The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #152267   Message #4010822
Posted By: Lighter
27-Sep-19 - 02:26 PM
Thread Name: Mrs. McGraw - origins
Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
Here's a very similar song, a variant of "My Son Ted", (with thanks - most indirectly and serendipitously! - to Steve Roud and Charles Biada):

                                       MY SON PHELIM.

I had a son and a son in law.
But they both trotted off to Americaw :
Oh ! I will make them to rue the day
That they shot my Phelim's two legs away.
    With his ding dong da, fal de ral de ra,
    With his ding dong da, fal do ral de m,
    With his ding dong de, fal de ral do re,
    Fal de ral de ral, fal do ral de re.

Oh ! I greas'd my brogues and I cut away,
And never cried crack till I came to George's Quay;
There I saw two ships sailing on the sea,
'Arrah ships, dear ships, wont you wait for me.
    And my ding dong da, &c..

'Arrah ships dear ships, wont you wait awhile—
Arrah ships, dear ships, won't you wait awhile,—
And tell me of Pholim who cut one day
With a friend of his to Amerikay !
    With his ding dong da, &c.

I went up to spake to one of the crew,
'Arrah tare-an-ages Phelim sure this can't be you;
Oh ! was it a walking on the salt _say_
That you wore your two shins to the stumps away ?
    With your ding dong da, &c.

'Oh mother, dear mother, I was'nt drunk or mad,
But if you want to know where's the two pins I had;
Just as we were sailing on the salt _say_,
A chain shot come and took the whole bunch away,
      With my ding dong da, &tc.

Oh, my son Phelim was both tall and slim,
And to each thigh he had a most illigant limb;
But now he's come without a leg at all —
Oh I why didn't he hide from the big cannon ball.
       With his ding dong da, &a

Oh Phelim, dear Phelim, what will you do now ?
Oh, Phelim dear Phalim, what will you do now?
Will you be all your life just like a poor crowl,
Goin' round the world like a Billy in the bowl ?
      With your ding dong da, &c.

It's a mighty big war that I'm going to proclaim,
Twixt the Queen of Hungary and King of Spain;
Oh, I will make them both to rue the day
That they stole my Phelim's two legs away,
             And his ding dong da, &c.

The source? Dinny Blake's "Sprig of Shillelah: A Collection of the Most Humorous and Popular Irish Songs" (London: David Bryce, 1852). Blake's Preface describes the contents as "none but the best Comic Songs of my native land."

So it wasn't just the English who were laughing.

Part of the perceived "fun" was the default belief that young men joined the army because they were irresponsible adventurers with no self-respect (as above), fleeing the law, or as in the case of the famous "Johnny," a wife and child (or as in "Twa Recruitin Sergeants), a "sweetheart wi bairn."

Like Kipling's "Tommy," enlisted men in the nineteenth century were typically regarded as louts, drunks, thieves, rapists, and ne'er-do-wells - and not just by the ruling classes.

That was equally true in the U.S. It took the American Civil War and the Great War to revise the image.