She Moves Through the Fair: Margaret Barry

February 1, 2011 at 11:11 am (Folk, Music, She Moves Through the Fair) ()

Margaret Barry, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1958?). Short version first, long second.

Barry, a member of the Irish travelling community, is on record saying that she learnt the song (a modern version featuring an adaptation of Colum’s words) from recordings of McCormack and MacEwan. The interview featuring this statement is included on I Sang Through the Fairs. Barry herself influenced a number of later singers, notably Anne Briggs. It may be that Barry initialised the flood of female singers tackling the song, which is, after all, narrated by a male character.

These versions are field recordings, made by Alan Lomax, folklorist and collector of folk music. As such, they are fairly basic – just Barry and her banjo – but her raw, powerful voice is affecting nonetheless. She was a street singer in Ireland and London; she later spent time in America. A short biography can be found here.

I Sang Through the Fairs contains two versions of “She Moved Through the Fair”. As might be expected, the long version contains all four verses and the shorter one (subtitled “Our Wedding Day”) only three (verse 3 – the one with the sorrow that ne’er was told – is omitted). In the shorter version, Barry clearly sings ‘he’, but I think that she retainsthe traditional ‘she’ in the longer version.

Barry has been accused of introducing the dead love in the final verse, but as both John MacCormack and Sydney McEwan use those words, that modification cannot be hers. Similarly, she cannot be credited fot the alteration of a dream to a physical prescence in the last verse, as MacEwan is, in this context, no dreamer.

Buy “I Sang Though the Fairs” at Amazon.co.uk
(currently out of print; used copies may be available)
Queen of the Gypsies
(another Margaret Barry anthology that includes this song)
She Moved Through The Fair MP3

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