31 Oct

Ye Noble Sons of Canardie

Come all you loyal Britons I pray you lend an ear,
Draw up your loyal forces and then your volunteers,
Oh we’re going to fight those Yankee boys, by water and by land,
And we never will return till we conquer swords in hand.
Oh you noble sons of Canardie, come to arms boys come.

O now the time has come, my boys, to cross the Yankee line,
We remember they were rebels once, and conquer’d John Burgoyne.
We’ll subdue those mighty Democrats, and pull their dwellings down,
And we’ll have the states inhabited with subjects to the crown.
Oh you noble sons of Canardie, come to arms boys come.

I’d rather fight the biggest fleet that ever crossed the seas,
Than twenty of those Yankee boys behind their stumps and trees,
For from hedges and from ditches and from every tree and stump,
You can see those sons of b—— those cursed Yankees jump.
Oh we’ve got too far from Canardie, run for life, boys, run.

O Prevost sighed aloud and to his officers did say,
The Yankee troops are hove in sight and hell will be to pay,
Shall we fight like men of courage, and do the best we can,
When we know they’ll flog us two to one, I think we’d better run.
Oh we’ve got too far from Canardie, run for life, boys, run.

The old ’76s marching forth, on crutches they do lean,
With their rifles leveled at us with their specs they take good aim,
And you know there’s no retreat for those who’d rather die than run,
Make no doubt that these are those that conquered John Burgoyne.
Oh we’ve got too far from Canardie, run for life, boys, run.

We’ve reached the British ground, my boys, we’ll have a day of rest,
I wish my soul that I could say ‘twould be a day of mirth,
But I’ve left so many troops behind, it causes me to mourn,
If ever I fight the Yankees more, I’ll surely stay at home.
Now we’ve got back to Canardie, stay at home, boys, stay.

A health to all the British troops, likewise general Prevost,
A health to all our families, and the girls that we love most,
To MacDonough and Macomb, and to every Yankee boy,
Now boys fill up your tumblers for I never was so dry.  
Now we’ve got back to Canardie, stay at home, boys, stay.

For this month’s song, we revisit the repertoire of the Phillips family of Chamberlain, Minnesota for a song about the Battle of Plattsburg during the War of 1812. Collector Robert Winslow Gordon recorded three verses (verses 1, 3 and 5 above) from the Phillips family in September 1924. Interestingly, he chose to record just one verse a-piece from brothers Reuben and Seymore and Reuben’s son Israel. The melody above is my transcription based on the three recordings which are quite similar in melody. Verses 2, 4, 6 and 7 above were taken from an 18 verse printed broadside of the song.

“Canardie” is a poetic reworking of “Canada” and the Phillips family had a close connection to the British invasion, via Canada, of northern New York during the War of 1812. According to Early History of the Town of Hopkinton [NY], Seymour and Reuben’s maternal grandfather Samuel Goodell (1778-1822) was briefly taken prisoner during a British Army raid on Hopkinton, New York’s ample flour supply in February 1814. The nearby Battle of Plattsburgh described in the song proved to be the decisive Yankee victory in the war. The song, though told from the British perspective, is clearly a Yankee composition.

The final verse mentions the two Irish-American military leaders credited with the Plattsburgh victory: US Army Brigadier General Alexander Macomb and naval Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough. Macomb’s father was from Ballynure, County Antrim and Macdonough’s great-grandfather hailed from Leixlip, County Kildare.

Broadside woodcut courtesy of Toronto Public Library’s Digital Archive Ontario
26 Mar

Ned McCabe

Ned McCabe

I’m a fine old Irish laborer, from Ireland I came,
To try me luck on Columbia’s shore, and Ned McCabe’s my name.
I’ve had me days of sunshine, although I can’t complain,
But those good old days for laborers will never come back again.

’Tis boys, be gay and hearty, and never ye be afraid,
But bear misfortunes with a smile like poor old Ned McCabe

But when I landed in Quebec, I had nary a red at all,
I hired out to a contractor, boys, to work upon a canawl.
I’d eighty cents a day, me boys, and whiskey too had I,
But when I think of those good old days, it almost makes me cry.   Chorus

*I’ve cleared the lands in the far-off west, and many a mile I’ve trod,
And many’s the snake, and wild beast, I’ve laid beneath the sod.    Chorus

Now the winter time is coming on, and away down south I’ll go,
To secure myself a winter’s job away from frost and snow.
Old Canady being by favorite whenever there I went,
I could drink my twenty jiggers a day and never step off o’ the plank.    Chorus


Folk song collector Franz Rickaby made the above transcription of this very rare song from the singing of George Hankins (1849-1934) of Gordon, Wisconsin in the early 1920s. Earlier in his life, Hankins worked as a lumberjack and railroad man in Minnesota before making his home in Gordon, about 45 miles southeast of Duluth. Hankins told Rickaby that he learned the song when he first came to live in Wisconsin.

The song itself illustrates a familiar storyline for the first Irishmen to come to Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was common for Famine-era immigrants who sailed to Canada to find work as lumberjacks, railroad men, Great Lakes sailors or canal workers. Many of these men and their sons followed those jobs, or sometimes seasonal farm work, over the border into the US. So it was with many of the men who built Stillwater, Minnesota and other St. Croix Valley towns.


*I took some liberty with the words of this verse in what I published in the IMDA newsletter and in what I sing myself.  The original as transcribed by Rickaby reads:

I’ve cleared the lands in the far-off west where no white man ever trod,
And many’s the snake, and red man too, I’ve laid beneath the sod.