Brian O'Lynn (Tom Boleyn)

DESCRIPTION: Vignettes about Brian/Tom. Each describes a situation he finds himself in and ends with his comment, e.g., "Tom Bolyn found a hollow tree / And very contented seemed to be / The wind did blow and the rain beat in / 'Better than no house,' said Tom Bolyn."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1849 (Halliwell, citing a book printed c. 1560; reputedly mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland, 1549); Jonathan Lighter notes a mention of a bawdy song called Brian O'Lynn in Hugh Henry Brackenridge's 1793 _Modern Chivalry_, volume III, p. 214
KEYWORDS: poverty talltale humorous clothes
FOUND IN: Ireland Britain(England(All),Scotland) US(Ap,NE,Ro,So) Canada(Newf) Australia
REFERENCES (36 citations):
Randolph 471, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph/Legman-RollMeInYourArms I, pp. 155-157, "Brian O'Lynn" (2 fragmentary bawdy texts, 2 tunes)
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 501-502, "Tom Bo-lin" (1 text)
High-OldOldFolkSongs, p. 11, "Bryno-o-Lynn" (1 text)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 146, "Brian O'Lynn" (1 fragment)
Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads, pp. 178-179, "Old Tombolin" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 151, "Tom Bolynn" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol2, pp. 71-72, "Tom Bo Lyn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wells-TheBalladTree, p. 167, "Brian O'Lyn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hubbard-BalladsAndSongsFromUtah, #171, "Brian O'Linn" (1 fragment)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 169, "Rise Up Gudewife"; Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume2 170, "Arise Gudewife" (2 texts)
Williams-FolkSongsOfTheUpperThames, pp. 181-182, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text) (also Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Gl 113)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 16, "Bryan-a-Lynn" (2 texts)
Gardham-EastRidingSongster 19, pp. 25, 49, "The Old Mare" (3 texts, 1 tune plus a text called "Old John Blythe" that I would not consider the same song but is not from tradition)
Roud/Bishop-NewPenguinBookOfEnglishFolkSongs #103, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 290, "Brian-O-Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H480a+b, pp. 52-53, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text, 2 tunes)
OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 15, "Brian O Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 199, "Brian O Linn" (1 text)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 189, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
Owens-TexasFolkSongs-2ed, p. 110, "Brynie O'Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, pp. 117-118, "Tom Boleyn" (1 text, 1 tune)
Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast 109, "Brian O'Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland, p. 64, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
Graham-Joe-Holmes-SongsMusicTraditionsOfAnUlsterman 9, "Brian O'Lynn" (1 text plus assorted additional verses, 1 tune)
Opie/Opie-OxfordDictionaryOfNurseryRhymes 513, "Tommy o'Lin, and his wife, and wife's mother" (5 texts)
Baring-Gould-AnnotatedMotherGoose, p. 149, note 34, "(Tommy O'Lin, and his wife, and his wife's mother)"; compare #228, p. 150, ("The two grey kits") (this mentions Tom Boleyn, and is the right form, but doesn't feel like it originated with the piece somehow)
Montgomerie/Montgomerie-ScottishNurseryRhymes 174, "(Tam o the linn came up to the gate)" (1 text)
Pankake/Pankake-PrairieHomeCompanionFolkSongBook, p. 35, "O'Brien O'Lin" (1 text)
Hylands-Mammoth-Hibernian-Songster, pp. 132-133, "Btyan O'Lynn" (1 text)
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #2356, p. 158, "Tom Bowling" (2 references)
Behan-IrelandSings, #12, "Brian O'Lynn" (1 text, 1 tune, modified)
Dime-Song-Book-2, p. 27, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert Chambers, The Popular Rhymes of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1870 ("Digitized by Google")), p. 33, "Tam o' the Linn"
Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 252-254, "Brian O'Linn" (1 text)

Roud #294
Thomas Moran, "Brian-O-Linn" (on FSB10)
Tony Wales, "Bryan O'Lynn" (on TWales1)

Bodleian, Harding B 25(307), "Bryan O'Lynn," Stephenson (Gateshead), 1821-1850; also 2806 b.11(217), Harding B 15(36a), Harding B 11(480), Firth c.26(41), Firth c.20(135), 2806 b.11(106), Harding B 26(80), "Bryan O'Lynn"; Harding B 11(445), "Brian O'Lynn"
cf. "Old John Wallis" (style)
cf. "Jim O'Lynn" (theme)
Widow Mulroony's Ball ("Listen a while, and I'll sing you a ditty") (Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, p. 179)
Down Trodden Maryland ("Down-trodden, despised see brave Maryland") (Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, p. 188)
NOTES [552 words]: Sam Henry claims that Bryan O'Lynn (fl. 1770-1793) was an "apprizer" and grand juror in Cashel during the years specified. - RBW
Randolph/Legman-RollMeInYourArms offers good notes on sources to this ballad. - EC
A variant of the melody to this song is a popular fiddle tune in Ireland.
I'm wary of the "Complaynt of Scotland" (1549) citation until I see it. The title given, "Thom of Lyn," and the title "Ballet of Thomalyn," licensed 1558, are both perilously close to "Tam Lin," which is not only the name of a ballad (Child 39) but also a fiddle tune. And in our indexing of "Tam Lin", we note a reference from 1549 -- is that "Complaynt of Scotland"? The plot's getting thicker, says Brian O'Lynn. - PJS
Indeed, Dixon (notes to "Tam a Line," his version of "Tam Lin") cites the references from the Complaynt of Scotland; they are to the dance "thom of lyn" and the "tayl of the yong tamlene." For the reference to "Thom of Lyn" see James A. H. Murray, editor, The Complaynt of Scotland, volume I (Introduction plus Chapters I-XIII), Early English Text Society, 1872 (I use the 1906 reprint; the Complaynt was published in 1549), p. lxxxviii; for the "tayl of the yong tamlene," see p. lxxix.
These titles obviously sounds more like "Tam Lin" than "Tom Boleyn," but the tunes I've heard for "Tam Lin" are not very danceable. (Bronson's #1, from Ireland, might work as a dance tune, but it is nothing like any of the others.) "Brian O'Lynn" seems much more suitable for dancing.
To make the confusion worse, there are versions of this song beginning "Tom o' the Linn was a Scotsman born."
The Opies, after mentioning the Complaynt of Scotland reference (which in full refers to "the tayl of the 3ong tamlene and of the bald braband"), note a "ballett of Thomalyn" licensed c. 1557. This appears to be the same as Hyder E. Rollins, An Analytical Index to the Ballad-Entries (1557-1709) In the Register of the Company of Stationers of London, 1924 (I use the 1967 Tradition Press reprint with a new Foreword by Leslie Shepard), pp. 230-231, #2665, "a ballett of Thomalyn," registered by "Jno. Wally and Mrs. Toy" in 1557/1558.
The first absolutely clear reference is from a play, "The longer thou livest, the more foole thou art," registered 1569; it has the lyric
Tom a lin and his wife, and his wives mother
They went ouer a bridge all three together,
The bridge was broken, and they fell in,
The Deuil go with all quoth Tom a lin.
Thus it seems sate to say the song goes back at least to the sixteenth century.
But not, perhaps, without contamination. There is the report that Charles Dibdin wrote a piece, "[Poor] Tom Bowling." Could this have given rise to the "Tom Boleyn" version? There is a copy in Heart-Songs, pp. 236-237; it opens "Here a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling, The darling of our crew, No more he'll hear the tempest howling, For death has broach'd him to."
Just in case you wanted more to worry about, Sing Out, Volume 35, #3 (1990), p. 76, prints a piece which it calls "Tumble O'Lynn's Farewell." There is only one stanza, so it's hard to be sure it's based on this piece, but it looks as if it is -- and the notes say "The composer is supposed to have been one Thomas Paginton, the court musician who presumably ghostwrote most of the music credited to Henry VIII." - RBW
Last updated in version 6.1
File: R471

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