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You young and old I pray make bold, I wish you would draw near,
It is so true a story as ever you did hear,
Concerning of a fair one, her age was scarce sixteen,
Her beauty bright gave me delight, 'twas open to be seen.
I courted her in private, I courted her a while,
I courted her both day and night till I got her with child,
And how to take her precious life, I act a scheme was wild,
I said, "Dear Ann, If you'll consent to Lumsford town we'll go,
It's there we will get married, I'm sure no one will know."
'Twas late that night we both set out to cross the country,
'Twould bring the tears down from your eyes what Ann had said to me.
And when we got about mid way, I made her this reply,
Saying, "Ann, you'll go no further, it's here you've got to die."
"Oh, Jim, think on your infant young and don't give me a fright,
And don't commit any murder this dark and stormy night;
I'll pray to God, here on my knees, if you'll spare me my life,
I'll never come here to trouble you nor ask to be your wife."
For all of her crying it was in vain for I struck her full sore,
With a heavy-loaded weapon I laid her in her gore;
Her blood and brains did stain the ground,
Her groans would pierce your heart,
And when I had her murdered, 'twas from her I did part.
She was alive the next morning, just by the dawn of day,
When a shepherd's only daughter, by chance, did come that way;
She saw her in her bleeding gore and went to her relief,
She told her of the guilty one and sent for the police.
The doctors and policemen were all sent for and jurymen likewise,
They all got information and walked out in disguise;
So quickly they surrounded me and soon were on my trail,
A prisoner I was taken and lodged in Lumsford jail.
It's here I lies in prison until my trial day,
The judge have passed my sentence that I should die today,
For murdering of young Ann O'Brien, the country girls go see,
On the eighteenth day of April, I'll swing on the gallows-tree."
Come all young men and maidens, a warning take by me,
Don't never murder your own true love, you'll die a death like me,
You'll die a public scandal all on the gallows-tree.
Collected in 1958 from Mrs. Thomas (Annie) Walters of Rocky Harbour, NL, by Kenneth Peacock and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Volume 2, pp.622-623, by The National Museum Of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.
Kenneth Peacock noted that the second line of verse 5, missing in this version, was taken from another variant by Mrs. Freeman Bennett [1908-2006] of St. Paul's, NL. Mrs. Bennett's last verse is quite different and worth reproducing:
My name is James McDonald, from life I now must part,
For murdering of young Ann O'Brien I'm sorry to the heart;
I hope the Lord will pardon me all on the Judgement Day,
And when I'm on the gallows, good Christians for me pray.
Kenneth Peacock also noted that Mrs. Bennett sang another murder song called Daniel Sullivan whose girl friend back home is also called Ann O'Brien. Daniel is in a Liverpool jail. The text is badly mixed up and is not included in this collection. Peacock added that Helen Hartness Flanders collected a short variant of The Murder Of Ann O'Brien from an Elmer George of East Calais and included it in her Country Songs Of Vermont (Schirmer's American Folk Song Series, Set 19). The ballad is called James MacDonald in Vermont.
A variant was also collected from Theresa White [born c.1934] of Port au Port, NL, and published as Ann O'Brien in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA). It was also recorded on MacEdward Leach's album Songs From The Out-Ports Of Newfoundland (Folkways, 1966).