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The Lakes Of Ponchartrain

(Traditional: Arranged by Brendan Nolan, Gerry O'Neill and Toby Kinsella)

[Tempus Fugitive]

Key of C, Capo 5th Fret, Open G chord (DBGDGD)
Note: Since I recorded this song I have been singing
it more in the key of open D (DAF#DAD)

Some accounts say the story of this song concerns an Irish deserter from the Confederate army in the American Civil War. Other accounts say he's a Union soldier caught on the wrong side of the lines and helped out and cared for by a Creole girl. He falls for her but unfortunately the feeling cannot be returned as she is in love with someone else. For a long time I thought that the 'Jackson' mentioned in the song was Jackson, Mississippi. However there is also a Jackson, Louisiana, and I believe that is the town that is being referred to. Also, even though the song is titled "The Lakes of Ponchartrain," there really is only one lake. I think I first heard it sung by Paul Brady at a benefit concert back in the 70's for Andy Irvine. As I recall, he sang it acapella. No mean feat! It was a wonderful night with a line-up that included Midnight Well, Christy Moore, The Bothy Band, and The Dubliners. They all came together at the National Stadium in Dublin to help a fellow musician on hard times. A lovely version of the song was also covered by Christy Moore and I think that ultimately both versions had rubbed off on me when I sat down to learn it.

It was one bright March morning, I bid New Orleans adieu
And I took the road to Jackson town, my fortune to renew
I cursed all foreign money, no credit could I gain
Which filled my heart with longing for, the Lakes of Ponchartrain

I stepped on board of a railroad car, beneath the morning sun
And I rode the rods till evening till I lay me down again
All strangers there were no friends to me, till a dark girl towards me came
And I fell in love with a Creole girl, by the lakes of Ponchartrain

I said, "me pretty Creole girl, me money here's no good
"And if it weren't for the alligators, I'd sleep out in the wood"
"You're welcome here kind stranger, our house is very plain
"And we never turn a stranger out, by the lakes of Ponchartrain"

She took me in to her mammy's house, she treated me right well
The hair upon her shoulders in jet-black ringlets fell
To try to paint her beauty, I'm sure 'twould be in vain
So handsome was my Creole girl, by the lakes of Ponchartain

I asked her if she'd marry me, she said this could never be
For she had got a lover, and he was far at sea
She said that she would wait for him, and true she would remain
Till he'd return to his Creole girl by the lakes of Ponchartrain

So fare thee well my bonny own girl, I never will see you more
But I'll not forget your kindness, in the cottage by the shore
And at each social gathering, a flowing glass I'll drain
And I'll drink a health to my Creole girl, by the lakes of Ponchartrain