The Lakes Of Ponchartrain waltz

Also known as Glenswilly, Lilly Of The West, Upon A Sunday Morning When Spring Was In Its Prime.

There are 22 recordings of this tune.

The Lakes Of Ponchartrain appears in 1 other tune collection.

The Lakes Of Ponchartrain has been added to 4 tune sets.

The Lakes Of Ponchartrain has been added to 241 tunebooks.

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Twenty-four comments


This was found on another web site in this key but I would like to transpose it to G mag. I don’t have the Musical skill to do so. If you can do this please do so. It’s a real easy tune.

The Lakes of Ponchartrain

This is a song I sing. There was a good discussion of its history on a thread at the Mudcat forum.

Alice Flynn

Lily of the West

Mark Knofler does what I think is a great version of this song with the Chieftains on the Long Black Veil. Can’t say I care for most of that CD, but I like Lily of the West.

Paul Brady

I had the great pleasure of seeing Paul Brady perform this song live a few years back.

I’m of the opinion that his version (first recorded on the “Welcome Here Kind Stranger” album) is the definitive one. I certainly prefer it to the Christy Moore version.

From what I can gather, the song is set in the closing stages (or right after) the war of 1812, told from the viewpoint of a soldier who has been fighting on the “wrong” side.

I’m guessing the story is set not long after the battle of New Orleans when the English army were roundly defeated. Technically, by the time the battle took place, the war had officially been declared over but because of the speed of communications at the time, the army had no way of knowing this.

I used to play this one quite a lot. Let’s see if I can remember the words:

’Twas on one bright march morning
I bid New Orleans adieu.
And I took the road to Jackson town,
My fortune to renew.
I cursed all foreign money,
No credit could I gain.
Which filled my heart with longing for
The lakes of Ponchartrain.

I stepped on board a railroad car
Beneath the morning sun.
I rode the rods ’till evening
Then I laid me down again.
All strangers there, no friends to me
’Till a dark girl towards me came.
And I fell in love with a creole girl by
The lakes of Ponchartrain.

I said ’My pretty creole girl,
My money here’s no good.
And if it weren’t for the alligators
I’d sleep out in the woods.’
’You’re welcome here kind stranger,
Our house is very plain.
But we never turn a stranger out on
The banks of Ponchartrain.’

She took me in to her mother’s house
And treated me right well.
The hair upon her shoulders
In jet-black ringlets fell.
To try to paint her beauty,
I’m sure ’twould be in vain.
So handsome was my creole girl by
The lakes of Ponchartrain.

I asked her if she’d marry me.
She said this could never be.
For she had got a lover
And he was far at sea.
She said that she would wait for him
And true she would remain.
’Till he’d return to his creole girl by
The lakes of Ponchartrain.

So fare thee well my creole girl,
I never may see you more.
And I’ll ne’er forget your kindness
In the cottage by the shore.
And at each social gathering
A flowing glass I’ll drain.
And I’ll drink a health to my creole girl by
The lakes of Ponchartrain.

Lakes of Ponchartrain

My feeling/information was that it was set during the American CIVIL war - they wouldn’t have had any trains in 1812..Doh !..but the poor guy is trying to desert from the Confederates, who are trying to discourage this by showing extreme prejudice, as they say theses days. His money is confederate scrip, which is nouse anymore, but he’s helped out of his difficulties by the lovely creole lady.

Other names…

I was reading on the mudcat forum that this is the same, or very similar, melody as “Tramps and Hawkers”, “Peter Emberlay,” “Lakes of Ponchartrain,” “Paddy West”…or “Homes of Donegal”.

I was specifically looking for “Homes of Donegal” as a friend had mentioned it to me. Any opinions on this?

this is a question for all of you who are used to play this song. How do tou ornamate this one? With Long rolls in white notes?

“The Homes Of Donegal” - Sean Mc Bride

I’ve just dropped in to see you all
I’ll only stay awhile
I want to hear how you’re getting on
I want to hear you smile
I’m happy to be back again
And greet you big and small
For there’s no place on earth just like
The homes of Donegal

I long to see your smiling children
Standing by the door
The kettle boiling on the hearth
As I walk up the floor
And then to see a welcome free
For travellers one and all
For your hearts are like your mountains
In the homes of Donegal

I’d like to stay along with you
And while away the night
With fairy lore and tales of yore
Beside the turf fire bright
And then to see laid out for me
A shake-down by the wall
For there’s rest for weary wanderers
In the homes of Donegal

The time has come for me to go
And bid you all adieu
For the open highway calls me back
To do these things I do
But when I’m travelling far away
Your friendship I’ll recall
And please God I’ll soon return unto
The homes of Donegal

Actually, the American version of the song is set just after the end of the Civil War, not the War of 1812 as was set down by the submitter. Both sides in the war bought Irish slaves from England to fight; hence the song, “Battle of Bull Run,” “If it haddna been for Irishmen, what would the Union done? Hand to hand we fought ’em at the Battle of Bull Run.”
The Irish were set free by the south in major disarming centers such as New Orleans. They were paid off in Confederate specie which was worthless. Most wandered off toward Jackson, Mississippi hoping to find work, etc. This song, and the background are well known in New Orleans. One needs only to visit O’Flarity’s to confirm. Enjoy yourself while you’re there.
By the way, in 1814, there were no trains running from N. Orleans to Jackson-another way of dating.


Is this the same tune as `Glenswilly’? I think it is, but maybe it’s in a different key?

The Hills Of Glenswilly?

I wonder hober, if this song would be sung to the tune you mentioned - Glenswilly:

The Hills Of Glenswilly

Attention pay, my countrymen, and hear my native news,
Although my song is sorrowful, I hope you’ll me excuse;
I left my native country a foreign land to see,
I bid farewell to Donegal, likewise to Glenswilly.

T’was on a summer’s morning at the dawning of the day,
I left my peaceful, happy home to wander far away;
And as I viewed that grand old man, perhaps no more to see,
I thought my heart would surely break in leaving Glenswilly.

No more among the sycamore I’ll hear the blackbird sing,
No more I’ll hear the blithe cuckoo that welcomes back the spring;
No more I’ll plow your fertile fields, a chuisle geal mo chroidhe,
On a foreign soil I’m doomed to toil far away from Glenswilly.

God bless you, dark old Donegal, my own, my native land,
In dreams I’ll see your heathered glens and towering mountains grand;
God bless the day, will ere come ’round when I’ll return to thee,
And live as my forefathers lived, and die in Glenswilly.

okay i’m a bit busy/lazy. anyone got the basses or chords to this one? regards bob

Southern connection

I stumbled upon a collection of traditional songs collected in Texas in a 2nd hand bookshops not so long ago (typewritten type A4 format, yellow cover), there were quite a few scores in it that sounded like this one, though the words were varied.

The same setting as above, but transposed to Gmaj where it resides at our local session.

This tune is known in the Isle of Man as Upon a Sunday Morning when Spring was in its Prime, collected there in about 1897. Like many tunes that have travelled (albeit not far!) it shows some interesting differences from the more widely known melody.

I’ve finally got round to notating the version of this tune collected in the Isle of Man in about 1896 from a prolific source of traditional tunes, Tom Kermode. The title seems to refer to a different ballad than the ones already mentioned, The Letter, which begins: “’Twas on a Sunday morning, before the bells did peal”.

When played instrumentally, it usually has a few more notes than in the tune as collected (and I’m sure that would have been embellished in various ways anyway).

Hey, Manx Davey that is interesting to see. By “ballad,” do you mean the poetry? It seems to be the one thing that is not on the Internet.

It reads/sounds as 6/8, but does it have to be a waltz bcs of thesession’s taxonomy?

Hi. Yes, by ballads I mean the words to the songs sung to this tune. Ballads were published on broadsides, large printed sheets often having several ballads on them (see as one source if you want to see what I mean. Of course, you may already know - in which case I apologise!).

Ballads can be poetic, they certainly rhyme. But what I think as being a ballad is that it tells a story in a narrative way. So all ballads are songs, but not all songs ballads. If anyone wants to give a better explanation, please do!

And yes, the time signature might be better in 6/8, like the planxty tunes, for example.

Re: The Lakes Of Pontchartrain

Apropos of nothing to do with the tune, it is actually PonTchartrain, and presumably takes its name from the town and castle of the same name in the Departement of Yvelines, about 35k from Paris. (The missing T is silent however!)

Re: The Lakes Of Ponchartrain

I always assumed it was about Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and was a Cajun tune.

Re: The Lakes Of Ponchartrain

Aha! they have the 2 Ts! And that is perhaps the best-known and iconic version of the song: thanks Kenny.

Starleaf 214, I didn’t mean that the tune came from Jouars-Pontchartrain in France, just that the place in Louisiana might have taken its name from the French town as there were many French settlers in that area. (Louisiana named after French king, Louis IV, when it was colonised by the French in 1682. And Pontchartrain in France is not far from Louis’ great palace of Versailles!)

Re: The Lakes Of Ponchartrain

Apropos place name n pronounceeeayshn;
pont + chartrain means “the religious institution by the bridge” (bridge + chartered friary)
The T is not pronounced in Creole French if only because there is no vowell after it in the word. (T is pronounced in Pontarlier or Pont-à-mousson because there is no consonnant after it).
When pronounced “à l’anglaise” the nasal vowell /õ/ becomes two phonemes again (V+C).
The proximity of the alveolar -articulated “n” in “pon” to the “sh” of French -pronnounced “chartrain” (think Chicago here) tends to create a transitory “d” sound between the n and the sh/tsh sound of the second syllable.
There may be a difference between the pronunciation of people who learn the song orally and the singers who learned it from print.

Interestingly enough, there can be a world of difference between the phonology (i.e.; the ways language is pronounced/enunciated) of the spoken word and the sung word.
One case in mind is lilting: lilters use their own set of consonants (often mergers and approximants, like, say, retroflex d which sounds halway between d & l as in American ‘better’, etc) when they rap their tongue twisting refrains)
The other case in mind, as far as Irish trad is concerned, is ennisation:
“N-isation” is a phenomenon which goes largely unnoticed by the Irish singer and audience (and, yet, it takes place!); it is when ‘n’’s are intersperced through the lyrics to help with the flow of the song.
It is similar to the way Spanish-speaking people intersperse extra-linguistic vowells in between consonants when they speak English: they just have to have them although they do this quite unwittingly.)
Linguists are not a particularly orthodox bunch of scientists: they’ve helped debunk a lot of cultural myths about language. They know of the vocalic roles of consonants in words such as ‘film’ (fiLUHm) or Krk (an island in the Adriatic)
Singing teachers on the other hand tend to be traditionalists and when you tell them the consonants L, N, M play a vocalic role in song especially in, well, traditional melismatic songs, they can give you a frown.
If you listen carefully to singers like Christy Moore or Cathal McDonnell, you’ll notice they throw in a lot of intertextual ‘n’‘s (and sometime ’d‘’s) that are simply not there when they speak.
Well, I’m only throwing this in to pique your cyoureeosoty. Language has a music of its own and and music has a language of its own so when the two meet, interesting eddies form.
I am not a professional linguist btw, but I’ve lived in multilingual parts of the world with an extended family striding 2 continents to boost. It tends to makes you “look” at language in a different way.
Having said that, I hope you’ll find this semi-specialised paragraph cogent with the song.
I half did it to pass the time, just , to be honest, as I been riding the rods from sunset till first light tonight… Albeit in the relative comfort of a night car, and
in the alternate company of two Philippino carers who joyfully spoke to eachother and to me in an evershifting admixture of four languages as they are on their way to Lourdes. They’re now fast asleep at last and I must alight at the next station. Thank you for the company, kind strangers.