22 Oct

The Hat My Father Wore

I’m Paddy Miles an Irish boy, from far across the sea,
For singing or for dancing, oh, I’m sure I can please ye;
I can sing or dance with any man as I did in days of yore,
And on St. Patrick’s Day I long to wear the hat my father wore.

Oh, it’s old but it’s beautiful and the best you’ve ever seen,
It was worn for more than ninety years on that little isle so green;
From my father’s great ancestors it descended with galore,
It’s the relic of old decency, the hat my father wore.

I bid you all good evening, good luck to you I say,
And when I’m on the ocean, I hope for me you’ll pray;
I am going to my happy home in a place called Ballymoor,
To be welcomed back to Paddy’s land with the hat my father wore.

And when I do return again the boys and girls to see,
I hope that with old Erin’s style you’ll kindly welcome me;
And sing me songs of Ireland to cheer me more and more,
And make my Irish heart feel glad with the hat my father wore.

The sheet music for “The Hat My Father Wore” was printed in New York City in 1876. The cover of that publication lists it as one of the “Popular Songs SUNG BY JOHNNY ROACH THE GREAT FACIAL ARTISTE” with words written by Daniel Macarthy. Vaudevillian Johnny Roach also had a hand in popularizing the song “Dick Darby the Cobbler” (sung by Tommy Makem and countless others) as that song was part of a larger routine he did called, simply, “The Cobbler.” Roach also sang “When McGuiness Gets a Job” which, along with both other songs, went into tradition in the north woods. It is also worth noting that “The Hat My Father Wore” and the Orangeman’s song “The Sash My Father Wore” are directly related in text and tune but it is unclear which came first.

“The Hat” was in the repertoire of Minnesota singer Michael Dean and many other north woods singers I have researched throughout the Great Lakes and Maritimes. The above melodic transcription comes from the beautiful singing of Maine/Nova Scotia singer Carrie Grover (thanks to two digitized recordings available on the Carrie Grover Project site). Grover’s melody is full of delicious deviations from the much simpler melody printed in the 1876 sheet music. The text above is my own blend of Dean’s and Grover’s.

22 Oct

The Three Dreams

John Bull he was an Englishman and went to tramp one day,
With three pence in his pocket for to take him a long way,
He travelled on for many a mile, yet no one did he see,
’Til he fell in with an Irishman, whose name was Paddy Magee.

“Good morning Pat,” said John to him, “where are you going to?”
Says Pat, “I hardly know myself, I want a job to do,”
“Have you got any money about you?” said John Bull unto Pat,
Says Pat, “It’s the only thing I’m lacking for I haven’t got a rap.”

Then they overtook a Scotchman who like them was out of work,
To judge by his looks he was hard up, and as hungry as a Turk,
“Can you lend me a shilling Scotty?” at last said Paddy Magee,
“I am sorry I canna,” said the Scotchman, “for I hae nae got ane bawbee.”

Said the Englishman, “I three pence have, what can we do with that?”
“Buy threepenny worth of whiskey!  It will cheer us up,” says Pat,
“Nae dinna do that,” said the Scotchman,  “I’ll tell you the best to do,
We’ll buy threepenny worth of oatmeal, and I’ll make some nice burgoo.”

“I think we had better buy a loaf,” the Englishman did say,
“And then in yonder haystack, our hunger sleep away,
We can get a drink of water from yonder purling stream,
And the loaf will be his in the morning who has had the biggest dream.”

The Englishman dreamt by the morning, a million men had been,
For ten years digging a turnip up, the biggest ever seen,
At last they got that turnip up, by working night and day,
Then it took five million horses, this turnip to cart away.

Said the Scotchman, “I’ve been dreaming fifty million men had been,
For fifty years making a boiler, the largest ever seen,”
“What was if for?” said the Englishman, “Was it mad of copper or tin?”
“It was made of copper,” said the Scotchman, “for to boil your turnip in.”

Said the Irishman, “I’ve been dreaming an awful great big dream,
I dreamt I was in a haystack, by the side of a purling stream,
I dreamt that you and Scottie were there, as true as I’m an oaf,
By the powers, I dreamt I was hungry so I got up and ate the loaf.”

This month we have a great “punchline” song from the repertoire of Angelo Dornan of New Brunswick. I transcribed the above from Helen Creghton’s 1956 recording of Dornan’s singing. Creighton’s collection titles the song “Johnny Bull.” Broadside versions, which date it to the latter half of the 19th century, usually use the title “Paddy Magee’s Dream” or “The Three Dreams.” A version from Donegal singer Jim Doherty titled “John Boiler” is available via the Inishowen Song Project collection on at itma.ie. I heard it sung at with great effect by Pennsylvania singer Steve Stanislaw at a session at a festival out east.

The caricature of the “Scotchman” in the song references his desire to make “burgoo.” According to Anthony Willich’s 1802 Domestic Encyclopaedia, burgoo was the name for the oatmeal porridge “eaten by mariners, and much used in Scotland.”

21 Jun

The Wind Sou’west

You gentlemen of England far and near,
Who live at ease free from all care,
It’s little do you think and it’s little do you know,
What we poor seamen undergo,

Chorus:

With the wind sou’west and a dismal sky,
And the ruffling seas rolled mountains high.

On the second day of April, ‘twas on that day,
When our captain called us all away,
He took us from our native shore,
While the wind sou’west and loud did roar.

On the fifth day of April, ‘twas on that day,
When we spied land on the lo’ward lay,
We saw three ships to the bottom go,
While we, poor souls, tossed to and fro.

On the sixth day of April, ‘twas on that day,
When our capstan and foremast washed away,
Our mast being gone, the ship sprang a leak,
And we thought we should sink in the watery deep.

The second mate and eighteen more,
Got into the longboat and rowed for shore,
But what must have been for their poor wives,
A-losing their husbands’ precious lives?

On the seventh day of April, ‘twas on that day,
When we arrived in Plymouth Bay,
What a dismal tale had we for to tell,
Of how we acted in the gale.

We return this month to the fantastic repertoire of singer Carrie Grover (1879-1959) who grew up in Nova Scotia and lived her adult life in Maine. “The Wind Sou’west” appears in her published songbook “A Heritage of Songs” where she classifies it as one of her father’s songs. Her father, George Craft Spinney, was born in 1837 and spent many years working on merchant vessels where he learned many sea songs. This song appears to be a variant of an English song dating to the late 18th century often titled “You Gentlemen of England” but Grover’s version is pretty unique with a localized New England reference to Plymouth Bay. No English versions I have seen include a chorus.

Thanks to the incredible work of singer and researcher Julie Mainstone Savas, we now have the website The Carrie Grover Project which includes transcriptions of all the songs in “Heritage of Songs” and more plus some audio recordings of Grover. The site is well worth checking out. There you can hear a recording of Grover singing the above (from which I made my own transcription). In it, Grover makes masterful use of the traditional singer’s trick of singing an “in between” third scale degree – somewhere between major and minor – that, to me, gives the song a perfect haunting quality.