The Elder Sister

Words, music & reel © Maria Dunn, 2002
Arranged Maria Dunn & The McDades

No younger siblings were harmed in my writing of this take on a traditional murder ballad that I first heard as "Two Sisters" on Clannad's 1979 "Dulaman" album.


Good People, I must warn you, I'm the villain of this song
The one who threw the stone into the fairy tale pond
So I'll tell to you the story from beginning to the end
Then we'll say "Amen", Good People, then we'll say "Amen"

A noble man came courting my younger sister Clare
With velvet-coloured eyes and flowing chestnut hair
She did not care a whit for him but still she did agree
To go walking out, Good People, underneath the willow tree

She noticed not his virtue or his keen and supple mind
She noticed only riches and a golden ring so fine
He noticed not my kindness or my loving sympathy
He noticed only her, Good People, never looked at me

He might have been a soldier, troubled by a desperate war
He might have been a captain, having sailed the world o'er
He might have been a monk for all she felt his magnet pull
She was such a fool, Good People, such a greedy fool

Now I stand accused here of trying to win his hand
I only pushed too far wanting her understand
That I, the elder sister, was the better-suited maid
Now her death, Good People, is the price that I have paid

Good People, I did warn you, I'm the villain of this song
I told to you my story, not your sorrow to prolong
Mark Jealousy, the master that has brought me to my end
Now we'll say "Amen", Good People, now we'll say, "Amen"

Maria Dunn vocal, accordion
Shannon Johnson violin
Simon Marion acoustic guitars
Jeremiah McDade whistle
Solon McDade upright bass