20 Nov

The Three Hunters

Three men they went a-hunting, a-hunting went one day,
’Til they came to a monkey, as they were on their way.
Says the Englishman “A monkey!”
“Oh no,” says Scot, “Oh nay!”
Says Paddy, “That’s your grandfather and his hair is turning gray”

Look-a there, O there! Whack fol the day,
Look-a there. O there! Whack fol duh diddle-oh day.

Three men they went a hunting, a hunting went one day,
’Til they came to a haystack, as they were on their way.
Says the Englishman “A haystack!”
“Oh no,” says Scot, “Oh nay!”
Says Paddy, “That’s a Protestant church and the steeple is blowed away,”

Look-a there…

Three men they went a-hunting, a-hunting went one day,
’Til they came to a hedgehog, as they were on their way.
Says the Englishman “A hedgehog!”
“Oh no,” says Scot, “Oh nay!”
Says Paddy, “That’s a pincushion with the pins stuck in the wrong way”

Look-a there…

Paul Lorette of Manchester Center, Vermont told collector Helen Hartness Flanders that he learned this song in a lumber camp in East Wallingford, Vermont. He sang it for Flanders’ recording machine in April 1931 and that recording is now available via archive.org.

Songs based on the meeting of an Irishman, Scotsman and Englishman and their contrasting reactions to events (not unlike the many jokes built on that scenario) seem to have been popular throughout the North American woods. Like “The Three Nations” from Minnesota (Northwoods Songs #41) and “The Three Dreams” from New Brunswick (Northwoods Songs #99), Paddy gets the last word here.

This particular song is traced by folklorists all the way back to the 1600s where a version even appeared in the play The Two Noble Kinsmen co-authored by John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Early versions (and a variant found in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in the 1920s by Franz Rickaby) don’t associate the three men with different ethnicities. Another Irishmen/Scotsman/Englishman version was collected in County Wicklow by Hugh Sheilds in 1960.  Flanders, in her book The New Green Mountain Songster, recalls hearing it sung “in Boston by an Irish youth in July, 1911. The singer was entertaining a group of professional ballplayers; after smoking six cigarettes at once, he burst into the song… He sang in so rapid a tempo that it was impossible to take down words or music.” The above transcription is my own based on the Lorette recording.

20 Nov

May Morning


As I walked out of a May morning for to hear the birds sing sweet,
I laid my back against a little parlor door for to hear two lovers meet,
For to hear what they might say,
That I might know a little more of the play, before they went away,
That I might know a little more of the play, before they went away.

Come-a set you down upon my knee ’til I speak one word to thee,
For it’s full three quarters of a year or more since I spoke one word to thee,
For it’s full three quarters of a year or more since I spoke one word to thee.

Oh I shant sit down, I won’t sit down for I have not a moment of time,
And besides you have got a true lover and your heart is no, not mine,
And besides you have got a true lover and your heart is no, not mine.

Oh it’s hard to believe what an old man says, their [unintelligible]are two tongues,
But much less to believe what a young man says, he purports on to anyone,
But much less to believe what a young man says, he purports on to anyone.

But if I was to live for a year or more and God to grant my grace,
I would buy me a bottle of dissembling water for to wash off her flattering face,
I would buy me a bottle of dissembling water for to wash off her flattering face.

This month we have a beautiful and unique variant of a well-travelled song that many will no doubt recognize. Sometimes called “As I Roved Out” or “The False Young Man,” many versions include the “T stands for Thomas/P stands for Paddy” verse that is missing here. The above is my own transcription based on two recordings made in 1935 and 1942 of singer Thomas Armstrong of Mooers Forks, New York. Mooers Forks is in the far northeastern corner of the state near Lake Champlain and just two miles from the border with Quebec. You can hear the recording of Armstrong (the earlier recording is labeled “Two Lovers Meet”) via the digitized Flanders Ballad Collection on archive.org.

Armstrong’s first verse is longer than the others and after that he uses the first two lines of melody only, repeating the second line for the repeated text.

30 Apr

The Wild Irishman

I am a wild Irishman right in my prime,1
I came from a city it’s famed and renowned,
The land that I come from, they called it Glendark,2
And the name that I go by is Wild Sporting Pat.

Twas mashalin dah, Erin Go Bragh,
The land of my father shillelagh and ah.

I was in a hurry all for to get there,
If you’d seen me you’d thought I was going to a fair,
And when I arriv-ed upon New York green,
There was two big baffers3 to da [?] to be seen.

I took my shillelagh fast in my right hand,
I walk-ed up to him at the word and command,
I gave him the weight of it over his head,
And you’d [have] swore to your soul he was seven years dead.

There was five thousand people stood there on the green,
In less than ten minutes not one to be seen,
One said to the other “why don’t you run quick,”
“Do you see the wild Irishman winding his stick?”

We have another song this month from Margueritte Olney’s 1942 visits to Colebrook, New Hampshire where she collected songs from Belle Luther Richards and her brother Sidney Luther. The above song is my own transcription made completely from Olney’s recording of Sidney Luther.

The song is an Americanized version of a broadside titled “The Wild Irishman in London.” The plot is similar to that of the song “Erin-go-Bragh” which was made popular in the 1980s by the masterful arrangement recorded by Scottish singer Dick Gaughan.

The Flanders Ballad Collection includes, along with Luther’s version, a variant from Maine and collector Franz Rickaby also found it in the remote northern North Dakota town of Westhope where it was sung by Mrs. J. G. Krebs when he visited her in January, 1920. The Flanders recordings are available online via archive.org. Rickaby’s transcription of Krebs appears in the book Folk Songs Out of Wisconsin.


1 Krebs sings “I am a wild Irishman just come to town” which makes the rhyme work better

2 It’s hard to tell exactly what Luther sings here. Could be a reference to Glendarragh – a townland name in both Wicklow and Limerick.

3 Krebs’ version has the Irishman fighting with “butchers” and another version from Maine has “bullies.” It’s hard to tell what Luther sings here.