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Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney

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Subject: Lyr Add: Sylvester Gaffney
From: Fergie
Date: 22 Feb 09 - 04:25 PM


Based in Dublin in the 1950s and 1960s Sylvester Gaffney was a composer of songs and parodies. I know little about him and I would be glad of any information concerning him. I am posting fourteen of his compositions that I found in a small booklet. Enjoy



When the Harp of dear Erin, unstrung and untended
        Lay silent and shattered, there still was a voice
The praises to sing of the one so unfriended,
        And make the sad heart of our Mother rejoice,
From the field, from the forge, from the cot and the cloister,
        Our ballads poured forth in rhymes polished or crude,
To teach us to weep, to fight or to roister
        And raise up warm courage in gentle and rude.

The voice of the Nation was the bold Ballad-Monger
        With his sheaf of fine broadsheets thrown over his arm.
And his voice gaily raised, spite of wet, cold and hunger:
        If he downed a few jorums, sure, where was, the harm
Then here's to the chanter, the rollicking ranter,
        The bold Ballad-Monger with manners so free,
Who charmed mistress and maid with his blarney and banter
        At each gathering and fair from Athlone to the sea.

John McDonnell of Clare and the Poets of Kerry,
        Poor Oliver Goldsmith and Jonathan Swift,
The Mangaire Sugach, that Bagman so merry,
        O, those were the boys gave poor Ireland a lift.
Blind Raftery too, and many another
        Whose songs are still with us, tho' their names are unknown.
They sang from their hearts to their sad, weeping Mother,
        And tried with their love for her wrongs to atone.

When young Emmet lay dead and his cause appeared broken,
.        There still was a voice to cheer hearts that were sore:
For little Tom Moore shyly offered a token
        In songs that will flourish till time is no more.
Let them say, if they will, of our own beloved Poet,
        That he laid down the clairseach to strum at the lyre
But Tom's heart was pure golden, and too well we know it,
        When he wrote for his Mother with pen tipped with fire.

Gerald Griffin the gentle and poor Keegan Casey,
        Greathearted Davis and Kickham the bold:
I'd number them all, but the task is not easy;
        Let their names be emblazoned in letters of gold.
Clarence Mangan, the tragic, whose magical numbers
        Sent the blood coursing warmly thro' long-withered veins.
And Ingram, who once roused the dead from their slumbers,
        And helped our sad Mother to shatter her chains.

Arthur Griffith, God rest him! there was no one to best him
        At a comical verse or a soul-stirring song:
Francis Mahoney of Blarney and bold Peadar Kearney
        The latest and greatest of all the brave throng.
Here's your memory forever, ye bold Ballad-Makers,
        With voice and pen ready to answer the call:
Papists and Methodys, Presbies and. Quakers,
        May the green sod of Erin lie light on ye all.

A DREAM OF THE BOYNE        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY        Air: The Rose of Mooncoin.

To the north of old Dublin and south of Belfast
A broad river dreams of a day in the past,
When two mighty armies in battle did join
On the banks of the River that's known as the Boyne.

Flow on, lovely river, flow gently along;
You've heard many a drum-beat an aul' Orange Song.
What a pity that somehow, by a spin of the coin,
Both William and James were not drowned in the Boyne.

You must laugh dear old River to hear all the noise,
When the Croppies go baiting the Protestant Boys;
Good Irishmen all, keeping up an old spleen
For Dutch William's Orange and Scotch James's Green.

O'Neill and O'Donnell, O'Moore and Maguire,
Whose valour once set the wild Northland on fire,
Look down from Valhalla and laugh till you cry
At the farce that's played out every twelfth of July.

No wonder James chose for his colour the Green,
As a race we're the greenest the world has yet seen.
When he found he'd no army, he said" We're not bet!
"For, thanks be to God! Ireland's rearin' them yet!"

If it happened today that our heroes fell out,
The ballyhoo boys would soon raise a great shout:
Jack Solomons surely would put up real dough
To handle this great International show.

What glorious dope for the sporthunters all
"Scotch Jamie, the greyhound all the way from Whitehall
"Versus Billy the Kid, fresh from Holland come o'er
"To break jaws, necks and hearts, aye, and treaties galore."

But when the time came for staging their row,
They'd better keep far from Boyne water, I vow!
The Fishery Board at their throats soon would fly
For killing the salmon and ruining the fry.

What a shock the two heroes would suffer today
If they landed at Drogheda their drama to play,
To see factory and farm on their old battle-ground,
With peace and prosperity smiling around.

Here's a word to the wise: as my verses I sing
I think, would it not be a wonderful thing
If our land with Boyne Water and Drogheda Cement
Were bonded together, as was Nature's intent.

Flow on, Lovely River, dear theme of my rhyme,
You've seen the once mighty brought low in your time:
May your broad wave ne'er cease to roll sparkling and bright
Till the Thirty-two Counties in friendship unite.

DOWN BY THE LIFFEY SIDE        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY        Air: Down by the Slaney Side.

I am a poor oul Dublin man
And my age is fifty-three:
I work away and draw my pay
And I spend my money free.
I have a wife and family,
My pleasure and my pride,
I love to take them ramblin'
Down by the Liffey-side.

How often do my thoughts go back?
To the days of long ago,
When Jane and I were coortin'
On the Banks of Pimlico,
When a one-and-one cost fourpence
With vinegar and salt
And a couple o' coppers bought for you
A half of glorious malt.

All round the Coombe and Patrick Street
We'd stroll on a Saturday night,
Where the ballad-singers sang so sweet
And the stalls they shone so bright.
'Twas there I walked me darlin' Jane
And asked her to be my bride
On a Saturday night, when the stars shone bright,
Down by the Liffey-side.

Ah the cowheel and the trotters
And the plates of steaming peas!
Those smells so sweet perfumed each street
Of the ancient Liberties.
Then we'd sit and rest with friends the best
And the hours were never long,
With a good oul' jar in Gilligan's Bar
And a rousing Irish song.

All, fare-ye-well, dear days of old,
When all of us were young: '
When the best of drink went gaily round
And the best of songs were sung,
'Mid friendship and good company
While pleasure flowed full tide:
Sure we'll never see the like again,
Down by the Liffey-side.

DUBLIN ME DARLIN'        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY        Air: Fineen the Rover

Ah, Dublin me darlin' I love ye!        .
        You're as warm as wool round me heart
And I swear by the blue sky above ye
        That never again shall we part.
Sure it broke my heart ever to leave ye
        But they promised such wonderful pay
Yet I wept ah, to see me would grieve ye,
        When I caught my last glimpse of your Bay.

Ah, Dublin, me darlin, what city
        Can offer such wonderful charms?
You've a heart full of love and of pity,
        Enfolding us all in your arms.
What a joy to be back with you, Dublin
        Just breathing your sweet, balmy air,
It's good-bye to all thinkin' and troublin',
        I'm a jackeen, with never a care.

Dear Dublin! the place I was born in:
        Just to see the young chislers at play,
In the Green, on a bright summer's mornin'
        Would make an oul' miser feel gay!
Then what pleasure to stroll of an evening
        Thro' the sweet scented groves of the Park.
Or to climb to the heights past Rathfarnham,
        And watch your lights gleam thro' the dark.

Ah, Dublin, me darlin' you've nourished
        A strange, mixed-up family, 'tis true!
Here Saxon and Huguenot flourished,
        Gael, -Norman, -a wild, hardy crew.
But, sure, now we're all blended together
        And our glasses we raise with a smile,
Here's to Dublin, in fair or foul weather,
        Dear Queen of the Emerald Isle.

IRELAND DEAR, GOOD-DAY        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY        Air;        Ireland, Boys. Hurray!

Deep in Canadian woods we've met,
From one bright Island flown.
As fast as we could ever get
From the Land we call our own.
We've settled in a shanty small,
Where we've no rates to pay,
But faintly still we hear the call,
From Ireland, far away.

Ireland, dear, good day!
We can't afford to pay I
They well may call you dear old Ireland,
Ireland dear, good day.

When it rains, the farmers weep bitterly,
And the price of grub goes up,
When it's dry, there's a crib from .the E.S.B.
And we're sold another pup.
They lay the roads, we foot the bill,
They come the next fine day
And rip, them up with a right good will,
So Ireland dear, good day!

To link us to dear Ireland
We have got the Radio
Which brings us, from our Sire land,
Each snappy sponsored show:
Bebop and boogie-woogie,
Are all we ever hear;
Bunting, Harty and Hardebeck.
Have lived in vain, I fear.

Last Spring, an urgent call we read
For labour for the bogs
Our young men wouldn't work, 'twas said,
They were going to the dogs!        .
When we hear that all of our T.D's
Long holidays with pay
Are being spent with the sane, we'll come back again,
To Ireland far away.

Deep in Canadian Woods we've met
And we're doing nicely now:
But, who knows when dear uncle Joe,
Will decide to start a row
With atom bombs and poison gas
There'll be all hell to pay,
Then we'll got in a flurry and hurry and scurry,
To Ireland far away.

(I Ne'er Had a Tail to my Coat)

A little of reading and writing,
        Was all that they taught me at school:
But plenty of howling and fighting
        From my schoolmaster Mister O'Toole.
I was taught to be tricky and cunning,
        They never could make me the goat,
But with all of my fighting and funning
        Sure, I ne'er had a tail to my coat.

O, mush, mush, mush, tooral.i-addy,
Mush, mush, mush, tooral.i.ay,
With all of my fighting and funning,
        I ne'er had a tail to my coat.

Now I got such an elegant training,
        How to know the best things from the worst,
To come in when it chanced to be raining,
        And look after my noble self first.
When I started to work for my living
        I shipped as deckhand on a boat,
But poor pay and bad grub they were giving,
        And I still had no tail to my coat.

Now, I never was much of a riser,
        When late I was docked in my pay.
But the Union made me organiser
        And I never looked back from that day.
I had lashings of money and leisure
        And a fine diamond pin at my throat;
But tho' life now to me was a pleasure,
        I still had no tail to my coat!

But I stood for the Local Elections,
        And an Alderman soon I became,
The envy and pride of all sections
        With a title and all to my name.
Ceremonial gowns we have ordered,
        And proud as a swan I will float,
With my long sleeves with monkey-fur bordered
        And a fine swinging tail to my coat.


A Ballad on the controversy which arose on the appointment of a new postmaster in the town of Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, 1950

Air: The South Down Militia.

O, the G.P.O. in Dublin will go down in history,
'Twas there the glorious fight was made that set our country free,
But from Aughrim down to Boland's Mills there's nothing could surpass,
The siege of the sub Post Office in the Town of Baltinglass,

There were Bren-guns and Sten-guns and whippet tanks galore,
The battle raging up and down from pub to general store:
Between the Vintner and the Cook the pot was quite upset,
And the Minister swore this Irish stew was the worst he ever 'et.

The job of sub-postmaster or mistress, as might be,
Is not exactly one that leads to wealth and luxury:
But Korea was a picnic and Tobruk was just a pup
To the row the day the linesmen came to take the cable up.

Now all the countryside joined in, the lowly and the great;
There were elephant-guns from Poona, and pikes from '98.
But the Cossacks came from Dublin, and the Irish Navy too,
And poor cook, she burnt her fingers on this wretched Irish stew.

There were gremlins from the Kremlin, and little men from Mars
Complete with flying saucers and hats festooned with stars.
There were rocket-firing, jet propelled, atomic flying boats,
And Commandos from the G.P.O. in their oul' tarpaulin coats.

The linesmen made a dash to open .up the cable trench
They opened up the sewer instead, Lord save us! what a stench
A gentleman in jodhpurs swore, "By Jove, they're using gas"
"The next will be an atom bomb on peaceful Baltinglass."

Now the case has gone to U.N.O. and we're waiting for the day,
When Truman, Attlee and McBride will come along and say
"Get back behind your parallel, drop atom bombs and gas,
"And respect the bound'ries and the laws of Sov'reign Baltinglass."


Parody on: If I Were a Blackbird

I am a poor blackbird, my story is sad;
I once was a maiden, who fell for a lad,
A jolly young sailor, who sailed far away,'
To plough the wild waves in the Bay of Biscay.

So, now I'm a blackbird, I whistle and sing,
But to darling Willie that don't mean a thing!
He's got no ear for music, I'm sorry to say
I'm just wasting my time in the Bay of Biscay.

I wept and I wailed till the gods heard my prayer
And changed to a blackbird I flew thro' the air
To rest in the breast of my Willie so sweet,
But Willie wears woollies that tickle my feet.

So; now I'm a blackbird, I whistle and sing,
But to sleep in Bill's bosom is no easy thing:
I found him a quitter when put to the test,
For he won't wear a nest on his chest for a vest.

When we put into port Willie fell for a dame,
And I've got an idea she's partial to game,
It's time I was moving by the look in her eye
If I don't get out fast I'll wind up in a pie.

There is an old proverb that all should be taught,
In the sea there's as good fish as ever were caught;
If your true-love should hook it and fly without trace'
He's a cheap skate, no cod! and the sea is his place.

Now all you young maidens take warning by me
And if your own true love should take to the sea.
Don't try to grow feathers and fly far away;
Give your true love the bird and then call it a day.

Air: Coortin' in the Kitchen.

Come all ye Jackeens bold, if you can spare a minute,
A tale I would unfold, gather round while I begin it.
Full fifty years ago while; we were still in slavery,
Yeats and Martyn struck a blow to arouse the ancient bravery.

To the Morgue in Abbey Street their footsteps they directed,
And on this spot so sweet a theatre they erected.
'Twas then that Dublin's name was sent broadcast thro' the Nations,
And the Abbey grew in fame thro' all trials and tribulations.

Now the Great Ones all are gone and the Abbey's soul departed,
Leaving just a lifeless corpse and poor Lennox broken-hearted,
But the Morgue caught fire one night, and the corpse so pale and flabby,
Jumped up in awful fright and skedaddled from the Abbey.

Bewildered by the noise and the night being rather showery
Said the ghost" Excuse me, boys, I'll run over to Dan Lowry"
When they told him Dan was dead and Pat Kinsella, too, a goner,
Ernest Blythe and Bobbie Farren had to hold him 'pon my honour.

Said Blythe "We'll try the Gate." "You're a genius" roars the Spectre,
"I'll stand yez all a trate of Sir Arthur's famous nectar!
The Rotunda Gate" says Blythe. Says the Ghost." "No time for jokin!
"I'm dying, not being born, and with drooth I'm nearly chokin'!"

He went straight to James's Gate, to call on Mister Guinness,
Shouting" Sorry we're so late. Let us in the wind will skin us!"
Then in he strides so bowld and grabs himself a firkin
Saying "I'm murthered with the cowld, someone send for Andy Clarkin"

Says the Spectre "This is grand! And it must have been all-fated.
"Like the Phoenix, here I stand, in the flames rejuvenated!
Says Blythe "Don't settle down. We've leased the Queen's Theaytre."
But the ghost says, with a frown "Ah he's goin' mad, the crathur"

"Leave me here with Fluther Good, Captain Boyle and Darlin' Joxer"
"Sure I'd help ye if I could, but I'd never stand the shock, sir,
"Me to strut it at the Queen's, named in honour of Victoria!
"Why, ye cowardly spalpeens, ye disgrace the Land that bore ye!"

'Leave me here upon this spot blessed by Emmet and Lord Edward,
Come! Another foaming pot and we'll all be moving bedward,
Here's a toast to Synge and Yeats and likewise Augusta Gregory.
"If we let their glory fade, may we all be brought to beggary."

"Look! Give every dog its bone and give over this collogin':
"Leave the Happy Gang alone, but I'll borrow Paddy Gogan.
"There's a man who knows his job and who does it without arguin',
"Gives good value for your bob, a Jackeen into the bargain."

"For entertainment at its best go and listen to sweet Gloria,
"Cecil Nash and all the rest: to good humour they'll restore ye.
"And ye'll learn a thing or two in the way of presentation.
"Come, we'll, tap another brew and we'll toast the Irish Nation."

"Now the winter's coming in, leave me here beside the brewhouse,
"With my tankard to my chin while you're building up your new house.
"Build it warm and dry and large and I'll come back in a jiffy"
Crowned, like Neptune, on a barge, sailing down sweet Anna Liffey."

THE DUTCH IN DERRY        (Arnhem on the Foyle)        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY

Humorous Anti-Partition Ballad

When William crossed Boyne Water,
'Mid commotion and some slaughter.
He wore his sash and bowler hat and beat his big; brass drum,
Then the fifes joined in so shrilly
To greet the conquering Billy,
And they played him up the Shankill Road
With a rumty-tumty-tum.

Now, no river swollen-tided
Keeps North and South divided:
The only thing between us is
An ever-babbling Brooke.
But Hist'ry is repeating,
For Orange drums are beating
To greet the Flying Dutchmen
From Haarlem and the Hook.

Again Dutch sabres rattle
In Mother England's battle:
They're sent to terrorise us,
And to make a warlike show:
But they haven't got us worried.
Or even slightly flurried,
For Dutch-courage costs six-bob a glass,
Where the Orange Lilies grow.

Let them settle down in Derry
And he happy and be merry:
But if they get too prosperous,
Old England might get sore:
They'll need a Kruger and de Wet,
But damn the help they're going to get,
From sons of men who fought and bled,
To help the honest Boer.

Of course, they'll have McManaway,
The man who never ran away:
But I'd like to give the Hollanders
A little friendly tip:
The orange is quite tricky,
Besides being rather sticky,
Believe me, in the bitter end,
You're bound to get the pip.

No more we'll drink their Holland Gin,
Or on their radios listen in,
Our tulips and tomatoes
Must spring from Irish soil
And if they cross the Border,
We'll meet them in good order
And beat them back with Galtee cheese
To Arnhem-on-the-Foyle.


Parody on the popular song: Three Lovely Lassies From Bannion,

Three are three lovely lassies in Kimmage.
Kimmage Kimmage, Kimmage,
Now and then there's a bit of a scrimmage
But I am the toughest of all.
O, I am the toughest of all.

Now the cause of the row is Joe Cashin,
Cashin, Cashin, Cashin,
He told me he thought I looked smashin',
At a dance in the Adelaide Hall,
At a dance in the Adelaide Hall.

Well, the other two damsels wore flippin'
Flippin', flippin', flippin',
When they saw me and Joe an' we trippin'
To the strains of the Tennessee Waltz.
To the strains of the Tennessee Waltz.

When he takes a few jars he goes frantic,
Frantic, frantic, frantic,
But he's tall and he's dark and romantic,
An' I love him in spite of his faults
O, I love him in spite of his faults.'

Now we've made up our minds that we'll
Marry, marry, marry,
For we both think it's foolish to tarry,
An' I lent him the price of the ring,
O, I lent him the price of the ring.
Me da says he'll give us a present.
Present, present, present,
A stool and a lovely stuffed pheasant,
And a griddle that's fit for a King,
O, a griddle that's fit for a King.

I've been down to the Tenancy Section,
Section, Section, Section.
For our T.D. before the election,
Said he'd get me a house near me ma
O, he'd get me a house near me ma.

Now, I'm getting a house, the man said it,
Said it, said it, said it,
When I've four or five kids to me credit,
In the meantime we'll live with me da,
In the meantime we'll live with me da.

UP THE AIRY MOUNTAIN                (A Monologue)        by SYLVESTER GAFFNEY

Up the airy mountain and down the rushy glen,
We've had to take it on the run, for fear of little men.
Tax Collectors,
Health Inspectors,
Even water-waste Detectors
Every now and then.

The freedom which our Fathers bought,
The better life for which we fought:'
Has now become
Believe, me, chum,
We're dumb!

We breathe not, as you might suspect,
Because we live. That thought reject,
It's just because
There are no law!
As yet to stop us:
But, friends! Pause!

Some Higher Ex
In horn-rimmed specs
Will fix
Our tricks.

The Institute for Higher Studies
Will be asked some day (believe me, buddies!)
How long our air is going to last
If we keep using it so fast?

And then, friends, then
The Little Men
Will really be delighted.
And tremendously excited.

For what could be sweeter
Than to see each one of us fitted with a meter;
And little ration books
On hooks I

It's going to come!
So, don't be dumb!
Why are we waiting?
Why hesitating

Up the Airy Mountain and down the Rushy Glen
Let's all just take it on the lam for fear of Little Men.



Two paw hawkers walked by the Liffey so clear,
        And discussed the new food regulations,
Said one" Mollser dear, what's this nonsense I hear,"
        We're the laugh and the joke of the Nations;
No longer the apple or ripe, juicy pear,
        Can we offer for sale in fist ruddy and bare,
For white cotton gloves I believe we must wear.
        To comply with the New Regulations.

No longer the fish left unsold at nightfall,
        May be stored 'neath the bed till the mornin'
Dr. Browne and his bloodhounds will creep up the hall,
        And pounce on you, ma'am, without warnin';
If the child falls asleep on the top of the stall:
        And you wrap it up snug in your oul' cashmere shawl,
They'll condemn the whole shootin' box, baby and all,
        To comply with the New Regulations.

When the Cockleman told me his troubles I wept:
        He must know where each shellfish resided,
What it ate where it slept and the company it kept
        And what motives its destiny guided.
No green seaweed beard now must hang from the lip
        Of the mussel so tasty, and here is a tip,
The new plastic oysters will work on a zip
        To comply with the New Regulations.

No more pink and naked the sausage will shine,
        In a new coat and vest he'll look gay, sir.
Buttoned right up the back till you're ready to dine,
        When he'll strip like a man for the fray, sir.
Pigs' feet in galoshes and cowheel in spats,
        Pigs' cheeks nicely shaved and in brown derby hats,
And scrag-ends of mutton will come in cravats
        To comply with the New Regulations.

The publican's cellar will look like the den
        Of a scientist or a magician;
With washers and boilers and ten extra men,
        Just imagine the poor man's position.
He opens on Monday all merry and bright:
        He's smiling at ten, as he turns out the light:
When he's done sterilising, it's Saturday night,
        All because of the New Regulations.

In your favourite restaurant, when you sit down,
        Try to look like a nosey inspector.
Just examine each plate and each glass with a frown;
        If the waitress looks frowsy, eject her!
And then when you're finished your bit and your sup,
It will pay you to bite a bit out of your cup,
They'll slip you a fiver to hush the thing up,
        Just for fear of the New Regulations.


Air: The Maid of the Sweet Brown Knowe.

Come all ye lads and lassies
        And listen awhile to me:
I'll sing to you a verse or two
        That'll fill ye all with glee.
It's all about young Jemser Doyle
        Who caught the fatal germ
And fell quite hopelessly in love
        With the girl with the Toni Perm.

Says he "Me pretty fair maid,
        I like your kind of style.
You've a figure neat and a face so sweet
        And a real old Irish smile:
You've got plenty of what-dy'e-call-it,
        I can't think of the proper term:
But the crowning touch to your beauty
        Is your elegant Toni Perm."

Now this young and pretty fair maid
        She rather liked your man,
But she cocked an eye, she was much too fly,
        To be caught by a fancy Dan.
She asked him what kind of a job he had,
        In accents cold and firm:
He'd need plenty of dough if he hoped to "go"
        With the girl with the Toni Perm.

Now he saw at once that this fair young maid
        Was def'n'ly on the make:
So, says he. Now I can tell ye
        That me job is a piece o' cake.
I've twelve a week at the factory,
        As true as I'm alive!
An' a couple o' nixers I do at home
        Bring me in another five."

When the fair young, maid heard this good news
        Her beautiful eyes did gleam.
She thought that marrying Jemser Doyle
        Was a slice of loves young dream.
She gripped him by his good right arm.
        With a clutch that made him squirm
And against his manly bosom laid
        Her beautiful Toni Perm.

Says she 'Me Darlin' Jemser!
        We'll have a smashin' time,
The thing to do is to have your fun
        While you're still in the prime.
I've never dined at Jammet's
        An' I'm crazy about pearls:
An' I'd love me snap in the Tatler
        With a bunch of society girls"

But Jemser fixed her with a glare,
        And said he, "I know your kind".
Ye'd spend me' money an' jazz around
        Till ye drove me, out o' me mind.
Ye thought ye had a sucker
        But I solemnly now affirm
That ye'll never catch young Jemser Doyle
        With your beautiful Toni Perm"

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 09:16 PM

Google Books finds several references to Sylvester Gaffney, but they are all "snippets." (Click to view.) I suppose you will have to track down the books to learn more.

One book says Sylvester Gaffney was a pseudonym of Leo Maguire. I suppose that would be this Leo Maguire--See Wikipedia--who wrote "The Whistling Gypsy."

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 23 Feb 09 - 09:48 PM

There is an apparent reference to the song THE BATTLE OF BALTINGLASS in the Irish Parliamentary Debates, 20 May, 1953.

Brewer's Dictionary of Irish Phrase & Fable has a brief article about "The Battle of Baltinglass".

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 26 Jul 12 - 08:31 PM


This thread vanished very quickly last time around, but since it contains some really good songs it seems worth having another look at them. Thanks to Fergie for posting them and looking forward to getting some more information about the songs and the identity of the author.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 Jul 12 - 12:15 AM

I missed this at the time, so I'm glad Matthew refreshed it. For future reference, it helps if you post one song per message. If they're related songs like these are, it's great that they're together in the same thread, but splitting them up one song per message makes it far easier for indexing and searching.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 30 Jul 12 - 05:16 PM


Now that the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) has put a lot more online I've been able to discover a bit more about Sylvester Gaffney. The ITMA catalogue lists six song sheets published by Walton's in the early 1950's which name Sylvester Gaffney as the author, plus another two crediting S Gaffney:-

The Battle of Baltinglass, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1950.
What the Doctor Ordered, or, Everything Done Browne, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1951.
The Burning of the Abbey Theatre, or, The Lament for the Queen's, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1951.
The Dutch in Derry, or, Arnhem on the Foyle, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1951.
The Poor Old Woman, or, God Save Ireland From the Heroes, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1951.
If You'll Only Come Across the Sea to Ireland, by Sylvester Gaffney. 1952.
The Irish Soldier Boy, adapted by S Gaffney. 1952.
The Little Old Mud Cabin on the Hill, by S Gaffney. 1952.

At around the same period, Walton's began a sponsored weekly broadcast on Radio Eireann, presented by Leo Maguire, and they also started issuing 10" 78rpm black shellac discs featuring the songs published by Walton's. The first such disc (W 101) seems to have been The Battle of Baltinglass/Twenty Men From Dublin, sung by Leo Maguire. The recording was reissued on 45rpm in the 1960's, and a copy of this can be seen on the 45cat database. Among Walton's other early 78s are recordings of Joe Lynch singing The Little Old Mud Cabin, and If You'll Only Come Across the Sea to Ireland, and Noel Purcell songing What the Doctor Ordered.

The booklet of 14 songs by Sylvester Gaffney which was posted above by Fergie has the same contents as a booklet issued by Walton's sometime in the 1960's Sing an Irish Song. Book 8. Popular parodies for platforms and parties as one of a series of 11 booklets. The title of the series comes of course from Leo Maguire's broadcasts which always ended with him saying, "If you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song."

So while it seems that Sylvester Gaffney and Leo Maguire were both closely linked to Walton's businesses there is nothing here to prove that they are the same person. However a website dedicated to memories of the days when Radio Eireann broadcast from the Dublin GPO does contain a statement by a sound engineer, PGR, that Leo Maguire did use the alias of 'Sylvester Gaffney':- The Waltons Programme at the GPO. If this is the case then perhaps it was something once so well known amongst a small number of people that they didn't think it worth mentioning, but I'd still like to see some more conclusive evidence.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Leadfingers
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 04:14 AM

Interesting to see the extended version of 'Kimmage' - I was only familiar with The Dubliners shortened version .

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: zozimus
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 11:50 AM

Hi Matthew,
I've being searching the ITMA webpage and cannot find a link to Sylvester Gaffney or Waltons. What did you search under?
Meanwhile, Jim Dixon's link to "Irish Parliamentary Debates" gives an indication as to why songwriters would not use their real name.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 05:57 PM

Hi zozimus,

If you start at the ITMA Online Catalogues page, the buttons at the bottom of the page give you the options of searching printed items, sound recordings, DVDs or images. I looked in the Prints and entered "Gaffney" in the Author section - but you can use the 'Browse Choices' button to select from the complete list of authors etc. I got 13 results for my Gaffney query, of which 8 relate to Sylvester or S Gaffney. The ITMA reference numbers are:-
278-SM The battle of Baltinglass
311-SM The Burning of the Abbey Theatre
428-SM The Dutch in Derry
508-SM If You'll Only Come Across the Sea to Ireland
535-SM Irish Soldier Boy
575-SM the Little Old Mud Cabin
703=SM Poor Old Woman
867=SM What the Doctor Ordered

If you reset the search page and search for the title "Sing an Irish Song. Book 8" you should get 2 results (ITMA refs 159-BK and 7349-BK) which lists the 14 songs referred to but without giving any author for them.

I hope this works OK.

If you then search the Sound Recordings for Waltons in Publication Details you can have a field day discovering just how much they issued over the years - and see how many of them you remember!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
Date: 31 Jul 12 - 06:52 PM

Thanks a million, Matthew, Hope to see you at the Frank Harte Festival.
Yes, I have found memories of listening to the Walton's programme. We had no record players, never mind CDs or MP3s, so it was really all there was back then.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 06:59 PM

Hi Matthew,
We can now confirm that Leo Maguire wrote those songs under the name Sylvester Gaffney. He knew "The Battle of Baltinglass" would ruffle a few feathers and so did not use his own name. In a radio interview by John Bowman in the late 50s he owned up , saying he did so because he did not want Leo Maguire to be pilloried and sent to the Joy (Mountjoy Jail). His son, John, also confirmed this. The late Cathal O Shannon did a tv programme on the Battle of Baltinglass Oct 10th 1996 and found there were still scars remaining after 46 years. The radio interview with Leo Maguire was then replayed on radio the following day.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 25 Sep 12 - 07:55 PM

Hi zozimus (assuming that Guest above is you)

I had meant to look out for you during the Frank Harte weekend so I'm sorry we never caught up, but I'm glad to hear that the mystery of the identity of Sylvester Gaffney has been cleared up at last. It is amazing that the repercussions from the Battle of Baltinglass should have endured so long.

I see that the Clé Club is presenting a tribute to the Leo Maguire's Waltons programme this Wednesday, 26 Sep, Do Sing an Irish Song.

I also found that the Irish Genealogy Project has listed the graves of some Dublin cemeteries, which shows that Leo Maguire is buried at Deansgrange Cemetery in Plot 149 of the North Section with this inscription on his tombstone:

Maybe in your prayers you'll think of one
Who tried to pay the reckoning with a song.

Perhaps on a future "Dublin saunter" a visit to this grave would be in order?

I do hope we will meet at the next Frank Harte if not sooner.

Regards, Matthew

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Songs by Sylvester Gaffney
From: zozimus
Date: 26 Sep 12 - 05:35 AM

Hi Martin,
That was me alright. I've sent you a PM. Am still recovering from the Frank Harte Festival. What a weekend!

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