26 Jun

Leaving Erin

[Oh] farewell, Erin, I now must leave you for to cross the raging main,
Where cruel strife may end my life and I’ll ne’er see you again;
It will break my heart from you to part, Arrah Cushla Asthore Machree,
But I must go full of grief and woe to the shores of America.

So now, farewell, I can no longer dwell in Ireland, Acushla Machree,
For I must go full of grief and woe to the shores of America.

On Irish soil my parents dwelt since the time of Brien Boru,
They paid their rent and lived content, convenient to Killaloo
But the landlord cruel sent us ashule, my poor old mother and me,
He banished us from home far away to roam to the wilds of America.

No more at the churchyard, Asthore Machree, on my father’s grave can I kneel,
The rich man knows but little of the woes that the poor man has to feel;
When I look around on the little spot of ground where the cabin used to be,
I may curse the laws that have gave me cause to depart for America.

Where are the neighbors kind and true that were once our country’s pride?
No more they are seen at the fair on the green or dance on the green hillside;
It is the stranger’s cow that is grazing now where the poor man used to be,
With notices they were served and turned out to starve or banished to America.

Oh, Erin Machree, must your children be exiled all over the earth?
Must they think no more of you, dear land, as the spot that gave them birth?
Must the Irish yield to the beast of the field, Arrah no, Cushla Asthore Machree,
They’re coming back in ships with vengeance on their lips from the shores of America.

This month’s song is another rare one from Michael Dean that, much to my delight, also turned up in a handwritten manuscript belonging to Patrick Hill of Tipperary/St. Paul at St. Thomas’ O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library. Pat Hill called it “The Emigrant’s Farewell” and his text is very similar to Dean’s.

Since Dean and Hill only left us the song’s text, I have searched high and low for a recording or hint at the melody that they might have sung. I have come up empty handed in all the song archives and song books I have found.

The best I could do was a melody printed in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland in the “Airs, Songs” section titled “Curse the Laws That Gave Me Cause.” O’Neill attributes the wordless melody to West Cork native and Chicago police sergeant Michael Hartnett.  O’Neill’s title matches a line in verse three of our song and I think it might be a match. As Paul de Grae notes, the air is a variant of that often used for “The Lowlands of Holland.” It doesn’t feel like an obvious fit for “Leaving Erin’s” poetic structure but I did a bit of tweaking and the result, above, works pretty well.

The text itself is fascinating. It appears as “The Emigrant’s Farewell” in Hyland’s Mammoth Songster (Chicago, c1901) and the listing in that book’s table of contents implies it was a composition of “Mrs. Norton.” This has to be English social reformer and poet Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton, Lady Stirling-Maxwell née Sheridan. Caroline (1808-1877) lived in England her whole life but was a member of the prominent Anglo-Irish Sheridan family, She was a cousin to famed author Sheridan Le Fanu and the sister of Lady Dufferin. Lady Dufferin wrote “The Lament of the Irish Emigrant” which became quite popular with Irish singers and was also printed by Dean here in Minnesota.

Earlier printings (the earliest dated one I found was 1869) call this month’s song “An Irishman’s Farewell to his Country.” A note in Irish Literature Volume 8 (1904, edited by Douglas Hyde and others) says: “This ballad made its appearance during the time of the Fenian excitement in 1865, when the peasants expected an expedition from the Irish in the United States.” Michael Dean was an 8-year-old in northern New York state in 1866 when armed Fenians crossed the Niagara River into Canada to strike a blow against Great Britain. Perhaps the song was popular among the Irish railroad workers and lumberjacks he encountered there before heading west.

21 Nov

The Irish American Club

From the hills of County Kerry to the shores of Londonderry,
And from Galway Bay to Dublin and their numbers were not small,
Came each youthful boy and maiden, with health and beauty laden,
To uncles, aunts, and cousins who were settled in St. Paul.
We figured then quite clearly, there’d be others coming yearly,
So an Irish club was formed that our legends might survive,
Irish music, dance, and singin’ with mirth the hall was ringin’,
Gaelic football every Sunday we also kept alive.

It was healthy, wholesome living–music, dancing, taking, giving,
We were always looking forward, eager for the next event,
Telephones kept hummin’ about doings’ that were comin’,
We kept the boys and girls feeling happy and content.
Old timers watched us proudly and proclaimed in accents loudly
We were the best they ever saw in any park or hall,
With gestures and with glances they supervised the dances,
While sittin’ on the benches lined up along the wall.

And what with all the dances there was quite a few romances,
The wedding bells kept ringing through the summer and the fall,
And I know the angels blessed them as friends and kin caressed them,
When the ceremonies was over and we gathered at the hall.
There were some we watched them nightly, looking bashful talking quietly,
But a little drop of poteen worked magic I declare,
The shyful blush it vanished, the feeling blue was banished,
And they would exhibit talents we never knew was there.

With the officers commanding our club began expanding,
We did a mighty lot of good in a quiet and humble way,
The mission house was cherished, and the orphan house was nourished,
We shared the joys and sorrows of our people day by day.
But half the pride of living is the heart-felt joy of giving,
Our club has been rewarded with treasures more than gold,
We are known and are respected, and by rich and poor accepted,
And Christian Irish people keep flocking to our fold.

We all feel quite elated at how high our club is rated,
The part that I donated I feel is rather small,
It will always give me pleasure, fond thoughts I’ll always treasure,
Of friendships true and wholesome, cultivated in St. Paul.
We will prove our reputation to our people round the nation,
Let no jealousy or discord within our ranks prevail,
We’ll show our hospitality to every nationality,
And our fame will be re-echoed to the shores of Innisfail.

We bring things home to St. Paul, Minnesota this week for a fascinating local song composed by Irish immigrant Patrick Hill (1900-1980) who came to St. Paul from County Tipperary (by way of Canada) in 1923. Hill was one of the founders of the Twin Cities Irish American Club that was active here from the post-World War II years through the 1980s. He was also a fiddle player and a prolific poet.

The Eoin McKiernan Library, of which I am the director, is working on an exhibition on The Irish American Club. From newspaper research, we know the club held weekly, Saturday night dances at the Midway Club (1931 University Avenue) starting in 1949, moved most events to the Uni-Dale Commercial Club at 345 ½ University Ave. in 1953 and then moved again to Ford Union Hall at 2191 Ford Pkwy in 1962. Their activity seems to have tapered off after the 1960s though they were instrumental in some of the first Irish Festivals organized in the early 1980s.

Hill’s song captures the mission and story of the club quite well—painting a picture of Irish immigration in the post-war period that matches well with accounts I have read from Boston and other American cities.

If you or someone you know has knowledge or photos of the Irish American Club, please contact me (Brian Miller) at 651-245-3719 or library@celticjunction.org