The Four Marys

Share tidbits of dulcimer history, or history of the songs we play on them

The Four Marys

Postby Weaver » Thu Aug 10, 2006 3:58 pm

I am just learning this pretty little song with the sad lyrics. I am just sure that someone here knows the story behind this song. Anything to do with Mary, Queen of Scots?

I am also looking for tab for Barbry Allen.

Thanks in advance.

kathy
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Postby LarryHicks » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:26 pm

Here is a link to some information about The Four Marys, with a midi playing the song.
http://www.contemplator.com/scotland/4marys.html

Larry
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Postby LarryHicks » Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:32 pm

Here is the music for Barbara Allen. See if this is the one you want. The site will generate dulcimer tab for the song, but you may have to try various tunings to get something that works. If you want DAd, you can select any other 1-5-8 tuning and you can play the tab numbers in DAd.
http://sniff.numachi.com/pages/tiBARBAL ... BALN2.html

Larry

Edit: I tried the Mixolydian Bb-F-Bb, and the computer generated it okay, but I didn't try playing it yet.
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Postby spoonsman » Sat Sep 02, 2006 6:42 pm

I first saw the lyric/poem in a British Lit book back in college in the 1960's. It may be loosely based on actual event. Mary Stewart or Mary Queen of Scot, had four ladies in waiting named Mary. The scandal happened in 1563. None of the four Marys in her court actually suffered the fate of Mary in the song. There are actually 18 verses in my copy and takes her through being paraded in the streets of Edinboro, getting drunk in jail before her execution, and pre-death pronouncements. It is suppose to be too late as an actual medieval ballad, although it has a lot of similar structure and length. It is not quite an English Renaissance ballad either. Of course, Scotland was sort of between the two at the time.
Slante--
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Postby folkfan » Sat Sep 02, 2006 7:26 pm

There was a Mary of Scottish descent who was executed at the court of the Czar( Peter the Great's) for infanticide. In one version I have of Mary Hamilton (the original song) Mary Hamilton asks sailors not to take the news of her death back to her parents across the sea. "I charge ye all ye sailors, when ye sail o'er the foam. Let neither my father nor mother know but that I'm coming home" Next verse "Oh, little did my mother think, the day she cradled me, Thes lands I was to travel in or the death I was to die". It never sounded as if she was actually dying in Scotland in some of the verses in the longer version. And Queen Mary's Marys were, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton,Mary Fleming and Mary Livingston who attended Queen Mary as her companions in France and Scotland. The song sounds to be a combination of two historical events. Sometimes the song makes it sound as if Queen Mary is hanging Mary Hamilton without reason, or just from jealousy. But killing one's newly born child was and is a crime. Shalom, FF
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Postby mrjop1975 » Thu Dec 20, 2007 11:48 pm

Just as an aside, we wound up playing this tune to-night at our dulcimer meeting. I don't know how to play it on the dulcimer, so I played the tune on the autoharp to set it up, and it was a lot of fun.

I've always liked the melody to this tune, and the fact it is has so many different verses to it.

Somewhere on YouTube is Jean Ritchie and her sister singing it a capella. Check it out if you can.
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Postby folkfan » Wed Jan 02, 2008 12:28 am

I've done many a Highland Game and Renn Faire as Mary, Queen of Scots. And for some reason there is always a minstrel or bard that wants to play "The Four Maries" for me. I've been serenaded by a harper, guitarist, lute player, and an acapella group doing various and sundry verses of this song. I'm glad no one ever decided to sing "Mary Hamilton" to me, I'd still be there listening to verses. :twisted: :twisted: heheheheee
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Postby mrjop1975 » Wed Jan 02, 2008 5:40 pm

FF - if it makes you feel any better: Whenever I have an autoharp with me and I'm playing say at a bench or somewhere, when someone knows what one is, I inevitably get asked to play the song: Wildwood flower. Nothing against that song - so maybe there is just something about certain instruments always being associated with certain songs.

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Postby folkfan » Wed Jan 02, 2008 10:32 pm

mrjop1975 wrote:FF - if it makes you feel any better: Whenever I have an autoharp with me and I'm playing say at a bench or somewhere, when someone knows what one is, I inevitably get asked to play the song: Wildwood flower. Nothing against that song - so maybe there is just something about certain instruments always being associated with certain songs.

Peace


It's sort of the thing bagpipers get. "Oh, Can you play "Amazing Grace?" My nephew began to hate that song along with a number of other pipers he knew. I think the reply of "Yes, I can play it, but I won't." is becoming more and more frequent.
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Re: The Four Marys

Postby edwilson » Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:41 pm

You are correct. The song is (supposedly)sung by Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots, on the eve of her execution. The other 3 Marys were Seaton, Beaton and Carmichael - all close friends of the Queen and who acted as her "ladies in waiting".
The lyrics, which I quote from memory (nuff said there) says " Yestre'en the Queen had 4 Marys, this nicht she'll ha'e but three". referring of course, to her,soon to take place, execution.

Hope that helps.
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Re: The Four Marys

Postby KenH » Tue Nov 21, 2017 8:14 pm

Ed -- you do realize that this discussion was last a modified nine (9) years ago.... Mary Hamilton/Four Marys is a great tune that I've been playing on dulcimer for about 40 years...
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Re: The Four Marys

Postby Tradman » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:56 am

Except research shows that there was no Mary Hamilton or Mary Carmicheal during the time of Mary's Reign. There have been many scholarly papers done on the topic of this song. The results are inconclusive, but the general consensus is that it was NOT about Mary, Queen of Scots.

edwilson wrote:You are correct. The song is (supposedly)sung by Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots, on the eve of her execution. The other 3 Marys were Seaton, Beaton and Carmichael - all close friends of the Queen and who acted as her "ladies in waiting".
The lyrics, which I quote from memory (nuff said there) says " Yestre'en the Queen had 4 Marys, this nicht she'll ha'e but three". referring of course, to her,soon to take place, execution.

Hope that helps.
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