28 Jun

Patrick Sheehan

My name is Patrick Sheehan, my years are thirty-four,
I was born in Tipperary, not far from Galtimore;
I came of honest parents, but now they are lying low,
And it’s many the happy days I spent in the glens of Aherloe.

My father died, I closed his eyes outside our cabin door,
The landlord and the sheriff, too, were there the day before;
It was then my poor old mother and sisters, two, also,
With broken hearts were forced to leave the glens of Aherloe.

Then for three months in search of work I rambled far and near,
Then I went unto the poor house to see my mother dear;
The news I heard nigh broke my heart, but yet in all my woe,
I blest the friends that made their graves in the glens of Aherloe.

Bereft of home, of kith and kin, and plenty all around,
I starved within my cabin and slept upon the ground;
But cruel as my lot it was, I ne’er did hardships know,
Until I joined the English army far away from Aherloe.

“Get up, you lazy Irish dog,” the corporal he came around,
“Don’t you hear the bugle, the called to arms, sound?”
Alas, I had been dreaming of days long, long ago,
And I woke before Sebastapool, and not in Aherloe.

I groped for my musket, how dark I thought the night!
Oh, blessed God, it was not dark, it was the broad daylight;
And when I found that I was blind, the tears they down did flow,
And I longed for even a pauper’s grave in the glens of Aherloe.

Now a poor, forlorn mendicant, I wander through the streets,
My nine months’ pension being out, I beg from all I meet;
But since I joined my country’s tyrants my face I ne’er will show,
To the kind and loving neighbors in the glens of Aherloe.

Oh, Blessed Virgin Mary, mine is a mournful tale,
A poor blind prisoner here I lie in Dublin’s dreary jail;
Struck blind within the trenches where I never feared the foe,
But now I never more will see my own sweet Aherloe.

Now, youths and fellow countrymen, take heed to what I say.
Don’t ever join the English ranks or you’ll surely rue the day;
And if ever you are tempted a-soldiering to go,
Remember poor blind Sheehan and the glens of Aherloe.

We have another of Michael Dean’s songs with literary connections this month. The text of “Patrick Sheehan” aka “The Glens of Aherlow” is known to be the work of Irish revolutionary, novelist and poet Charles Kickham (1828-82). Kickham was inspired to write the song by a real life Patrick Sheehan – a blind veteran of the Crimean War (1853-56) arrested for begging on Grafton Street in Dublin in 1857. Kickham published his text that year under the pseudonym “Darby Ryan Junior” (a reference to an earlier Irish balladeer who composed “The Peeler and the Goat”). Song historians have since discerned that the real Patrick Sheehan was likely not from Tipperary but Tipp was Kickham’s home county and probably not the only poetic license taken in the composition.

Charles Kickham
photo from the Library of Trinity College Dublin Digital Collections

The song was printed as a broadside and sung widely in Ireland. Helen Hartness Flanders found at least four versions among her New England singers. “Yankee” John Galusha (1859-1950) of Minerva, New York was recorded singing the song in 1949 and it’s the Galusha melody that I have married to Dean’s text above. Dean himself was born in 1858 in Madrid, NY on the opposite side of the Adirondacks from Galusha.

Woodcut and title of a broadside from Rare Books & Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame
03 Jan

Lonesome Hours of Winter (Laws H12)


Lonesome Hours of Winter

Oh, the lonesome hours of winter provide both frost and snow,
Dark clouds around us gather, the stormy winds do blow;
You are the girl I have chosen to be my only dear,
But your scornful heart is frozen and fast locked up I fear.

I went one night to see my love, she proved most scornfully,
I asked her if she’d marry me to which she paid no heed;
The night being nearly passed and gone and near the break of day,
I am waiting for my answer, my love, what do you say?

Since you must have an answer, I choose a single life,
I never thought it fitting to ever become your wife;
You may take that for an answer, for myself I will provide,
I have chosen another sweetheart and you I cast aside.

Since you are for a-changing the old one for the new,
Then I will go a-roving, I’ll rove the country through,
Until I find some pretty fair maid so pleasing to my will,
Oh, this world is wide and lonesome, if one don’t, why another will.

I know you have great riches and more you’d like to gain,
You won my young affections which now you do disdain;
Your riches will not last you long, they’ll melt away like snow,
And when poverty will press you, dear, you’ll think of me, I know.

Some folks do seek for pleasure, but I no pleasure find,
The little birds sing sweetly all around on every vine,
The little birds sing sweetly, so pleasing and divine,
And so would my joys be flowing tonight if Nancy was only mine.

I fell in love with this song recently and it seemed a perfect fit for this time of year. Several versions of this wintery ballad of unrequited love were collected in North America and the song likely originated here as never turned up among singers on other continents. The above text is from Minnesota singer Mike Dean’s songster The Flying Cloud. Unfortunately, Dean’s melody was not (as far as I know) preserved by either recording or transcription.

Fortunately, I was able to track down recordings of two of my favorite northwoods singers doing their versions of the song! The first, Angelo Dornan, is perhaps the most “Irish” sounding northwoods singer I have ever encountered (and he was at least two generations removed from Ireland himself). Dornan was born in southern New Brunswick and learned a treasure trove of beautiful songs from his father and other lumbermen in that area. His leisurely, highly-ornamented singing of the come-all-ye ballads popular in lumber camps stands side by side with the singing of great Ulster singers such as Paddy Tunney and Geordie Hanna. Dornan was recorded by collector Helen Creighton. (Listen to Angelo Dornan’s “Stormy Winds of Winter” here)

This fall, I was treated to another version of the song, this time from “Yankee” John Galusha of Minerva, New York. The Galusha recordings and transcriptions (made by Anne and Frank Warner and also by Marjorie Lansing Porter) make an especially appropriate cross reference for Dean’s songs as Galusha (1859-1950) was born one year after Dean (1858-1931) on just the other side of the Adirondack Mountains from Dean’s own birthplace. Unlike Dean and Dornan, Galusha wasn’t recorded until he was in his eighties. Still, he approaches the songs with a style not far removed from Dornan’s (and one can only guess what he sounded like in his younger days!).

The above melody is my own composite based on recordings of Dornan and Galusha who use variants of the same melody.