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Origins: My Singing Bird

DigiTrad:
MY SINGING BIRD


Barbara 23 Jan 10 - 06:11 PM
Deckman 23 Jan 10 - 06:35 PM
Barbara 23 Jan 10 - 06:38 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 23 Jan 10 - 06:53 PM
Mary Humphreys 23 Jan 10 - 06:53 PM
bradfordian 23 Jan 10 - 06:58 PM
Barbara 23 Jan 10 - 07:07 PM
jacqui.c 23 Jan 10 - 07:12 PM
Deckman 23 Jan 10 - 07:55 PM
open mike 23 Jan 10 - 09:36 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jan 10 - 09:51 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jan 10 - 10:00 PM
Alice 23 Jan 10 - 10:06 PM
GUEST,Barbara sans cookie 24 Jan 10 - 02:18 AM
Joe Offer 24 Jan 10 - 02:21 AM
Joybell 24 Jan 10 - 02:28 AM
GUEST,Barbara sans cookie 24 Jan 10 - 02:32 AM
cetmst 24 Jan 10 - 07:02 AM
jacqui.c 24 Jan 10 - 09:23 AM
Richard Mellish 23 Jun 19 - 05:08 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 23 Jun 19 - 08:48 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 23 Jun 19 - 08:59 AM
Mrrzy 23 Jun 19 - 10:22 AM
Steve Gardham 23 Jun 19 - 03:29 PM
Matthew Edwards 24 Jun 19 - 03:06 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 24 Jun 19 - 07:10 PM
Reinhard 24 Jun 19 - 11:55 PM
GeoffLawes 25 Jun 19 - 07:28 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 25 Jun 19 - 08:12 AM
Reinhard 25 Jun 19 - 10:12 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 25 Jun 19 - 10:34 AM
leeneia 25 Jun 19 - 01:49 PM
Matthew Edwards 25 Jun 19 - 06:40 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 26 Jun 19 - 12:51 PM
Matthew Edwards 26 Jun 19 - 02:02 PM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 27 Jun 19 - 11:43 AM
Mrrzy 29 Jun 19 - 10:23 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 29 Jun 19 - 10:57 AM
Joe Offer 30 Jun 19 - 01:29 AM
Mick Pearce (MCP) 30 Jun 19 - 05:32 AM
leeneia 02 Jul 19 - 12:04 PM
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Subject: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Barbara
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:11 PM

I learned this a long time ago from Jean Redpath, and I always thought it was Scottish. However, googling it comes up with a number of hits calling it Irish, but with no particular attribution.
Can anyone provide me with a bit more background on this song?

Also I heard a third verse at one point from Paddy Graber, and I'm not recalling it at the moment. Anyone?

Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:35 PM

Do you mean this one:

"I have heard the blackbird pipe it's notes,
Heard the thrush and the linnet too ...."

bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Barbara
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:38 PM

Yep. The song is in DT here:My Singing Bird   but I couldn't find any discussion of it.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:53 PM

This was popularised by the McPeakes. It's on the reissue Topic CD, Wild Mountain Thyme, and the notes (written in 1963 by Bert Lloyd) state: "The melody is of a Munster folk tune. The words are by the Irish poetess, Edith Wheeler. The song came to the McPeakes from Cathal O'Byrne, who organised stage ceilidhs at which Frances senior played as a young man."
Derek


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mary Humphreys
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:53 PM

I recall that the McPeakes used to sing this song - but I could be wrong...


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: bradfordian
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 06:58 PM

On my 1963 LP of Clancy Bros +TM, Singing Bird is attributed to the McPeake Family, so there's a place to try for further info.
I've sang it a couple times myself, love the melody.

brad


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Barbara
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 07:07 PM

Here's the third verse:
Oh I will climb the high, high tree
And I'll rob that sweet bird's nest
And back I'll bring what I find there
To the arms I love the best.

But none of them can sing so sweet.....(as per other verses)
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: jacqui.c
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 07:12 PM

Third verse as I know it.

Ah then I will climb a high, high tree
And I'll rob that wild bird's nest
Aye, and I'll bring back that singing bird
To the arms I love the best
For there's none of them can sing so sweet
My singing bird as you
No there's none of them can sing so sweet
My singing bird as you


Jim Brannigan does a beautiful version of this song.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Deckman
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 07:55 PM

The late Dave Spence, of Los Gatos, California, used to sing this frequantly. He explained to me that the images in this song were allegorical (sp?) relating to Ireland herself. He used to say: "To climb a high, high tree and rob a wild bird's nest" was to gather the rebels around you ... and "bring back my singing bird ... to the arms I love best." bob nelson


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: open mike
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 09:36 PM

oh i would love to include a recording of this in my Feb. radio show..a continuation of the jan. bird special...where i hope to air
2 (more) hours of songs related to birds and bird songs..if any one knows of a disc containing this let me know. thanks!


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Subject: ADD: My Singing Bird (Gerry Rafferty recording)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 09:51 PM

I'm sure this isn't the song Barbara is seeking - but for the record, here it is.
-Joe-

MY SINGING BIRD
(recorded by Gerry Rafferty)

Sing your song to me, my singing bird
Let your voice ring loud and clear so you'll be heard
While you're here tonight, we'll be as one
For tomorrow you will seek the sun.

Sing your song to me, my singing bird
Let your voice ring loud and clear so you'll be heard
Just for the moment I'm asking you to stay
For tomorrow you'll be far away
For tomorrow you'll be far away.

Sing your song once more, my singing bird
Let your voice ring loud and clear so you'll be heard
While you're here tonight, we'll be as one
For tomorrow you will seek the sun
Yes tomorrow you will seek the sun.


from the CD Borderlands: The Best of Scottish Folk

From: http://www.musicbabylon.com, and compared with the recording


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 10:00 PM

There's nothing on this song at the Traditional Ballad Index, but there is a bit at the Folktrax Archive:

    MY SINGING BIRD - "I've seen the lark so high at morn" - words by Edith Wheeler to Munster air - ROUD#2946 - see also SONG OF THE THRUSH (Music Hall song about an Australian miner with SB) -- Frank McPEAKE rec by PK, Belfast 78/7/52: 7"RTR-0544/ McPEAKE Family Trio of Belfast rec by PK, London 1961: FTX-071/ SAYDISC CD SDL-411 1995/ PRESTIGE International 13018 1961/ TOPIC 12-T-87 1962 - Robin HALL & Jimmie McGREGOR: FONTANA TL-5296 1965 "The Best of the White Heather Clubs" - Alex CAMPBELL TRANSATLANTIC TRA-SAM-6 1969 - Helen WOODALL (voc/ gtr): FOREST TRACKS FT-3001 1973 "First Tracks"


Most recordings seem to have the third verse. Here are the Digital Tradition lyrics with the third verse added:
    MY SINGING BIRD

    I have seen the lark soar high at morn
    Heard his song up in the blue
    I have heard the blackbird pipe his note
    The thrush and the linnet too
    But there's none of them can sing so sweet
    My singing bird as you

    If I could lure my singing bird
    From his own cozy nest
    If I could catch my singing bird
    I would warm him on my breast
    For there's none of them can sing so sweet
    My singing bird as you

    Ah then I will climb a high, high tree
    And I'll rob that wild bird's nest
    Aye, and I'll bring back that singing bird
    To the arms I love the best
    For there's none of them can sing so sweet
    My singing bird as you
    No there's none of them can sing so sweet
    My singing bird as you



    Often attributed to the McPeake family, but the origin of this song is uncertain. Peter Kennedy (folktrax-archive.org) says the words were written by Edith Wheeler and set to a Munster air.

    @music @animal @love
    recorded by Jean Redpath
    filename[ SINGBIRD
    TUNE FILE: SINGBIRD
    CLICK TO PLAY
    SOF


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Alice
Date: 23 Jan 10 - 10:06 PM

I learned it from the Clancy Bros. recording in the '60's, and the line was "I've seen the lark soar high at morn".


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: GUEST,Barbara sans cookie
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 02:18 AM

The Jean Redpath album (CD) that has the song on it is Love is Teasing.
Enjoy.
Blessings,
BArbara


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Joe Offer
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 02:21 AM

Hi, Barbara -
Do you have the Redpath recording - how many verses does it have?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Joybell
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 02:28 AM

True-Love sang this song to me during our wedding ceremony. He always leaves out the verse about robbing the wild-birds nest, (No wonder they're wild -- I say) because he's a softie about birds.
We both learned it from the Clancys -- me from a record and True-Love direct from them.
Cheers, Joy


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: GUEST,Barbara sans cookie
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 02:32 AM

I'm pretty sure it just had two verses. I learned the song that way, and then years later got the third verse from Paddy Graber. Not sure if I still have the record (or was it a tape?). But lotsa places on the net offer downloads of the song or the CD.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: cetmst
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 07:02 AM

Jean Redpath sings two verses on her Love Is Teasing album. She notes "Every performance of this song, especially when there is whole-hearted audience participation,conjures up memories of the McPeake family of Belfast, and of Francie (sic) McPeake, senior, from whom I learned it".


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: jacqui.c
Date: 24 Jan 10 - 09:23 AM

if any one knows of a disc containing this let me know. thanks

I just ordered this from Amazon - here's the link.

You can find the track list here.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Richard Mellish
Date: 23 Jun 19 - 05:08 AM

I'm reviving this thread because I heard this song recently with some different words from those in my head. Those came from when I first heard it, from the Corrie Folk Trio (as they were at the time) on the Hoot'nanny show about 1963. In those days I taped a lot of radio and TV programmes, and that tape is one that I recently digitised, so I have checked their version.

Besides some minor differences from the words up-thread and in the DT, the difference that struck me, which has prompted me to find this thread and dig out my recording, is at the end of verse 2. Instead of repeating "For there's none ..." as in the first verse, they sang
"And on my heart my singin' bird would sing itself to rest".

My initial thought was that continuing the rhyme from "nest" and "breast" would be original, and the repetition of "For there's none ..." a corruption. Or could it be the other way round, the CFT having decided to "improve" the song?

They also had a third verse (which I had entirely forgotten until I listened to the recording just now) quite different from those up-thread.
    In grief I wander east and west
    O'er mountain, vale and shore.
    And yet I know I will never find
    The lass that I love so well*
    But I will bravely face the world
    To hear you sing once more.

* "The lass that I do adore" would seem better, maintaining the rhyme.

If he's determined to hear the bird again and yet expects never to find the lass, that implies that the bird is not a metaphor for the lass. That would be consistent with the verse about climbing the tree and bringing the bird "To the arms I love the best".

Does it all make sense? Not entirely!

And does it take us any closer to the origin? Nope!


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 23 Jun 19 - 08:48 AM

I leaned this back in the 60s from the Clancy Brothers' recording, with words pretty much as Joe gave them above, though the Clancy's had a refrain of 'Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, my singing bird as you'... I don't think I've ever heard your last verse Richard (though I didn't listen to the Corries that much in those days!).

The entry in Roud is a bit strange. As Joe's entry above states it's under Roud 2946. Apart from the McPeakes, 2946 is versions of The Maid of The Mourne/Moorlough Shore ("You lofty hills and flowery dales"), which seems to be unrelated to My Singing Bird (at least in the 2 versions I've just looked at in Song of The People and Shamrock, Rose and Thistle).

Roud also lists it My Singing Bird as VN3884 Walton's 132 Best Irish Songs & Ballads (c1950) and Walton's New Treasury of Irish Songs & Ballads 2 (1966), which appear to be the same song ("I've seen the lark soar high at noon").

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 23 Jun 19 - 08:59 AM

There is a book Four Irish Songs - By C. Milligan Fox - Words by Edith Wheeler and Alice Milligan. The Connacht Caoine (in Irish) by Tadhg O' Donnchadha. Illustrated by Seaghan MacCathmhaiol (Dublin, 1907) for sale on Abebooks and entry in the Royal Dublin Society library that contains the song and seems to confirm the Edith Wheeler origin for the song.

Since the sale copy is £115 plus shipping and Dublin is far away I won't be checking this, but maybe someone in Dublin could confirm it.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mrrzy
Date: 23 Jun 19 - 10:22 AM

Fascinating discussion. I also had this by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

Of course they also did The Wren Song...


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 23 Jun 19 - 03:29 PM

Of course the 'rob the wild bird's nest' bit is much older and from tradition.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 24 Jun 19 - 03:06 PM

I have a copy of the Four Irish Songs Mick mentioned earlier (it cost me a lot less than the price he quotes!). The words consist of the first two verses only, and are indeed by Edith Wheeler, sister of Charlotte Milligan Fox and Alice Milligan, but the air is not a Munster tune. According to the booklet "The melody to which the words were written were taken down from William Simpson, of Moneyrea, one of the few remaining handloom weavers in Co. Down. He played it upon the fiddle, and called it "The Banks of Claudy."
The three sisters travelled together collecting songs and tunes in Ulster around 1909, and published the book of four songs in 1910 with arrangements by Charlotte Milligan Fox. The songs are beautifully illustrated by Seaghan MacCathmhaiol [John Campbell, brother of the poet Joseph Campbell].
Cathal O'Byrne and Francis McPeake, who were mentioned above in association with the song, were part of an informal group which also included Roger Casement that used to meet at Francis Bigger's house in Ardglass in the years before the First World War and the Rising, and Colm O'Lochlainn got many of his songs there. I don't know if Edith Wheeler, who was a staunch Unionist, ever participated in the social gatherings at Ardglass, but I believe her song could well have been performed there.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 24 Jun 19 - 07:10 PM

Thanks for all that information Matthew, and so quickly too!

As Steve pointed out the third verse given above by Joe is known from elsewhere and presumably was a later addition (by the McPeakes?).

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Reinhard
Date: 24 Jun 19 - 11:55 PM

I wonder about the Roud number for My Singing Bird. Two McPeake recordings are Roud 2946 and two versions of My Singing Bird in books by some Walton on Irish songs and Ballads are Roud V43884. But then Roud 2946 is usually (with 23 entries) The Moorlough/Mourne Shore.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: GeoffLawes
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 07:28 AM

Sinead O'Connor - Singing bird

My Singing Bird · Luka Bloom


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 08:12 AM

Reinardt - I made the same observation about the Roud number earlier. It doesn't seem to belong with the Maid of the Mourne/Moorlough Shore which is the rest of RN2946.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Reinhard
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 10:12 AM

I'm sorry Mick for not noticing your posting.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 10:34 AM

Reinhard - it's nice that someone else noticed it as 'weird' too!

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: leeneia
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 01:49 PM

Thanks for a good song - good words and good tune.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 25 Jun 19 - 06:40 PM

The text of the song as originally published in Four Irish Songs differs slightly from the versions popularised by the McPeake Family, Jean Redpath, the Clancy Brothers, the Corries and their successors so it is worth giving it here.

My Singing Bird, by Edith Wheeler

I've seen the lark soar high at morn,
To sing up in the blue;
I've heard the blackbird pipe his song,
The thrush and linnet too,
But none of them can sing so sweet,
My singing bird as you.
Ah! Ah! my singing bird as you.

If I could lure my singing bird,
From its own cosy nest,
If I could catch my singing bird,
I'd warm it on my breast;
And on my heart my singing bird
Would sing itself to rest.
Ah! Ah! Ah! would sing itself to rest.
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!

It would be interesting to know who added the extra verse about climbing the high, high tree etc.

The McPeake Family recorded an initial verse in Irish on their 1963 Topic Album 'Wild Mountain Thyme'; I can't be sure but I think it is a translation into Irish of the original first verse.

Peter Kennedy recorded Francis McPeake for the BBC singing this in 1952, accompanying himself on his uillean pipes. You can hear the recording in the Peter Kennedy Collection at the British Library, Peter Kennedy Collection, Belfast, 1952 starting at 39' 01", followed by a brief discussion which is barely audible.

Matthew Edwards


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 26 Jun 19 - 12:51 PM

Here's my transcription of the 1952 Kennedy recording of the McPeakes from Matthew's link (plus the short discussion). Interestingly he sings only the 2 verses.

Mick


MY SINGING BIRD

I've heard the lark soar high at morn,
Heard his song up in the blue;
I've heard the blackbird pipe his note,
The thrush and the linnet too.
But none of them can sing so sweet
My singing bird as you

  Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
  My singing bird as you.



If I could catch my singing bird
I would warm him on my breast;
If I could catch my singing bird
In his own cozy nest.
For none of them can sing so sweet
My singing bird as you

  Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah
  My singing bird as you.



Discussion:
FP: Hoo.
PK: What is that called.
FP: My Singing Bird
PK: My Singing Bird. And where did you learn that?
FP: I got that when I was about four year old, from my father again. All them songs is got from
PK: Well, did he compose it or...
FP: Oh, no, no. Where he got it I suppose I don't particularly know, you see? It may have been from my grandfather, because there is a lot from my grandfather too, you see.
PK. Hmm
FP: But that's er, that's My Singing Bird. We generally sometimes play and sing these. It's not often that there is a piper does it, you know. Just for out own reason.



Source: McPeakes' recording by Peter Kennedy 39:01 at Peter Kennedy Collection (start 39:01)


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Matthew Edwards
Date: 26 Jun 19 - 02:02 PM

Well done with your listening and transcribing, Mick!
Peter Kennedy recorded from both father and son McPeakes in July 1952; he noted the father as Frank McPeake, and the son as Francis or Francie. There are pictures of them attached to the diary of his Northern Ireland recording tour in the Peter Kennedy Collection, Belfast, 1952.
Francis McPeake, who sings the song on this recording, says he got the song from his father when he was four years old, which would be about 1921. I expect his father could have given more information about it had he been asked. The McPeake Family website has a history of their singing tradition, but it doesn't say much about where the songs came from. McPeake Family Heritage

Matthew Edwards


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 27 Jun 19 - 11:43 AM

I've listened to some of the recording of the song from the 60s and certainly The Clancys (62), The Ludlow Trio (Abbey Theatre, 65) and Campbell(66) all include the I will climb.. third verse. The Clancy's is the earliest I could find apart from the McPeakes, so perhaps they were the ones to add the third verse.

The McPeakes (63) sing only the 2 verses as given above, with the addition of a first verse in Irish as noted by Matthew above.

The sole version I could find from the 60s with pretty much Edith Wheeler's original words was an RTE studio session of Sharon Collen (65). (She was an American I think but sang with Bobby Clancy, a refugee from the brothers). Though Alex Campbell's version has more-or-less the two Edith Wheeler verses with the added third. Most others follow the simplified 2nd verse of the McPeakes, omitting the sing itself to rest bit. And I think all except Sharon Collen, have replaced song with either notes or tune.

I couldn't find a recording of the Corrie Trio with their third verse that Richard gave above. I presume that was their addition.

You can hear all of thes others on youtube:

Clancys at Carnegie Hall, 62
Clancys - The Boys Won't Leave The Girls Alone, 62
The McPeakes - Wild Mountain Thyme 63
The Ludlow Trio - Abbey Tavern, Dublin 65 (lovely singer Margaret O'Brien)
Sharon Collen, RTE Session, 65
Alex Campbell - Been On The Road, 66


I have the transcriptions if anyone is really interested.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mrrzy
Date: 29 Jun 19 - 10:23 AM

What is Rob that wild bird's nest from?


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 29 Jun 19 - 10:57 AM

I'm sure Steve will come along and tell you the earliest references to it. In the meantime you can find it here in The Verdant Braes Of Skreen.

And here's another version printed in Padraig Column's Anthology of Irish Verse - Johnny's The Lad I Love



Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Joe Offer
Date: 30 Jun 19 - 01:29 AM

The song just seems too darn short with just two verses, but it appears from Matthew's post of Four Irish Songs, that the original version had just the two verses. Could it be that those third verses were added along the years by singers who agreed with me that the song was crying out for a third verse? It's such a nice song to sing.


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)
Date: 30 Jun 19 - 05:32 AM

I'm pretty certain that's the case Joe.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Origins: My Singing Bird
From: leeneia
Date: 02 Jul 19 - 12:04 PM

I for one think that the song is fine with just two verses.

Many people don't realize that to rob a bird's nest is to rob it of its eggs. Some Victorians were avid collectors of bird eggs, for some reason, adding to the stress on birds trying to survive as the Industrial Revolution trudged on. As a bird lover, I hate the idea.

Furthermore, I have modified the tune to make it sound less like a sean nos lament about a massacre.


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