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Maligan Gair

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Performer: Cockayne, Molly
Place Collected: Churchdown
Date collected: 1941 (31 Aug)
Roud Number: 666

This wonderful piece of nonsense goes back 200 years at least.  The first known version was printed in 1826 in Tait’s Magazine as “The Beggars of Coldlingham Fair”, with the opening verse:

The first time I gaed to Coudlingham (sic) Fair
I fell in with a jolly beggar.
The beggar’s name, O it was Harry
And he had a wife and they called her Mary
O Mary and Harry and Harry and Mary
And Janet and John
That’s the beggars one by one
Now I will gi’e you them pair by pair
All the brave beggars of Coudingham Fair

The song was said to be “generally known in the south of Scotland”.  Be that as it may, no other Scottish version has subsequently been noted, although it has been collected a handful of times, even recently, in England and occasionally Northern Ireland.  In that time, the name of the fair has undergone some wonderful changes.  In Northern Island it is called Monahan Fair or Craigbilly Fair, while in England, the venue of the fair has become Maligan, Bonnybrook, Donnybrook, Widdliecombe or Barningham.


Notes by Gwilym Davies March 2020