The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #152267 Message #4009597
Posted By: Jim Carroll
19-Sep-19 - 12:24 PM
Thread Name: Mrs. McGraw - origins
Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
I decided to leave this until the dust settled down a little
I take it up again, not in order tp provoke an argument - that's already been done - but because some of the contributions here display a lack of understanding of how satirical Irish humour in songs works
I was attracted here in the first place by " It manages a two-pronged attack on the Irish" - an indication of the outsider's failure to understand both Irish politics and the humour that went into making their songs
Pointing out the fact that the Irish consider this a piece of satire and that there numerous comparable examples to compare appeared not to breach the wall of ignorance that exists, so here goes again
This is one of many songs that appear to be self (or Irish) denigrating but are, in fact, just the opposite
That The Irish Volunteers (The Irish Citizens Army) sang Mrs McGrath (correct spelling) is an indication thatTHEY didn't consider it "two-pronged attack on the Irish" - on the contrary - they considered it, as all republicans tend to, a powerful anti-recruiting song (one of the great issues around that time).
Beachcomber's parody is indicative that that was certainly the attitude during The Rising - different personnel - same format
One only has to compare it to other songs which describe the Irish as helpless hard-done-bys or hapless innocents or passive victims, or simply idiots, but are, in fact doing just the opposite
Mrs McGrath is one of these writ large, using stark visual horror as a weapon.
A local favourite here in Clare is 'Paddy and the Ass" where the apparently gormless 'T'ick Paddy' gets revenge on an abusive street trader by 'talking to his donkey' - powerful stuff with a strong message
I sing the comparatively rare, 'Mullingar Recruit' which tells of a 'simple harvester' being recruited to fight in India and (apparently) losing both legs in battle -
In fact it is a brilliant piece of military satire to rival Hasek's 'Good Soldier Schweik'
As on the bloody ground I lay, in deep despair, I could not pray
I cursed the day I listed and my joy in life did mar
When somebody near me gave a shout, I woke right up and looked about
Thank god, I was only dreaming, I was back in Mullingar
I looked aroungd me with delight, I felt my two fine legs, all right.
I blessed the ground I lay upon and I thanked my lucky stars
I swore no soldiering I'd try, unless for Ireland's cause to die
King George may stick his shilling up, I'm content in Mullingar
To understand the humour is to understand the songs and to understand the songs is to understand Irish history
They are all part and parcel of the same thing