20 Aug

Darby O’Leary

I strayed far away from the old County Down,
Aiming for riches for fame and renown,
I wandered ‘til I came to Galbally town and was hired to Darby O’Leary.

When we entered his kitchen, I entered it first;
It seemed like a kennel or a ruined old church:
Says I to myself, “I am left in the lurch in the house of old Darby O’Leary.”

Two praties he gave me for supper at night,
With a cup of sour milk that would sicken a snipe,
He was stingy and heartless I ne’er saw the light; oh, a hard man was Darby O’Leary.

The silly old miser he sat with a frown,
While straw was brought in for to make my shakedown,
I wish I had never seen Galbally town or the sky over Darby O’Leary.

I worked in Tipperary, the Rag, and Rosegreen,
I worked in Knockainey and the Bridge of Aleen,
But such woeful starvation I’ve never yet seen as I got from old Darby O’Leary.

Also known as “The Galbally Farmer,” this song is a fine example of a worker’s complaint song about a bad boss and unpleasant working conditions. Oxford’s Bodleian Library has a broadside version of this (probably from the early 1800s) entitled “The Spalpeen’s Complaint of Darby O’Leary” and another version also appears in P. W. Joyce’s 1909 Old Irish Folk Music and Songs.

The version above takes its melody from New Brunswick singer Angelo Dornan. The verses are based on those sung by Dornan (verse 4), New York/New Hampshire singer Lena Bourne Fish (verses 1 and 3) and Tom Lenihan of County Clare (verses 2 and 5). Fish’s opening verse is the only one I have seen that has the protagonist hailing from County Down. Galbally, County Limerick is in the southeastern corner of the county on the border with Tipperary.

19 Aug

The Jolly Roving Tar (Get Up Jack, John Sit Down)

Ships may come and ships may go as long as the sea doth roll,
Each sailor lad’s just like his dad he loves the flowing bowl,
A trip ashore he does adore with a girl that’s plump and round,
When his money’s gone it’s the same old song, “Get up Jack, John sit down,”

Come along, come along you jolly brave boys there’s lots of grog in the jar,
Let’s plough the briny ocean with the jolly roving tar.

When Jack gets in ’tis then he steers for some old boarding house,
He’s welcomed in with rum and gin, they feed him on port souse,
He’ll lend and spend and not offend ’til he lies drunk on the ground,
When his money’s gone it’s the same old song, “Get up Jack, John sit down,”                                                                  

He then will sail aboard some ship for India or Japan,
In Asia there the ladies fair all love the sailorman,
He’ll go ashore and on a tear and buy some girl a gown,
When his money’s gone it’s the same old song, “Get up Jack, John sit down,”

When Jack gets old and weather-beat, too old to roam about,In some rum shop they’ll let him stop ’til eight bells calls him out,
He’ll raise his eyes up to the skies saying, “Boys, we’re homeward bound,”
When his money’s gone it’s the same old song, “Get up Jack, John sit down,”

We return to northern New York State this month for a song from Lena Bourne Fish (1873-1945) who sang nearly 100 songs for collectors Anne and Frank Warner in the early 1940s. Lena learned her “Jolly Roving Tar” from “an old man who used to sail on a whaling ship.” The song actually originated as part of the 1885 musical theater production Old Lavender with words by Edward Harrigan and music by Dave Braham. Harrigan and Braham were giants of American popular music in the late 1800s and many of their Irish-American themed stage songs went into oral tradition in the Great Lakes including “The Pitcher of Beer” (see Northwoods Songs #32). This “Jolly Roving Tar” (not to be confused with the more mournful song by the same name that is in tradition in Ireland and the Canadian Maritimes) is associated with Newfoundland these days thanks to a recording by the band Great Big Sea.

05 Jun

The First Day of April

The first day of April I’ll never forget,
When three English blades together had met,
They mounted on horseback and swore bitterly,
That they’d play a trick on the first man they’d see and sing…
Fol-de-dal-lol-ladly, fol-de-dal-lol-ladly,
Laddelyfol-lol-de-dal-lay, laddely-fol-de-dal-lee.

At Campbell the Rover they happened to spy,
He came from Tyrone, a place called The Moy,
And they saluted Campbell and he done the same,
And in close conversation together they came and sing…

They rode right along and they made a full stop,
They called upon Paddy for to take a drop,
And Paddy consented and said with a smile,
“I long for to taste the good ale from Carlisle” sing…

They ate and they drank and they sported as well,
Until forty eight shillings to pay up a bill,
Likewise for their horses some oats and good hay,
And they thought they’d leave Paddy the rattling to pay and sing…

Out of the house one by one then they stole,
They thought they’d leave Paddy to pay for the whole,
The landlord came in and this he did say,
“I’m afraid Irish Pat they’ve a trick on you played” and sing…

“Never mind them,” says Pat, “although they’re gone away,
I’ve got plenty of money the rattling to pay.
If you’ll sit down beside me before that I go,
I will tell you a secret perhaps you don’t know” and sing…

“I’ll tell you a secret contrary to law,
That two kinds of wine from one puncheon I’ll draw,”
And the landlord was eager to find out that plan,
And away to the cellar with Paddy he ran.

He bored a hole in a very short space,
And he bade the landlord place his thumb on that place,
The next one he bored, “Place the other one there,
And I for a tumbler will go up the stair” and sing…

Pat mounted his horse and was soon out of sight,
The horser came in to see if all was right,
They hunted the house from the top to the ground,
And half dead in the cellar the master he found sing…

I wish I would have come across this light-hearted song about pranking and counter-pranking a couple months ago. It’s the perfect April Fools Day song – even set on “the first day of April!” A version of this was sung in Ireland by Joe Heaney who called it “Campbell the Rover.” Variants were also collected in the Canadian Maritimes but the version above is from the vast repertoire of Johnny Green of Beaver Island, Michigan. As with most of Green’s songs, you can listen to a 1938 recording Alan Lomax made of Green singing it on the Library of Congress website. I did my best to transcribe Green’s melody and quirky chorus note-for-note but I made a couple small tweaks to his text to improve a rhyme and to help the story make sense.

I’ll be talking about Green’s life and playing recordings of his songs at a lecture on the music of Beaver Island that I’m giving this month at the Center for Irish Music’s Minnesota Irish Music Weekend. Come if you can!