25 Oct

My Eileen is Waiting for Me

I am always light hearted and easy, not a care in the wide world have I,
Because I am loved by a Coleen I couldn’t help like if I’d try;
She lives away over the mountains where the little thrush sings in the tree,
In a cabin all covered with ivy my Eileen is waiting for me.

                                        Chorus—
It’s over, yes over the mountain where the little thrush sings in the tree,
In a cabin all covered with ivy my Eileen is waiting for me.

The day I bid good-bye to Eileen, that day I will never forget,
How the tears bubbled up from their slumber, I fancy I’m seeing them yet;
They looked like the pearls in the ocean as she wept those tears of love,
Saying, “Barney, my boy, don’t forget me until we meet again here or above.”

Though mountains and seas may divide us and friends like the flowers come and go,
Still these thoughts of my Eileen will cheer me and comfort wherever I go,
For the imprints of love and devotion, surrounded by thoughts that are pure,
Will serve as a guide to the sailor while sailing the wild ocean o’er.

———-

With the passing of beloved musician Martin McHugh this past month, I chose a song that was a favorite of his. Martin played “My Eileen is Waiting for Me” as a waltz at countless sessions and dances and would sometimes sing bits of the words if you were lucky!

It turns out this song has a long history in Minnesota. Mike Dean printed his version in his 1922 songster The Flying Cloud under the title “Allanah is Waiting for Me” (a curious and possibly misprinted title because in Dean’s actual song lyric the name is Eileen). It was also in the repertoire of Ontario singer O.J. Abbott who called it “Over the Mountain.”

“Over the Mountain” was the original title when, in 1882, the song was composed by celebrity tenor William J. Scanlan, a second generation Irishman from Springfield, Massachusetts. Scanlan sang it in the play “Friend or Foe” which he performed at the Grand Opera House in Saint Paul in April 1885. The song reached Ireland by the early 1900s where it was found in a County Cavan manuscript in 1905.  By the 1920s, the song’s melody and sections of its lyrics began a new life in American country music after a recording by Uncle Dave Macon and a rewrite, by Fiddlin’ John Carson, called “The Grave of Little Mary Phagan.”

Dean’s melody is unrecorded but Abbott sang it to a similar melody to that used by Martin McHugh. The above is a marriage of Dean’s words from 1922 with McHugh’s melody circa 2022 (based on McHugh’s album The Master’s Choice.)

William J. Scanlan
Ad for Scanlan’s performances at the Grand Opera House in St. Paul from the April 12, 1885 Minneapolis Sunday Tribune
25 Oct

Farewell to Caledonia

My name is Willie Rayburn, in Glasgow I was born,
The place of my residence I was forced to leave in scorn;
From home and habitation was forced to gang awa’,
So fare-you-well, you hills and dales of Caledonia.

The crime that I was taken for was robbery and fraud,
I lay the blame on nae one upon this earthly sod;
I lay the blame on nae one, but comrades I had twa,
So fare-you-well, the hills and dales of Caledonia.

It was early the next morning before the break of day,
Our turnkey came to us, those words to us did say,
“Rise up, you pitiful convicts, I warn you one and a’,
This day you leave the hills and dales of Caledonia.”

Then I arose, put on my clothes, my heart was filled with grief,
My friends they gathered around me, but could grant me no relief;
They bound me down in irons for fear I’d run awa’,
So fare-you-well, you hills and dales of Caledonia.

Here is to my old father, he is one of the best of men,
And also to my own true love, Catharina is her name,
No more we will roam by Cylde’s green banks or by the brim awa’,
This day I leave the hills and dales of Caledonia.

Goodbye to my old mother, I am sorry for what I have done,
I hope it ne’er will be cast to her the race that I have run;
I hope the Lord will protect her when I am far awa’,
So fare-you-well, you hills and dales of Caledonia.

We return to the deep and fascinating repertoire of Irish-Minnesotan singer Michael Dean this month for a Scottish song that has a long history in Ireland. Like “Highland Mary” and other songs, “Farewell to Caledonia” likely came from the pen of a Scottish song maker and went to the north of Ireland with the flow of itinerant workers and immigrants between the two islands. It was printed as a broadside in Scotland in the mid-1800s as “Jamie Raeburn’s Farewell” (the song’s narrator is Jamie in most versions). Sam Henry printed a variant from Strabane, County Tyrone in his Songs of the People newspaper column in 1926. The song appears in several Scottish song collections and has been popular with many singers and bands since the folk revival of the 1960s.

Across the Atlantic, the song turns up in Mike Dean’s Minnesota-printed Flying Cloud songster as well as in the repertoires of two New England singers recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders: Sidney Luther of Pittsburg, New Hampshire and Charles Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine. We have no record of what melody Dean used. Luckily, Finnemore is one of my favorite New England singers so I was delighted to discover the recording of him singing his version in October 1945. Finnemore’s melody is quite close to that sung by Ontario/North Dakota singer Arthur Milloy for the song “Mines of Cariboo” which is a favorite of mine. The above is a combination of Dean’s text and Finnemore’s melody.

Woodcut from a 19th century broadside printing of “Jamie Raeburn” held by the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. See: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/view/sheet/26720
06 Sep

The Four Provinces

Though the strifes of the north fill sad Erin with care,
There are hearts true and trusted in Ulster so fair,
From the Causeway of Giants to sainted Armagh,
There are hearts full of staunch love for Erin go Bragh.

Chorus:
Land of the west, fairest gem of the sea,
The home of the brave, though not of the free,
Ever loving though tearful, ah, who would not draw,
The last drop of his life’s blood for Erin go Bragh.

From Tralee to Kinsale there is patriot ground,
With cities of beauty fair Munster is crowned,
With Killarney’s bright lakes there are none to compare,
And the homes of the South are bright, merry and fair.

In the vale of lovely Leinster how proudly we find,
The charms of the North, South and West are combined,
With Wicklow’s fair mountains that top the blue sea,
The queen of all cities is Dublin machree.

Of all earthly delights the sweet West has but few,
But Connaught was faithful and Connaught was true,
And the same spirit lives in the west as of old,
Bold Connaught was faithful when Ireland was sold.

We take a break from the songs of Michael Dean this month for a rare and intriguing song from Mayo-born singer Dominic Caulfield who lived in St. Paul. Charlie Heymann recently found a tape recording of Dominic singing some of his songs for Tom Dahill, Barbara Dahill and John Curtin around 1976 in a room upstairs from MacCafferty’s Pub on Grand Avenue. The above song appears on the recording.

Dominic called this song “The Strifes of the North” but after some intensive searching I was able to locate a text-only version of it under the title “The Four Provinces” in Well-Known Irish Songs, a scarce songbook published in 1924 by Irish Industries Depot, Inc. Thanks to a copy digitized by Harvard, the book’s text is available online. Other than Dominic and the text in Well-Known Irish Songs, I have found no trace of this one.

I hope to learn more about Dominic’s life here in St. Paul (he had siblings here and one sister came about 1905 so my guess is that he immigrated around that time). On the recording he says he lived first with a brother in the Midway neighborhood before moving to Selby Ave.

We do know he was born in County Mayo. This song, though it praises the patriotism of all four provinces, seems to be from a Dubliner’s perspective. The version in Well-Known Irish Songs. Has “In my own lovely Leinster.” I kept Dominic’s verse order above but changed some lines to match the print version when the meaning was clearer. The melody is from Dominic though the transcription does little to capture his light and leisurely singing style. I hope to make the recording available through the McKiernan Library website soon!