09 Mar

To Cork Once I Did Go

Source Recording from archive.org (song starts at 2:52):

To Cork once I did go, to view that ancient city,
It’s boats and ships also, as they set forth in beauty,
As through the town I went to view those ancient lassies,
The old maids with a frown they peeked at me through their glasses.

Chorus: Tau to the tau rah lau, tau ruh lau ruh laddie
Tau to the tau rah lau, whack fuh loh ruh laddie

Bill Morrisey for to have the sport, now he played both well and jolly,
He played some charming notes to banish melancholy,
When he put on the pipes he played Sweet Highland Mary,
You’d have laughed until you’d cried if you’d seen poor Paddy Carey.

Chorus

He played Noreen on the Road, and Maureen na Glanna,
Junior and Senior too and the Songs of Alabama,
He played Chief Moneymusk and Katie on to Glory,
The old Foxhunter’s Jig and a Sprig of the Sweet Shilleligh.

This month we have a fascinating song recorded in Bridgewater, Maine in 1942 for the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection (click to hear the recording!). The singer, Charles Finnemore, was born in western New Brunswick and moved across the border to Bridgewater as a child. He contributed dozens of songs to the Flanders collection which are now available to listen to online (CLICK HERE!) thanks to Middlebury College where the collection is housed.

Finnemore’s “To Cork Once I Did Go” is a variant of the song “The Piper’s Tunes” which appears in Colm O Lochlainn’s Irish Street Ballads (1960). An English version, “The Sporting Irish Piper” was printed as a broadside in London in the 1850s. Another Irish version is attributed to the famed Kerry uilleann piper James Gandsey (1767-1857) who personalized the song to himself and performed it for Thomas Crofton Croker who published it in 1831.

All variants name an impressive bagpipe player and list the tunes he plays. O Lochlainn’s piper is John Blake of Cobh, County Cork. The English version has piper John Murphy of Liverpool and Gandsey sings about himself in Killarney. The version that surfaced with Finnemore in Maine names the piper Bill Morrissey of Cork (possibly a relation of Cork Piper Molly Morrissey who was active around 1900?) Each variant lists various tune titles which are intriguing to those of us interested in Irish dance tunes. Fitting that the American version has the piper playing the “Songs of Alabama” along with the “Foxhunter’s Jig.” Finnemore’s melody for the song is similar to “The Rocky Road to Dublin” and its relative “Cam Ye O’er Frae France?”

09 Mar

The Peddler

Oh of all the trades that’s going sure a peddler’s my delight,
For if he rambles all the day he’ll comfort you at night,
With his little pack upon his back he’ll travel to and fro,
And he’s called the jolly rover wherever he will go.

He roams throughout the nation his pleasure to divert,
With youthful recreation for to delight his heart,
And courting pretty fair maids through market-town and fair,
His life it gaily passes free from all strife and care.

He’s a weaver in Londonderry-o, a shoemaker in Strabane,
Hair merchant in Limavady and a brewer in Coleraine,
Where he does brew good humming ale and love a pretty maid,
And when he gets in to Belfast, he’s a butcher by his trade.

In Lisburn he’s a joiner, a glazier in Lurgan town,
In Dromore he’s a brazier and a smith in Portadown,
In Armagh he’s a piper, a merchant in Newry town,
And when he comes to Drogheda he draws good ale that’s brown.

Oh as he does roam the nation, his fancy to pursue,
Changing his occupation for every place that’s new,
Oh kissing pretty fair ones wherever he will roam,
And still at night his love is true when he’ll return home.

This month’s song comes from a 1938 recording of Andrew E. Gallagher (1878-1939) of Beaver Island, Michigan. There were multiple Gallagher families on the island including that of the great singer Dominick Gallagher whose songs I’ve written about before and whose father came from Arranmore Island, Co. Donegal. Andrew’s father and mother (a Roddy) both came from Rutland Island (aka Inishmacadurn), a smaller island between Arranmore and the mainland. The musical Bonner family on Beaver Island also originated from tiny Rutland Island.

“The Peddler” appears as “The Jolly Rake of All Trades” in a London broadside published before 1844 and was printed later in the 1800s in Dublin. I have found no evidence of the song being collected from a singer anywhere other than Beaver Island. It is similar to, and may even have been the inspiration for, the more popular “Dublin Jack of All Trades.” Unlike that locally-focused song, the “Jolly Rake/Peddler” travels, works and womanizes all around Ireland. Gallagher only sang verses one, three and five above. Several more verses covering the breadth of Ireland appear in broadsides available online through the Bodleian Library and I chose two (“He roams…” and “In Lisburn…”) to fill out the version here.

09 Mar

George Riley

When I arrived in the County Antrim,
To view the banks of sweet harmony,
I espied a damsel so fair and handsome,
You would really have thought she was the queen of May.

I stepped up to her, I did salute her,
I gently asked her to be my wife,
Most modestly she made me an answer,
“Kind sir, I choose a sweet single life.”

“You fair young creature, you pride of nature,
What makes you differ from all female kind?
Your cherry cheeks, your eyes like amber,
It seems to marry you must incline.”

“’Tis youth and folly makes young folks marry,
And when you’re married, then you must obey,
Since what can’t be cured must be endured,
So farewell, Riley, I am going away.”

We have another song this month from the fascinating repertoire of Carrie Grover (1879-1959) of Maine. Grover learned this song from her Irish-Canadian mother while growing up in Nova Scotia. The above transcription is my own based on a recording of Grover made in 1941 by Sidney Robertson-Cowell that is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Grover’s “George Riley” is a pared down variant of a relatively common Irish song “O’Reilly from the County Leitrim/Kerry/Cavan” (the county changes from version to version just as Grover’s version moves it to County Antrim). Most Irish versions include the man’s wish to have his beloved “in Phoenix Island” or to sail her “over to Pennsylvania.” The only other North American version I have tracked down is one from a remote fishing village in Labrador which is similar to the Irish texts. Grover’s is short and to the point and she uses a melody unique from what I found in Irish collections.