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The Black Velvet Band

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artistic close-up photograph of violin, fiddle photo
Aaron Graubart / Getty Images

History and Background:

"The Black Velvet Band" is a traditional folk song with versions found in Ireland, England, the United States, and Australia. It tells the story of a young man who is approached by a beautiful young woman who slips a watch into his hand. The watch, of course, was stolen and the man is convicted of theft and sent away to the penal colony known as Van Diemen's Land, which is now Tasmania. The writer is unknown, but the earliest known versions date to the 1830s.

Lyrics:

Her eyes they shone like diamonds, you'd think she was queen of the land
With her hair thrown over her shoulders, tied up with a black velvet band.

As I went walking down Broadway, not intending to stay very long
I met with a frolicksome damsel, as she came tripping along.

A watch she pulled out of her pocket, and slipped it right into my hand
On the very first day that I met her, bad luck to the black velvet band.

Before judge and jury next morning, both of us did appear
A gentleman claimed his jewelry, and the case against us was clear.

Seven long years transportation, right down to Van Diemen's Land
Far away from my friends and companions, betrayed by the black velvet band.

Notable Versions:

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  6. The Black Velvet Band -- A Traditional Folksong About Being Deported to Australia

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