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Were you one of Burl Ives' lavender hill mob in '49?

The romantic ballad was nominated for an Oscar and Burl became a star overnight
The romantic ballad was nominated for an Oscar and Burl became a star overnight

Does anyone remember Burl Ives performing at an open-air carnival somewhere in the Glengormley/Carnmoney district way back in 1949? He was an unknown in the province and had arrived in this corner of east Antrim - near to my beloved Carnmoney Hill - with a travelling show to raise much-needed funds for the Royal British Legion.

Back in Indiana, Ives had just recorded his first No 1 hit, Lavender Blue, and sung it in the Disney film So Dear To My Heart.

The romantic ballad was nominated for an Oscar and Burl became a star overnight.

However, the film - about a little boy raising a lamb rejected by its mother and showing it at a county fair - hadn't reached these parts yet and the singer, the little lad's uncle in the storyline, arrived here a comparative unknown that summer of '49.

Except to an old-timer called Bob McKeown, long since gone, who had seen So Dear To My Heart on a trip to London and was delighted later to shake hands with Burl in the show in a field at Ballyclare Road, on the edge of Carnmoney Village.

Lavender Blue lyrics go like this:

Lavender blue, dilly, dilly

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Lavender green

If I were king, dilly, dilly

I'd need a queen

Who told me so

Dilly, dilly

Who told me so

I told myself, dilly, dilly

I told me so.

The herb can be traced back 2,000 years and is beautifully scented for use as a perfume and even an aphrodisiac.

Right now, it is in favour as an alternative to conventional treatments for insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Burl, whose big hits later in his career were A Little Bitty Tear, Big Rock Candy Mountain and Funny Way of Laughing, became big in films in the 1960s and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rufus Hannassey in The Big Country. He died in 1995, aged 86.

The children in Carnmoney and Glengormley who turned up at his show in that east Antrim field were all singing Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly - even though they hadn't a notion who Burl Ives was.

Nor had their parents - although, within a short time, he was a household name whose songs, like Beautiful Beautiful Brown Eyes, they loved.

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