“Matt Hyland”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1825 (broadside, Bodleian 2806 c.18(344))
Keywords: nobility love separation exile transportation servant
Found in: Britain(England(South)) Ireland

Description

A lord's daughter loves Matt. "But when her parents came to know, They swore they'd drive him from this island." The girl bids Matt flee before he is transported. Eventually her father relents, and she bids him come home to marry her

Notes

This song has been claimed by Irish and Scottish sources, and I've also heard it sung by English singers. Interestingly, all the versions are very close, suggesting there is some single, recent source. This theory is supported by the ornate language, so atypical of traditional song. But no one seems to know what the source is.

There are several broadsides, at least one dated c. 1825 (though such datings are notoriously unreliable), entitled "Mat Hyland" or "Young Mat Hyland." None match the traditional text commonly sung; they are without exception wordier and poorer poetry. Still, they provide a strong indication that the song originated as a broadside -- though these prints (e.g. in the Bodleian collection) are probably not the original source, as no tune seems to be indicated!

In addition, a manuscript volume called "Songs and Ballads in use in the Province of Ulster...1845" is said by Hugh Shields to contain a version of the song, but I do not know if the dating of the volume is considered reliable. Still, there seems no doubt that the song was in existence by the early nineteenth century. - RBW

Cross references

Broadsides

Recordings

References

  1. Morton-Ulster 1, "Matt Hyland" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. DT, MATTHYL
  3. Roud #2880
  4. BI, DTmatthy