Played regularly during the early 1950 at barn dances in Scotland
Re: Down In The Willow Garden
This tune has been recorded with lyrics many times in America. It seems it was a well-known song from the late 1800s and found throughout Applachia. Flatt and Scruggs recorded a version along with The New Lost City Ramblers.
Isn’t the melody a version of Rosin the Bow?
Re: Down In The Willow Garden
I’m doing a write-up on this tune for the Newbies social group at mandolincafe.com. Here is what I have so far:
Rose Connolly (Connelly, Conley, etc)
Down In The Willow Garden
Down By The Sally Garden
The Maids of the Mourne Shore (or just "The Moorlough Shore")
Old Rosin, The Beau (but not "Rosin the Bow")
In 1899 W. B. Yeatts wrote a poem based on a fragment of an old song he had heard years earlier, probably the Irish ballad "The Rambling Boys of Pleasure". Yeatts’ poem, "Down By the Sally (or Salley) Gardens", is a rather tender reminiscence of youthful love. It was put to music in about 1909 by Herbert Hughes using an adaptation of the melody of an older Irish folk tune, "The Moorlough Shore". This same tune has been used in more than its share of so-called "folk music"; its origin is unknown — it first appeared in print only a few years before Yeatts published his poem.
Our tune of the month has been identified as "Down IN The WILLOW Garden", or sometimes "Rose Conley", an Appalachian murder ballad. If you think the titles are somewhat similar, consider this: "sally" or "salley" is an anglicization of the gaelic word for "willow", which in turn is derived from the Latin scientific name for willow, "salyx". And yes, people did maintain willow groves, or gardens, for the structural and medicinal uses of willow. Chewing willow bark, for example, was known to alleviate pain. The active ingredient was found to be salicytic acid, ie, "acid from willow". When isolated and then produced en masse, this sold under the trade name "aspirin".
Sorry for leading you down that dead end, but heck, I couldn’t help myself. This tune (or these tunes) is/are entrances to a rabbit warren.
"Rose Connolly", or "Down In the Willow Garden", is the only murder ballad I can think of where the guy singing the song kills his sweet, lovely, presumably pregnant girlfriend in three different ways just to make triple-dang sure: poisoned her ("For I did poison that dear little girl"), stabbed her ("I drew a sabre through her") and then drowned her ("I threw her in the river"). Then the killer tries to blame his father ("My father he had told me, his money would set me free, if I would poison that dear little girl, whose name was Rose Connelly"). But you do have to wonder why Papa was so eager to see poor little Rosie silenced and out of the way.
The first verse of the most commonly heard version of "Down In The Willow Garden" is quite similar to the first verse of Yeatts’ poem, thus hinting at common ancestry. The titles are practically identical. And get this - the tunes are almost identical - one is in 3/4, the other in 4/4, but otherwise the same. But the murder ballad was known in Appalachia well before Yeatts’ poem was written and put to music. And our tune of the month is almost unknown across the Atlantic except as an American export. Something doesn’t add up here.
There is another wrinkle or two. There is an old jig called "Old Rosin, the Beau." This tune’s melody has been used many time for diverse purposes including more than one US presidential campaign tune. Slow that tune down a bit and put it into 3/4 time and you have, voila, "Rose Connolly".
There is an old Irish tune titled "Rose Connolly" but it bears little or no resemblance to our tune of the month. It was "collected" in Coleraine, Ireland, in 1811. I have not found any words to the tune.