01 Dec

The Apple Praties

My name is Cal O’Mannon l was born in sweet Killarney,
I can fight, dance or sing. I can plough, reap or mow,
And if I meet a pretty girl I never practice blarney,
There’s something more alluring which perhaps you’d like to know.

I am not of your mountebanks or any shabby family,
I sprung from ancient history, I’ll prove it to be so,
For I am of the Os and Macs, the darling sons of Paddy Whack,
That live and toil in Ireland where the apple praties grow,

I could tell a great deal more, if I could trace my pedigree
My mother was a Hogan and my father I don’t know,
I’ve got ninety-nine relations in a place they call Rosscarbery,
And each unto his name has a “Mac” or an “O.”

My uncle was O’Callaghan, my Aunt she was O’Brannagan,
And as to my own character sure I can plainly show,
I am a ranting roving blade that never was afraid,
For I was born in Ireland where the apple praties grow.

May the heavens still protect our hospitable counteree,
Where first I drew my living breath to hear its cocks to crow,
There fine scenes I did enjoy as a gay unthinking boy,
With the lads that lived in Ireland where the apple praties grow.

St. Patrick was our saint and a blessed man in truth was he,
Great gifts unto our counteree he freely did bestow,
He banished all the frogs and toads that sheltered in our counteree,
And unto other regions he ordered them to go.

Another fact undoubtedly that cannot contradicted be,
Just trace the Irish history and it will plainly show,
Search the universe all round, braver fellows can’t be found,
Than the boys that lived in Ireland where the apple praties grow.

This month we have a song of Irish pride from the repertoire of Cyril O’Brien of Trepassey on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. You can hear the first verse of O’Brien’s performance on the wonderful Songs of Atlantic Canada website hosted by Memorial University in Newfoundland. O’Brien’s version is the only evidence I have found of it being sung in tradition though it was printed several times as a broadside in Scotland, England and New York City. I used the broadside versions to fill in some blanks left by Leach’s transcription of O’Brien.

A note at the top of the New York printing (by Marsan) indicates that the song was composed and performed by Belfast-born actor James “The Irish Comedian” Seymour as part of his role in “The Duke’s Motto.” This was a play by Dublin-born playwright John Brougham which had a long successful run at Niblo’s Garden theater in New York City in the 1860s. Brougham’s plays were performed on both sides of the Atlantic so it is possible that Seymour authored the song and that it was then printed (and sung) internationally though such claims of composition are not always true. In any case, the song was popular enough to be parodied in Washington, DC as the “Song of the Civil Service Man” in 1887. Other newspapers from the period even use the phrase “where the apple praties grow” as a euphemism for Ireland.

26 Oct

The Protestant Cow

Paddy McCarthy, a sweet Irish lad, he came from the county of Ballinafad,
Where he spent his young days until man he had grown, he come to this country a few years ago,
Where he settled him down quite neatly, faith good luck attended him greatly,
The one thing that vexed him completely, was the want of a cow to give milk.

So then he consulted his wife Peggy Ann, a nice little girl from the County Cavan,
She said that her milk she must have anyhow, so Paudie went out for to buy her a cow,
To buy one he struck out so gaily, twirling his blackthorn shillelagh,
’Til he met with old farmer Bailey, a Protestant Yankee so cute.

They haggled around and a bargain soon made, the price of the cow to the farmer Pat paid,
Singing along the way sir as he drove home his newly bought cow.

He arrived at the gate, Peggy Ann at the door, such an elegant creature she’d ne’er seen before,
“Where did you get her?” said Peggy so gaily, “To see sure I bought her from old farmer Bailey.”
“From that Protestant thief? Blood and thunder! Oh Pat she’s a Protestant cow!”

“[  ] never mind that, go into the house and mind what you’re at,
A bottle of holy water bring out to me now, and I will soon make her a Catholic cow”
A bottle of blue liquor she brought out instead, so Pat began pouring it on the cow’s head,
Making the sign of the cross as he poured, all in a sudden the cow let a roar.

They looked at each other with faces so blue, thinking that she was a Protestant cow,
Says Pat “There must be something wrong in her. Or isn’t the Protestant strong in her,”
“Musha may the Devil go on with her! Pat she’s a protestant cow.”

Searching the many online archives of American newspapers from the 1800s turns up dozens of printings and reprintings of versions of this humorous story about Pat and Peggy Ann and their attempt to convert their new cow to Catholicism. However, I can find none that tell the story in verse. Interestingly, an Irish telling of the story turns up in Ireland’s recently digitized National Folklore Collection as recounted by a school boy in Collooney, Co. Sligo–just up the road from Ballinafad.

Two sung versions were collected in Beaver Island, Michigan by Alan Lomax and Ivan Walton from brothers Barney and James Martin in 1938 and 1940. You can hear Barney’s version (my main source for the above transcription) on the Library of Congress website. James Martin said he brought the song to Beaver Island from a lumber camp in Schoolcraft County on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where a Canadian lumberjack named Campbell sang it around 1890.

22 Oct

Lather and Shave

It was down in the city not far from this spot,
Where a barber he set up a snug little shop,
He was silent and sad, but his smile was so sweet,
That he pulled everybody right in from the street.

One horrid bad custom he thought he would stop,
That no one for credit should come to his shop,
So he got him a razor full of notches and rust,
To shave the poor mortals who came there for trust.

Some time after that, Pat was passing that way,
His beard had been growing for many a day,
He looked at the barber and set down his hod,
“Will you trust me a shave for the true love of God?”

“Walk in,” says the barber, “Sit down in that chair,
And I’ll soon mow your beard off right down to a hair.”
The lather he splattered on Paddy’s big chin,
And with his “trust” razor to shave did begin.

“Ach murder!” says Paddy, “Now what are you doin?
Leave off with your tricks or my jaws you will ruin,
By the powers, you will pull every tooth in my jaw,
By jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a saw.”

“Keep still,” says the barber, “don’t make such a din.
Quit working your jaw or I’ll cut your big chin.”
“It’s not cut, but it’s saw with that razor you’ve got,
For it wouldn’t cut butter unless it was hot.”

“Let up now,” says Paddy, “Don’t shave anymore,”
And the Irishman bolted right straight for the door,
“You can lather and shave all your friends ‘til you’re sick,
But by jeepers, I’d rather be shaved with a brick.”

Not many days later as Pat passed that door,
A jackass he set up a terrible roar,
“Now look at the barber! You may know he’s a knave,
He’s giving some devil a ‘love of God’ shave.”

We have a song this month in honor of everyone whose “pandemic beard” needs a trim! “Lather and Shave” (aka “The Irish Barber” or “The Love of God Shave”) seems to have originated in the early 19th century as a broadside ballad in England. From there it travelled to Ireland and North America where it was sung on the stage and by traditional singers in many regions including the Upper Midwest.

The above text is my own blend of two Midwestern versions: one from Bernadine Christensen of Harlan, Iowa collected by Earl J. Stout and another from Charles C. Talbot of Forbes, North Dakota collected by Franz Rickaby and printed in the collection “Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin.” My melody and chorus come from a third source: Angus “The Ridge” MacDonald of Antigonish County, Nova Scotia as recorded by MacEdward Leach (click to listen online).