Here is an excerpt from a letter Robbie wrote to me when I bought his tape. It has a little different information from the notes on the tape, but does give information on how old Robbie was when he got the song:
"...it was Michael Consodine who wrote the song. he was born in 1850 and went to Boston in 1870 (and)worked there for about a year and a half made some money went to California went to High School and got a good job, then got into bad health and he knew he wasn't going to make it because more of his family and his mother died before him. So he wrote the song in poem form and sent it home to his six year old nephew John Consodine. 'Twas from John I got the song. He was about 75 years then and I was about 17 or 18 years. he never came home and was buried in California at the age of 23."