Green Grows the Laurel
Len Graham from Newry, Northern ireland.
There could hardly be a better known or more widely dispersed song. The song is sometimes said to have given rise to the word gringo often used in Latin America to refer to people from the United States. The term could certainly have originated during the Mexican War (1846-1848) when American Soldiers were heard singing Green Grows the Laurel or Robert Burns’s Green Grow the Rashes, so inspiring the locals to refer to the Yankees as “gringos”, or “green-grows”. However it is pointed out that Gringo is a corrupted form of griego as used in the ancient Spanish expression "hablar en griego", that is, to speak an unintelligible language or "to speak Greek." Many of the versions of the song have political references in the last line of the chorus. So, Jacobites might “change the green laurel for the bonnets so blue" of the exiled Stewart monarchs of Scotland during the Jacobite Rebellions of the late 1600’s – early 1700’s. Scottish Lowlanders and Ulster Presbyterians later changed the green laurel of James II in 1690 for the “Orange and Blue” of William of Orange, and later on many of these Ulstermen would emigrate to America, and then “change the green laurel for the red, white and blue.”
Len has collected versions of the song from Eddie Butcher from Magilligan, Co. Derry and John Campbell from Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh and from Lizzie Clarke from Bennefreaghan, Co. Tyrone and also recorded the song in 1996 on Claddagh CC62CD. Roud 279.
c p 2012 Autumn Harvest : www.springthyme.co.uk