She’s the Belle of Belfast City

St. George is Patron Saint of England, and St. Andrew is Scotland’s, and St. David is Wales’ Saint, and everyone knows who the Patron Saint of Ireland is.  But who do you suppose is Patron Saint of Northern Ireland?

Here’s a hint, his remains are said to rest in Downpatrick (i.e. “Patrick’s stronghold”) about 20 miles from Belfast.  And here’s another, in addition to the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew, St. Patrick’s is the third cross featured on the Union Jack.  Trick question and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Born in Roman Britain and carried into slavery by Irish raiders when he was 16, St. Patrick (as he has been known for way-more than a millennium) worked as an Irish herdsman for six years before escaping back to Britain where he became a person of the cloth. Eventually returning to northern Ireland as an ordained bishop-on-a-mission, he is believed to have founded his first church in a barn near Downpatrick in AD 432 and then to have set up the center of his Christian teachings in the northern Irish township of Armagh.

Dedicated to spreading the gospel to all throughout that Emerald Isle, he gained renown for training pastors, planting churches, healing the sick and “casting out demons.”  But since the modern scholarly mind has little tolerance for ancient miracles, it is frequently speculated that his most famous deed, the banishment of all snakes from Ireland, is actually a metaphor for the expulsion of pagan beliefs.

Although never formally canonized by the Pope, St. Patrick is honored by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran Churches and ‘though he is indelibly associated with the Republic of Ireland he is roundly celebrated in his “home base” of Northern Ireland (with a population that’s 41 percent Catholic and 14 percent Anglican), whose largest city, Belfast is in the thick of its annual four-day St. Patrick’s Festival at this very moment.

Also known as “I’ll Tell me Ma”, this song is most assuredly playing somewhere within those city limits as you read these lines. Although it originated in the streets of Belfast as a children’s skipping song, its lyrics were long ago adapted to suit other locations where it is sung as well. For example, there are versions where the Belle comes from Brisbane or London or Dublin or the “Golden City” of Edinburgh.

It’s performed here by Lick the Tins, an ‘80s Celtic/Folk/Rock band from London, best known for its spirited rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”. Although the group broke up soon after this release, rest assured that in Belfast (and everywhere else that celebrates the legendary St. Paddy this weekend), as long as there are those who’ll wear the green, there will be boys who forever and a day… “won’t leave the girls alone.”

 LISTEN TO THIS SONG – St. Patrick’s Day 2013

The Belle of Belfast City

Tell my ma when I go home,

The boys won’t leave the girls alone,

They pulled my hair and stole my comb,

But that’s all right ’till I go home.

She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the belle of Belfast city,

She is courting, one, two, three

Please won’t you tell me who is she?

 Albert Mooney says he loves her,

All the boys are fighting for her,

Knock on the door and they ring the bell

Oh my true love, are you well?

Here she comes, as white as snow,

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,

Old Johnny Mary she says she’ll die

If she doesn’t get the boy with the roving eye.

Tell my ma when I go home,

The boys won’t leave the girls alone,

They pulled my hair and stole my comb,

But that’s all right ’till I go home.

 She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the belle of Belfast city,

She is courting, one two three

Please won’t you tell me who is she?

 Let the wind and the rain and the hail blow high

And the snow come tumbling from the sky

She’s as nice as apple pie

She’ll get her own boy, by and by

When she gets a lad of her own,

She won’t tell her ma ’till she comes home,

Let the boys stay as they will,

For it’s Albert Mooney she loves still.

 Tell my ma when I go home,

The boys won’t leave the girls alone,

They pulled my hair and stole my comb,

But that’s all right ’till I go home.

She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the belle of Belfast city,

She is courting, one two three

Please won’t you tell me who is she?

Tell my ma when I go home,

The boys won’t leave the girls alone,

They pulled my hair and stole my comb,

But that’s all right ’till I go home.

She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the belle of Belfast city,

She is courting, one two three

Please won’t you tell me who is she?

Tell my ma when I go home,

The boys won’t leave the girls alone,

They pulled my hair and stole my comb,

But that’s all right ’till I go home.

She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the belle of Belfast city,

She is courting, one two three

Please won’t you tell me who is she

 

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