Paddy on the Railway

#music #irishmusic

A crisp, easy-to sing tune about an Irishman who comes to the US to work on the railroads. So many Irish worked on the railway that, in the Eastern States in the 19th century, there was a popular saying: “an Irishman was buried under every tie.”  This song is actually very long, with at least one original verse for each year between 1841 and 1848, and many in between. In a vastly abridged form, I present “Paddy on the Railway”. You can hear a version of it by The Wolfe Tones here.

PADDY ON THE RAILWAY

Chorus:
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
Fil-i-me-oo-ree-eye-ri-ay
To work upon the railway


In eighteen hundred and forty-one,
Me cord’roy breeches I put on.
Me cord’roy breeches I put on,
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty-two,
I left the Old World for the new.
Bad cess to the luck that brought me through
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

When we left Ireland to come here,
And spend our latter days in cheer.
Our bosses, they did drink strong beer,
And Pat worked on the railway.

(chorus)

It’s “Pat do this” and “Pat do that”,
Without a stocking or cravat,
And nothing but an old straw hat,
While Pat works on the railway.

(chorus)

Our boss’s name, it was Tom King,
He kept a store to rob the men,
A Yankee clerk with ink and pen,
To cheat Pat on the railway.

(chorus)

One Monday morning to our surprise,
Just a half an hour before sunrise,
The dirty divil went to the skies,
And Pat worked on the railway.

(chorus)

And when Pat lays him down to sleep,
The wirey bugs around him creep,
And divil a bit can poor Pat sleep,
While he works on the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty-three,
‘Twas then I met Miss Biddy MacGhee,
And an elegant wife she’s been to me,
While workin’ on the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty seven,
Sweet Biddy MacGhee, she went to heaven,
If she left one child, she left seven,
To work upon the railway.

(chorus)

In eighteen hundred and forty eight,
I learned to take my whiskey straight;
‘Tis an elegant wife that can’t be bate,
For working on the railway.

(chorus)

Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!

#irishmusic

A sassy little ditty with advice for unmarried women. Listen to a recording by The Dubliners here.

Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!

An old man came courting me, hey ding dooram ay!
An old man came courting me, me being young
An old man came courting me, all for to marry me;
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!

REFRAIN 1

For he’s got no faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay
For he’s got no faloorum, fadidleday
He’s got no faloorum, he’s lost his ding doorum
So maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!

Now when we went to the church, hey ding dooram ay!
When we went to the church, me being young,
When we went to the church, he left me in the lurch.
Maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!

~REFRAIN 1~

Now when we went to our bed, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when we went to our bed, me being young,
When we went to our bed, he lay like he was dead!
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!

~REFRAIN 1~

Now when he went to sleep, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when he went to sleep, me being young,
When he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep,
Into the arms of a handsome young man!

REFRAIN 2

And I found his faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay!
I found his faloorum, fadidleday,
I found his faloorum, he got my dingdoorum!
So, maids, when you’re young never wed an old man!

If I Were a Blackbird

Our song today comes with both male and female verses. Though they are often sung apart, the occasional duet is most beautiful. You can hear a version of it by Silly Wizard here.

If I Were a Blackbird

Begins with the man’s part:

I am a young sailor, my story is sad
For once I was carefree and a bold sailor lad.
I courted a lassie by night and by day,
But now she has left me and gone far away.

Refrain: Oh if I were a blackbird, I’d whistle and sing,
I’d follow the vessel my true love sails in
And in the top rigging, I’d there build my nest
And I’d flutter my wings o’er her lily-white breast.

Or if I were a scholar and could handle a pen,
One secret love letter to my true love I’d send.
And I’d tell of my sorrow, my grief and my pain,
Since she’s gone and left me in yon flowery glen.

Refrain

I sailed o’er the ocean, my fortune to seek,
Though I missed her caress and her kiss on my cheek.
I returned and I told her my love was still warm,
But she turned away lightly and great was her scorn.

Refrain

I offered to take her to Donnybrook Fair.
And to buy her fine ribbons to tie up her hair.
I offered to marry and to stay by her side,
But she said in the morning she sailed with the tide.

Refrain

My parents they chide me, and will not agree,
Say that me and my false love married should never be.
Ah but let them deprive me, let them do as they will,
While there’s breath in my body, she’s the one I love still.

Refrain

~~~

Proceeds to the woman’s part:

I am a young maiden and my story is sad
For once I was courted by a brave sailor lad.
He courted me strongly by night and by day
But now my dear sailor is gone far away.

Refrain: If I were a blackbird I’d whistle and sing
And I’d follow the ship That my true love sails in,
And on the top rigging I’d there build my nest,
And I’d pillow my head on his snowy-white breast.

He promised to take me to Donnybrook fair,
To buy me red ribbons to tie up my hair.
And when he’d return from the ocean so wide,
He’d take me and make me his own loving bride.

Refrain

His parents they slight me and will not agree
That I and my sailor boy married should be.
But when he comes home I will greet him with joy,
And I’ll take to my bosom my dear sailor boy.

Refrain

The Hills of Kerry

In keeping with the short story I published in response to the New West Writers prompt, I’m giving you today the complete words to The Hills of Kerry. You can hear a lovely version by Peggy Sweeney here.

THE HILLS OF KERRY

The palm trees wave on high all along the fertile shore.
Adieu, the Hills of Kerry, I ne’er will see no more.
Oh, why did I leave my home, why did I cross the sea,
And leave the small birds singing around you, sweet Tralee?

The noble and the brave have departed from our shore,
They’ve gone off to a foreign land where the wild canyons roar.
No more they’ll see the shamrock, or the hills so dear to me,
Or hear the small birds singing around you, sweet Tralee.

No more the sun will shine on that blessed harvest morn,
Or hear our reaper singing in a golden field of corn.
There’s a band for every woe and a cure for every pain,
But the happiness of my darling girl I never will see again.

The Wild Colonial Boy

Probably one of the most popular Irish songs, The Wild Colonial Boy tells the tale of a young man who leaves Ireland and becomes the Australian equivalent of Robin Hood.  The song was featured in the movie “The Quiet Man”, and also in my Donovan family saga.  My favorite version is by Dennis Day and you can hear it here.

There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name.
He was born and bred in Ireland in the town of Castlemaine.
He was his father’s only son, his mother’s only joy,
A credit to old Ireland was the wild colonial boy.

At the early age of sixteen years, Jack left his native home
And to Australia’s sunny shores he was inclined to roam.
He robbed the rich to aid the poor, he shot James MacEvoy;
A terror to Australia was the wild colonial boy.

One morn out on the prairie as Jack, he rode along,
A-listening to the mockingbirds a-singing their sweet song,
There came three troopers fierce and grim – Kelly, Davis, and Fitzroy –
They’d all set out to capture him, the wild colonial boy.

“Surrender now, Jack Duggan, for you see there’s three to one.
Surrender in the King’s name, sir, you daring highwayman.”
Jack drew two pistols from his belt and proudly waved them high.
“I’ll fight, I’ll not surrender,” said the wild colonial boy.

He fired a shot at Kelly that brought him to the ground,
Then fired point-blank at Davis, who received a mortal wound.
A bullet pierced his proud young heart from the pistol of Fitzroy,
And that is how they captured him, the wild colonial boy.

Notes: James MacEvoy is sometimes referred to as Judge MacEvoy. Legend has it he was a “hanging judge”.

There is an Australian version of this song in which Jack Donahue (or Jack Doolan) is a highwayman & bushranger.  Guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Molly Brannigan

 

Molly Brannigan is the story of a man who loses not only his heart, but his britches as well, in unrequited love. The third verse is usually left out by singers, yet to me is both the funniest and the most poignant. Click here for a version by the inimitable John McCormack

MOLLY BRANNIGAN

1.   Mam, dear, did ye never hear of pretty Molly Brannigan?
In troth, then, she’s left me and I’ll never be a man again.
Not a spot on me hide will a summer’s sun e’er tan again
Since Molly’s gone and left me here alone for to die.

The place where me heart was you’d aisy roll a turnip in,
‘Tis large as all Dublin, and from Dublin to the Divil’s glen:
If she’d wish’d to take another, sure she might have left mine back again,
And not have gone and left me here alone for to die.

2.   Mam, dear, I remember when the milking time was past and gone,
We strolled thro’ the meadow, and she swore I was the only one
That ever she could love, but oh! the false and cruel one,
For all that, she’s left me here alone for to die.

Mam, dear, I remember when coming home the rain began,
I wrapt my frieze-coat round her and ne’er a waistcoat had I on.
My shirt was rather fine lawn, but oh! the false and cruel one,
For all that she’s left me here alone for to die.

3.   I went and told me story first to Father Matt McDonnel, Mam,
And then I went and asked advice of Counselor O’Connor, Mam,
He said that promise breaches have been ever since the world began,
But I have only one pair and they’re corduroy.

Alas, what can he mean, Mam? And what would you advise me do?
Must me corduroys to Molly go? I’ faith, I’m bothered what to do.
I can’t afford to lose ‘em both, me heart and then me britches, too!
But what have I left here to do but live for to die?

4.   The left side of me carcase is as weak as water gruel, Mam,
There’s not a pick upon me bones, since Molly’s proved so cruel, Mam.
Oh! if I had a blundergun, I’d go and fight a duel, Mam,
For sure I’d better shoot m’self than live here to die.

I’m cool an’ determined as e’er the salamander*, Mam,
Won’t you come to me wake when I go the long meander, Mam?
I’ll think m’self as valiant as the famous Alexander, Mam,
When I hear ye cryin’ o’er me, “Arrah! why did ye die?”

NOTES: Some renderings of these lyrics use “Ma’am” instead of “Mam”, but to my mind, as “Mam” signifies the man’s mother, this is a truer translation. I’ve also noted a wide-spread substitution of “fine-drawn” for “fine lawn”, but as lawn is a delicate cotton fabric, I believe it is the right word to be used here.

* Finally, a “salamander” as referenced here, is a spirit that protects one’s hearth and home, the word coming from the Greek word meaning “fireplace”. As I mentioned before, it was the Irish who kept many scholarly texts from destruction during Europe’s dark ages, so it is not surprising that the language was familiar to the scholars of Ireland.

Shule Aroon

This is an ancient song; it’s been around since at least the 14th century. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it was revived in the 1960s by Peter, Paul & Mary. Though they turned the chorus to nonsense lyrics and retitled it “Gone the Rainbow”, their harmonies are inimitable. You can listen to it here.

SHULE AROON

I wish I were on yonder hill
‘Tis there I’d sit and cry my fill,
And ev’ry tear would turn a mill,
Is go de mavourneen slawn.

CHORUS:
Shule, shule, shule aroon
Shule go succir agus, shule go cuin;
Shule go teir andurrus oggus eli glume,
Is go de mavourneen slawn. *

I’ll sell my rod, I’ll sell my wheel
To buy my love a sword of steel
That it in battle he might wield.
Is go de mavourneen slawn.

But now my love has gone to France
To try his fortune to advance.
If he e’er come back, ’tis but a chance
Is go de mavourneen slawn.

CHORUS

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
I wish I had my heart again,
And vainly think I’d not complain
Is go de mavourneen slawn.

*Translation of Chorus

Come, come, come O love,
Quickly come to me, softly move,
Come to the door and away we’ll flee,
And safe forever may my darling be.

Presented in the phonetic Irish, not the Gaelic, as was common in the 1880s, the time of the Donovan Family Saga.

The Foggy Dew (Traditional)

This is the traditional version of The Foggy Dew, which pre-dates the revolutionary song by at least a century. It was not uncommon for Irish folk-singers and song-writers to borrow older tunes for new songs.

THE FOGGY DEW

As down the hill I went one morn,
A lovely maid I spied.
Her hair was bright as the dew that wept,
Sweet as I e’er espied.

“And where go ye, sweet maid?” said I.
She raised her eyes of blue,
And smiled and said, “The boy I wed
I’m to meet in the foggy dew.”

Oh, hide yer blooms ye roses red
And droop ye lilies rare,
For ye must pale from very shame
Beside a rose so fair.

Said I, “Dear maid, will ye be my bride?”
She raised her eyes of blue,
And smiled and said, “The boy I wed
I’m to meet in the foggy dew.”

As down the hill I went one morn,
A-singin I did go,
And met this maid with the coal-black hair,
She answered sweet and low,

“Yes, I will be your own dear bride
And I know that you’ll be true.”
She sighed in my arms, while all her charms
Were hidden in the foggy dew.

Note: A similar version of this ballad was recorded by the great John McCormack in 1913, and can be heard here.

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye

Today’s song is an Irish ditty that was borrowed by America during the Civil War. I’m posting both versions here, starting with the American one. The Johnny referred to was Johnny Reb.

The original Irish version follows. It’s traditionally sung with a pause before the last line of both the verses and refrain. It is, for me at least, a much more realistic look at the fortunes of war.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

When Johnny comes marching home again, Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give him a hearty welcome then, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout,
The ladies they will all turn out,
And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

The old church bell will peal with joy Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Get ready for the Jubilee, Hurrah! Hurrah!
We’ll give the hero three times three, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow,
And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Let love and friendship on that day, Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display, Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior’s heart,
And we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home!

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye

When goin’ the road to sweet Athy, haroo, haroo
When goin’ the road to sweet Athy, haroo, haroo
When goin’ the road to sweet Athy,
A stick in me hand and a drop in me eye,
A doleful damsel I heard cry, “Johnny I hardly knew ye!

 Refrain:
“With their guns and drums and drums and guns, haroo, haroo
With their guns and drums and drums and guns, haroo, haroo
With their guns and drums and drums and guns,
The enemy nearly slew ye!
Darlin’ dear, ye look so queer, Johnny I hardly knew ye.

“Where are those eyes with which ye smiled, haroo, haroo
Where are those eyes with which ye smiled, haroo, haroo
Where are those eyes with which ye smiled
When my poor heart ye first beguiled?
Why did ye go leave me and the child? Johnny I hardly knew ye!

 (Refrain)

“Where are those legs with which ye run, haroo, haroo
Where are those legs with which ye run, haroo, haroo
Where are those legs with which ye run
When first ye went to carry a gun?
Indeed yer dancing days are gone, Johnny I hardly knew ye!

   (Refrain)

“Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg, haroo, haroo
Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg, haroo, haroo
Ye haven’t an arm, ye haven’t a leg,
Ye’re an eyeless, noseless, chickenless egg
Ye’ll have to be put with a bowl to beg, Johnny, I hardly knew ye!

(Refrain)

“I’m happy for to see ye home, haroo, haroo
I’m happy for to see ye home, haroo, haroo
I’m happy for to see ye home,
Back from the isle of Salam,
So low in flesh, so high in bone, Johnny, I hardly knew ye!

(Refrain)

Note: the reference to the isle of Salam probably means the battle of Salamanca in 1812, during the Peninsular War, itself a subset of the Napoleonic Wars.

MOLLY BAWN

This is a traditional Irish song which I first learned as a child, listening to my grandmother’s recordings of the great Irish tenor, John McCormack. In the Donovan Family Saga, John Patrick Donovan sings it to his wife, Molly.

Oh, Molly bawn, why leave me pining
All lonesome waiting here for you?
While the stars above are brightly shining
Because they’ve nothing else to do.

The flowers late were open keeping
To try and rival blush with you,
But their mother Nature sent them sleeping
With their rosy faces washed with dew.

Now the pretty flow’rs were made to bloom, dear,
And pretty stars were made to shine,
And the pretty girls were made for the boys, dear,
And maybe you were made for mine.

The wicked watchdog he is snarling
He takes me for a thief, you see,
For he knows I’d steal you, Molly darling,
And thereat thwarted I should be.*

Oh, Molly bawn, why leave me pining
All lonesome waiting here for you?
While the stars above are brightly shining
Because they’ve nothing else to do.

NOTES: “Bawn” is an Irish word that means fair or pretty.

*John McCormack, among others, sings this line as “And then transported I should be.” But “transported” in this sense means sent to a penal colony or sold into slavery, and I believe the dog would enjoy seeing that happen. So I prefer this alternate version.