Black Velvet Band

The Black Velvet Band

"The Black Velvet Band" (Roud number 2146) is a traditional Irish folk song describing transportation to Australia, a common punishment in 19th century Britain and Ireland. The song tells the story of a tradesman who meets a young woman who has stolen an item and passed it on to him (the lyrics of the song vary from place to place). The man then appears in court the next day, charged with stealing the item and is sent to Van Diemen's Land for doing so. This song was adapted in the United States to "The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band."

While working for the BBC, Peter Kennedy recorded a version in Belfast in 1952. In 1959, a version was found in Australia. The collector G.B. Gardiner noted a version in Hampshire in 1907. An earlier version by the publisher Swindells in Manchester is very wordy, and has no chorus. It places the events in Barking, Essex.

One day, being out on a ramble, alone by myself I did stray,
I met with a young gay deceiver, while cruising in Ratcliffe Highway;
Her eyes were as black as a raven, I thought her the pride of the land,
Her hair, that did hang o'er her shoulders, was tied with a black velvet band.

The publication date of that version is probably between 1837 and 1853.


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