, London 1790, No. X, p. 6, source: pdf-file downloaded at IMSLP
  9. "Ellen A Roon", melody line transcribed from piano arrangement in: Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, Dublin 1840, p. 94 (pdf-file downloaded from IMSLP)
  10. "Robin Adair", text and first verse from David Sime (ed.), Edinburgh Musical Miscellany, A Collection Of The Most Approved Scotch, English, And Irish Songs, Set To Music Vol. 2, Edinburgh 1793,  p. 304/5 (av. at the Internet Archive)
  11. "Aileen Aroon", as sung by Kitty Clive, 1742 (see No. 4), original key "G", here transposed to "Bb".
  12. Robert Burns, "Had I A Cave", from The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Self-Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909, p. 204, source:´The Internet Archive
  13. Robert Burns, "Phillis The Fair", from James C. Dick (ed.), The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1903, p. 45, source: The Internet Archive
  14. "Aileen A Roon", from James Oswald, Caledonian Pocket Companion, Book V, London, ca. 1753, No. 21, source of tune: The Internet Archive
  15. Robert Burns, "Phillis The Fair", from The Complete Works of Robert Burns (Self-Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909, p. 202, source: The Internet Archive
  16. "Ailun A' Roon; or, Welcome My Ellun, An Old Irish Air", tune as published in The European Magazine And London Review , Vol. 25, 1794: April,  p. 314 - 316 (available at Google Books)
  17. From: John O'Keeffe's Dramatic Works, London 1798, p. 120-1, source: The Internet Archive
  18. From: James Aird, A Selection Of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs. Adapted for the Fife, Violin or German Flute, Vol. 5 & 6, Glasgow 1801 (first published ca. 1797), No. 72 p. 29 , source: The Internet Archive
  19. "Now Is The Spell-Working Hour Of The Night", in: Edward Light, A Select Collection of Scottish and Irish Airs, London ca. 1811/12, tune from SITM I, No. 2976, p. 542, text from Crosby's Irish Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Irish Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London ca. 1808,  p. 272-3
  20. "Ailen A Roon", from Niel Gow, Part Second Of The Complete Repository, Of Original Scots Tunes[...], p. 11; music sheet and midi-file created from transcription in abc-notation available at The Fiddler's Companion
  21. From: Crosby's Irish Musical Repository. A Choice Selection Of Esteemed Irish Songs, Adapted for the Voice, Violin and German Flute, London, ca. 1808, p. 272-3, source: The Internet Archive
  22. Thomas Moore, "Erin, The Tear And The Smile In Thine Eyes", text & tune from Moore's Irish Melodies, London 1859, p. 5 (available at The Internet Archive)
  23. From Old Favourites, Reprinted From The Family Herald And Weekly Star, Montreal 1898, p. 59, source: The Internet Archive
  24. Text & tune from:  Robin Adair : The Much Admired Ballad Sung with enthusiastic applause By Mr. Braham at the Lyceum Theatre, The Symphony & Accompaniments Composed & Arranged For The Harp Or Piano Forte by W. Reeve, Button & Whitaker, London, n. d. [1812]
  25. From: Monthly Magazine And British Register, Vol. 33, No. 223, February 1, 1812, p. 53, source: pdf-file downloaded from Google-Books
  26. "Irische Volksweise Robin Adair", tune and first verse from: Ludwig van Beethoven, Volkslieder für eine oder mehrere Singstimmen, Violine, Violoncello u. Pianoforte, 1860, No. 7, available as a pdf-file at  IMSLP
  27. Robin Adair, from: Edinburgh Repository Of Music; Containing the most Select English, Scottish & Irish Airs, Reels, Strathspeys &c, Arranged For The German Flute Or Violin, Vol. 1, Edinburgh ca. 1818, p. 70, source: The Internet Archive.
  28. Eileen Aroon, from: Thomas Mooney, A History Of Ireland From Its First Settlement To The Present Times, Boston 1853, p. 535, source: The Internet Archive 
  29. Eileen Aroon, first verse (by Gerald Griffin) & tune from Helen Johnson, Our Familiar Songs, New York 1889, p. 241
  30. Charlie C. Converse, Aileen Aroon, text & tune from sheet music published in 1853, available at at Levy Sheet Music Collection
  31. From: Henry Reddall, Songs That Never Die, New York 1894, p. 120, source:´The Internet Archive
  32. From: Dolores M. Bacon (ed.), Songs Every Child Should Know. A Selection Of The Best Songs Of All Nations For Young People, New York 1907, p. 70, source:´The Internet Archive

Go to the Bibliography


Compiled by Jürgen Kloss,  2011-2014
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