01 Mar

At the Close of an Irish Day

Oh, tonight in fancy come and take a trip across the sea,
And we’ll meet our old companions in the place we long to be,
For stamped upon our memory are the friends we used to know,
So just tonight lets revel in the thoughts of long ago.

Through little lanes and meadows we will take a stroll once more,
For to meet the laughing boys and girls we met in days of yore,
The rivers, woods and moonlit night have the same old charm still,
And the whistler on a summer’s eve comes rambling o’er the hill.

It’s oft we rove through yon green groves with our young hearts light and gay,
‘Mid the golden ray of the setting sun at the close of an Irish day,
The music from the hills around re-echoed clear and true,
As down the path we wandered ’mid the fragrance and the dew.

Oh, don’t you recall, sweetheart of mine, the place where I met you,
‘Mid the rosy bower of happiness where love’s young dream came true?
The air was full of love’s sweet song as I promised to be thine,
And you forever pledged your word that you would be always mine.

Oh I’ll ne’er forget when I set sail across the ocean blue,
We stood on deck and watched the mountains slowly fade from view,
At the last glimpse of old Erin sure our hearts went up in prayer,
Oh, God forbid we’d e’er forget that dear little isle so fair.

We return this month to a song recorded by Tom Dahill and Barbara Dahill in 1976 from Mayo-born singer Dominic Caulfield who lived in St. Paul. Caulfield was a skilled singer with a deep repertoire of songs. On the tape recording, Dominic, Tom and Barb chat and read through a list of song titles between Dominic’s singing. They also refer to lyrics on a page so he was likely consulting a song book of his own at the time.

“At the Close of an Irish Day” is thought to be a composition of the early 20th century even though no known composer or early published text is known. The earliest appearance I can find is a recording by the McNulty Family made for Decca in New York City in 1940. Melodeon player Annie Burke McNulty was from Roscommon and she performed with her American-born children Eileen and Peter who sang and danced. The song was released at the height of their popularity when they were the most well-known Irish act in the US.

The song was taken up by traditional singers on both sides of the ocean. Eddie Butcher and others sang it in Derry and it appears in Hugh Shields’ book Shamrock, Rose and Thistle: Folk Singing in North Derry. In the late 50s, it was recorded by international superstar Bridie Gallagher and from there became associated with Irish stage singers—perhaps causing it to be passed over by folk revival song collectors who thought it too modern to be a “real” folk song.

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.

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!