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Mrs. McGraw - origins

DigiTrad:
KERRY RECRUIT
MRS. MCGRATH
MY SON JOHN


Related threads:
Lyr Req: Mrs McGrath (from The Dubliners) (9) (closed)
Tune Req: My Son John (Shanty) (11)
Lyr ADD: Mrs. McGrath (University-Dubliners) (26)
Lyr Add: Bawdy Irish Ballads (9)
Chord Req: Mrs. McGrath (6)
Lyr Add: Mrs McGrath (from Alex Campbell) (2)
Lyr Req: Parody of Mrs. McGrath (Biddy McGrath) (5)
Lyr Req: Biddy McGraw (6) (closed)
Lyr Req: Mrs. McGrath Parody (10)
Lyr Req: Biddy McGrath (25)
Lyr/Chords Req: Mrs. McGrath (11)


GUEST,lguebert 22 Sep 13 - 01:34 PM
Dave Hanson 22 Sep 13 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,leeneia 23 Sep 13 - 08:47 PM
Lighter 14 Sep 19 - 08:15 AM
Steve Gardham 14 Sep 19 - 03:33 PM
mayomick 16 Sep 19 - 08:56 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Sep 19 - 09:19 AM
Steve Gardham 16 Sep 19 - 09:49 AM
Steve Gardham 16 Sep 19 - 10:23 AM
Jim Carroll 16 Sep 19 - 11:22 AM
mayomick 16 Sep 19 - 01:37 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Sep 19 - 02:03 PM
mayomick 16 Sep 19 - 02:52 PM
Jim Carroll 16 Sep 19 - 03:07 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Sep 19 - 04:09 PM
Steve Gardham 16 Sep 19 - 04:15 PM
mayomick 16 Sep 19 - 04:28 PM
Lighter 16 Sep 19 - 04:47 PM
Jim Carroll 17 Sep 19 - 02:32 AM
Steve Gardham 17 Sep 19 - 09:08 AM
beachcomber 18 Sep 19 - 12:25 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Sep 19 - 12:24 PM
Steve Gardham 19 Sep 19 - 01:15 PM
Jim Carroll 19 Sep 19 - 01:34 PM
mayomick 21 Sep 19 - 10:23 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Sep 19 - 10:51 AM
mayomick 21 Sep 19 - 11:29 AM
Jim Carroll 21 Sep 19 - 11:33 AM
Lighter 21 Sep 19 - 12:12 PM
Steve Gardham 21 Sep 19 - 02:50 PM
Lighter 27 Sep 19 - 02:26 PM
Lighter 27 Sep 19 - 02:37 PM
Jim Carroll 27 Sep 19 - 03:01 PM
Felipa 27 Jul 21 - 08:33 AM
GUEST,John Moulden 29 Jul 21 - 03:45 PM
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Subject: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: GUEST,lguebert
Date: 22 Sep 13 - 01:34 PM

Can anyone give me more information on the origins/background of the song "Mrs. McGraw" other than this from Wikipedia?

"Although the song probably dates from the time of the Peninsular Wars between 1807 and 1814, the earliest account of it in Ireland was in 1876."

Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 22 Sep 13 - 03:15 PM

Did you mean ' Mrs McGrath ' ?

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 23 Sep 13 - 08:47 PM

Hello, Iguebert.

There's a song called 'Mrs. McGrath,' and that's probably the same song you mean. It's about an Irishman who loses his legs on board a warship. Mrs. McGrath is his mother.

In Ireland the name McGrath is pronounced 'McGrah.' (no th sound at the end.) It's easy to see how people could think that 'McGrah' is McGraw.

I have a songbook called 'Rise Up Singing,' and the song 'Mrs. McGrath' is in it. All it says about this origin is this:

trad. (Irish)

That may be all anybody really knows, because the editors of that book seem to be quite careful about copyrights, etc.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Lighter
Date: 14 Sep 19 - 08:15 AM

Lumberman Michael Dean recorded an Irish-American version for R. W. Gordon in 1924:

http://www.minnesotafolksongcollection.org/item/mcd/a027

The reference to "Spain and Cuba" seems to place this version in the Spanish-American War (1898).


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 14 Sep 19 - 03:33 PM

It certainly predates 1844 as it was printed by the London printers of the early 19th century, Pitts, Catnach, Birt, Batchelar, plus Ford of Sheffield, Bebbington of Manchester and Andrews of Leeds. I'd say no later than 1835. The last verse on the broadsides titled 'Teddy O'Gra'
mentions the King and Queen of Spain. It is of course stage-Irish like many thousands more of that era. It manages a two-pronged attack on the Irish and those maimed in the Napoleonic Wars. Oh, wasn't it all jolly fun!


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 08:56 AM

Whereabouts is the pronged attack on the Irish,Steve ? It's an antiwar song. Maybe it started out as stage Irish but if so it was an Irish person on the stage or somebody who understood Irish people very well. .


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 09:19 AM

I think it bears strong similarities to 'Johnny I hardly Knew You' - both are biting satires on the fact that the Irish were forced to fight too many other people's wars, summed up in another song, 'We Fought Every Battle But Our Own' - anti-recruitment songs all
Too many modern singers miss the point of these songs by miles - singers not the only ones to do so, it would appear
It may have appeared on the stage, but I doubt very much if itoriginated there
The Irish repertoire has numerous such pieces
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 09:49 AM

Hi Mick,
'Stage Irish' doesn't necessarily mean it was performed on stage, although many of them were, with the singer (who had probably never been to Ireland) dressed in appropriate exaggerated costume with exaggerated Oirish accent. In the early 19th century they were extremely common and 'stage Irish;' simply refers to a type, as numerous examples appeared on broadsides. They rank alongside minstrel songs and country bumpkin types among others, satirising certain groups of people. They were all popular in earlier periods but the early nineteenth century seems to be the peak period.

I take your point that nowadays, quite rightly, it is more considered an anti-war song, but that's not how it started out.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 10:23 AM

I can post an early example for you if you wish and then you can make your own mind up.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 11:22 AM

Only if you can include proof that it originated as a stage song
That it ended up performed on stage rr i print is proof of nothing, as we have long established
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 01:37 PM

Whatever about older versions ,the sentiment of the song as we know it today is entirely anti war -or more accurately anti- recruitment as Jim wrote .Could you point out where in the song -or in the older version - you see an attack on the Irish and those maimed in the Napoleonic Wars ? The song sympathises with an Irish mother who was angry about her son losing his legs during a war and is a warning to other young men of the dangers of enlisting for the sake of a fancy uniform .Songs like Arthur McBride and Pat Reilly have similar messages.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 02:03 PM

Teddy O'Gra. Catnach of London, c1830

O come all you sons of Hibernia,
I'll tell you how the world begun,
I'll take you where the wars begun,
And you shall have a share when the victory's won.

O Mrs O'Gra to the captain said,
My son shall be a boatswain's mate,
And on his head place a gold lac'd hat,
Here Teddy my child should you like that.

As mistress O'Gra sat watching on the shore,
For the space of seven long years or more,
Till she spied a ship sailing on the sea,
here blood an ounds philleugh clear the way.

O now Teddy's landed without any legs,
For the loss of them he's gained two wooden pegs,
And after she had give him a kiss or two,
Here Teddy my child it can't be you.

O my son Teddy was tall and slim,
And he had a leg for every shin,
But now he's got no legs at all,
Why the devil didn't you fly from the cannon ball.

O, was you lame, or was you blind,
How came you to leave your two legs behind,
or was it walking across the sea,
You wore your two legs down to your knee.

No I was not lame nor I was not blind,
When I left my two legs far behind,
But it was a fighting on the sea
that I wore my two legs off to my knee.

A mighty was I will proclaim,
Against the king and the queen of Spain
And I will make them rue the day,
They shot my son Teddy's legs away.

What you need to take into account here to put this piece in context is that the British Isles had just been engaged in a long and bloody war and survivors were arriving home in large numbers maimed in some way. It would have numbed the senses to such tragedy, and the street singers could easily get away with skits like this. Even today soldiers arriving home wounded from foreign wars are thrown on the scrap heap and have to rely on charities.

Apart from other less obvious clues to its 'comic' elements, look at the 4th line of verse 3, and the mother's ridiculous responses.

Mick, I was obviously being ironic with my statement 'an attack on those maimed'.

As for it being a warning...well in my opinion it was written after the wars had ended, but I wouldn't disagree on the effect later versions might have produced.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 02:52 PM

It certainly has comic elements to it ,Steve .But the witty lyric is an example of comic pathos or tragi-comedy can make antiwar and anti recruitment points -it isn't mocking Ms McGrath or the Irish in any cruel way .The version you linked to isn't so different to other versions I've heard.It wouldn't imo indicate that the song started out as anything other than an antiwar song .


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 03:07 PM

Steve
The war referred to is obviously Anglo Spanish war which ended ended in 1808 - not long after the 1798 rebellion had been put down
This would make any written piece two decades out of date
Ireland would be still stinging with defeat and lookin for revenge, street singers taking the piss would have the good sense to keep their heads down, especially if they were trying to sell something
Britain was involved in eight wars between 1808 and the date for which Ireland would be a prime recruiting ground
The bloody war you were referring to was in Africa
It is highly likely that your piece was picked up and adapted from one of the many earlier anti-recruiting songs
I'm sure M.M. doesn't need lessons like a couple of Brits like us, coming from where his title suggests he comes from
You really need to learn how to listen to people who are far more likely to know more than you
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 04:09 PM

Mick
In their day the minstrel songs, stage Irish and bumpkin songs weren't seen as cruel at all. They were primarily 'comic'. The fact that some of them had tragic elements as well was secondary. They were intended to entertain. It is difficult to us in the 21st century to understand that this was entertainment. But put it alongside the thousands that turned up to watch executions and it puts it into context a bit more.

As for its circulation in Ireland, the earliest reference seems to be in O'Lochlainn where he states it was sung by the Volunteers in Dublin 1913-16. It was widely printed in England in the early 19th century but there are no Irish printings in the Irish archives, either at ITMA or at Trinity.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 04:15 PM

The Peninsula War 1808-14. most likely, but the song doesn't have to have been written in 1814.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 04:28 PM

Mrs McGrath as Mother Ireland perhaps who had let her sons join the British army. Seeing the consequences she vows revenge.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Lighter
Date: 16 Sep 19 - 04:47 PM

That may be, M, but if so I'd have expected a somber, not a tragicomic (or wholly comic) song. And the meaning would have been explicitly stated. That's just how pop culture worked in the nineteenth century.

Steve is right about lowbrow period humor. We know, for example, that disabled veterans of the Civil War in an old soldier's home in the 1870s thought "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" was hilarious.

The word has also been out for at least forty years that "Casablanca" is really an allegory of U.S. isolationism, and that Frost's "Stopping by Woods" is actually an allegory of Santa Claus.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 17 Sep 19 - 02:32 AM

"but the song doesn't have to have been written in 1814."
I have been tld that print is all and if it appeared i print that is probably where it originated - I never believed that but you argued for it
Now you appear to be claiming that it existed before it went into print
Somewhat inconsistent
The music halls were platforms for racism and prejudice - they dealy in stereotyping and distorting all who idn't fit from blacks, Turks, Country Bumkins.... cruel, Bernard Manneringish viciousness
Lighter's description of thinking the depiction of limbless blinded war veterans "hilarious", just about sums them up
Anybody who wishes to see how the Irish people people represented themselves in song needs to work their way through Terry Moyland magnificent doorstep of a study of Irish political songs, 'The Indignant Muse' - it leaves all the insulting stage Irish offensive nonsense in the shade
The size of Terry's collection and the fact that it represents only a part of his findings is an indication of the creative nature of Irish people on matters that concern them - from the point of view of people who were there

It really is about time that, rather than taking down and debunking the work of past and persent researchers, all the work be brought together as a pool to be dipped from
I have spent the last twenty years learning how song-making, local and national, has come to fill in a part of Irish history that has largely been overlooked or deliberately suppressed - from the effects of famine, emigration, mass evictions, enforced emigration... right through to national liberation wars, civil war and the rebuilding of an independant country
All this has been captured in verse - not just for entertainment and certainly not for commercial gain
I now find myself, along with an obviously knowledgeable Irishman, having to defend something that most Irish song enthusiasts know as being the case - with an english academic who obviously has no grasp of Irish history
Sorry Steve - I find that somewhat unreasonable
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 17 Sep 19 - 09:08 AM

Hi Mick,
I have further evidence of the song being sung in a London Theatre c1845 if it is of interest. The song had already undergone quite a few changes even by then.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: beachcomber
Date: 18 Sep 19 - 12:25 PM

With reference to Steve's post of the 16th inst., An old friend, now long dead, hearing the Dubliners (or some other ballad group) singing "Mrs McGrath" told me that when he was interned in Ballykinlar Concentration Camp in Co.Down in 1920, some of his fellow internees (from the Irish Volunteers ) composed a "new" version of the old song.
It went ...

"Oh Mrs McTack," the Sargeant said,
"Would you like to make a Black 'n Tan o' your son Ted,
With a fine tan coat an' a Glenagarry hat,
Now Mrs. McTack wouldn't you like that !"

With me toor aye ah, Fol de diddle dah,
Toor aye, Oor aye, oor aye ah.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 19 - 12:24 PM

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

Brilliant !
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
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 19 Sep 19 - 01:15 PM

Here is the c1845 version sung in the Adelphi, London, for comparison.

The Widow M'Gra.

If ye'll listen to me now, without any fun,
Sure I'll tell ye how the war begun;
But of all the wars, both great and wild,
There was that betune widow M'Gra and her child!
Musha tooral loo, &c.

Now if Teddy would list, the serjeant said,
That soon a captain he'd be made;
With a fine long soord, and a big cocked hat,
Arrah! teddy, my child, wouldn't you like that?

Then teddy he fought his way through Spain,
And to the Indies back again--
And the hundreds and thousands that he kilt,
Sure a mortial volume might be filt!

Then Widow M'Gra waited on the shore,
For the space of seven long years and more--
Till she saw two ships sailing over the say,
Crying, Phililu, hubbaboo, whack clear the way!

Then Teddy he lighted on the strand,
And Widow M'Gra seized him by the hand;
But after she had given him a kiss or two,
Sez she, Teddy, my child, this can't be you!

Arrah! my son Teddy was straight and trim,
And had just one leg to every limb;
Arrah! my son Teddy was straight and tall,
But the divil recave the leg have ye got at all!

Oh! why weren't ye cunning, and why weren't ye cute?
And why didn't ye run away from the Frenchman's shoot?
To think that I my child should call
A man who couldn't stop the force of a French cannon ball!

But a thundering war I will proclaim
Against the King of the Frinch and the snuffy ould Queen of Spain:
And I'll make them sorely to rue the time,
That ever they shot off the legs of a child of mine!

Sung by Mr. Johnstone.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 19 Sep 19 - 01:34 PM

Meaning what exactly Steve ?
Stage songs, like printed versions are meaningless unless you can show thm to be originals, which in fact, you have already accepted you can't
Your added example looks very much that somebody might well have re-made and padded out from a shorter, much more succinct traditional composition, as has obviously happened to other printed versions of orally made songs
I'va always sispected fro instance that the oral versions of The Blind Beggar are far mor authentic than the totally unsingable epic mess given in The Reliques

You've already underscored the point about its satirical intention by indicating that The Irish Volunteers sang the song (or didn't you realise they were James Connolly's Citizens Army who fought and died in the GPO?)

The Irish I know have become very tired of being 'educated' about their best interest by the English
This seems to have extended into understanding their own songs
You really can't respond to the points I made by dragging up origin-unprovable songs no matter how many referees you come up with
Too late to ask Mr Johnson what he thinks about it, I suppose
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 10:23 AM

Steve seems to be arguing that the Widow McGrath was originally a piss-taking song written for a British audience to have a good laugh about an old Irish woman whose son had got his legs blown off while serving with British forces in Europe. More details please Steve. As sung by Mr Johnson at the Adelphi -at the Adelphi Theatre was it ? Like Jim I don’t see that lyric as being much different to the one we know today. (Otherwise I’d have to ask who this Mr Johnston was and if he has any living relatives!)


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 10:51 AM

"and if he has any living relatives"
Now, now Mick !!
Jim


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: mayomick
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 11:29 AM

Maybe Steve has seen a copy showing more detail about Mr Johnson’s text but doesn’t want to show it at the moment?


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 11:33 AM

'S all right Mick
'The lads are pretty good at finding out that sort of thing !!
You've made my day, you really have
Jim


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Lighter
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 12:12 PM

It's hard for me to interpret these words as ameant to be anything other than ludicrous (doubly so if associated, like O Lochlainn's version) with a rollicking tune:

If ye'll listen to me now, without any fun,
Sure I'll tell ye how the war begun;
But of all the wars, both great and wild,
There was that betune widow M'Gra and her child!
Musha tooral loo, &c.

Then teddy he fought his way through Spain,
And to the Indies back again--
And the hundreds and thousands that he kilt,
Sure a mortial volume might be filt!

Crying, Phililu, hubbaboo, whack clear the way!

And had just one leg to every limb;

To think that I my child should call
A man who couldn't stop the force of a French cannon ball!

But a thundering war I will proclaim
Against the King of the Frinch and the snuffy ould Queen of Spain.

In other words, roughly one-half the song.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Steve Gardham
Date: 21 Sep 19 - 02:50 PM

Hi Mick
What sort of details would you like?


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Lighter
Date: 27 Sep 19 - 02:26 PM

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.


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Lighter
Date: 27 Sep 19 - 02:37 PM

For similar humor, compare the current thread on "Blood on the Saddle"


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 27 Sep 19 - 03:01 PM

We recorded a version from Irish Traveller, Mikeen McCarthy which began

"I'll sing you a song of my son Ted,
He had a limb under every leg
And the only thing that he could play
Was "Clear the table and make the tay"

Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGrath & A Mhic Mo Chroi
From: Felipa
Date: 27 Jul 21 - 08:33 AM

A MHIC MO CHROÍ

        "A mhic mo chroí", arsa an sáirsint groí,
        "Ar mhaith leat bheith in arm a's in éide an Rí,
        I do Royal Dragoon thar farraige anonn,
        's gan aon rómhoill i do chorporal mór

                Agus túr-raidh-á-fol-de-didil-á
                túr-raidh-úr-raidh-úr-raidh-á
                túr-raidh-á-fol-de-didil-á
                túr-raidh-úr-raidh-úr-raidh-á

        A's rinne Tadhg réidh agus chuaigh thar sáil'
        Bhí a mháthair tamall fada gan a thuairisc a fháil,
        Ach i mí Mheán Fómhair tháinig long faoi sheol,
        Go cuan Chorcaí agus Tadhg ar bord.   

        O! lig sí béic nuair a chonaic sí é,
        Mar bhí Tadhg ina bhacach agus crannchos fé(1),   [1 fé= faoi]
        "Maise, a Thaidhg, a rún, an tú atá chugam (2),   [2 abair/say ‘chúm’]
        D'anam don Diabhal 's gan ach adhmad fút!"                                                

        "An raibh tú ólta nó an raibh tú dall,
        Nó an dearmad de do chosa 's iad a fhágáil thall,
        An siúl ar an fharraige a rinne tú anall,
        Go raibh siad caite agat ó ghlúin go sáil?"

        "O! ní raibh mé ólta a's ní raibh mé caoch,
        Ach ag troid ar son na saoirse mar a dhéanfadh laoch,
        Ag lámhach na ngunnaí i Sebastopol,
        Sciob piléar mo chosa ó mo chorp ar shiúl.”


back translation

"Son of my heart", said the bold sergeant,
Would you like to be in the King’s army and uniform,
To be a Royal Dragoon across the sea,
And without too much delay a grand corporal?”

And Tadhg made ready and went overseas,
His mother was a long while without any word of him,
But in the month of September, came a ship in sail,
To Cork harbour and Tadhg on board.

Oh! she let out a cry when she saw him,
For Tadhg was a cripple with a wooden leg under him,
"Musha, Tadhg, my dear, is it you that I see,
Be damned (lit. your soul to the Devil), but you’ve only got wood under you!"

"Were you drunk or were you blind,
Or did you forget your feet and leave them behind,
Or is it you walked back over the sea,
Until you had worn them down from knee to heel?"

"Oh! I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind,
But fighting for the sake of freedom as a hero would do,
Firing the guns in Sebastopol,
A bullet snatched my legs from my body away."

=======
I don't know the provenance of this Irish language version of Mrs McGrath. I expect it is a translation from the English, rather than the other way about, but it is not very recent (I heard it in sung sessions in our previous century, at any rate). Dick Mac Gabhann who provided the translation, gives this introduction:
"A satirical anti-war song from the early 20th Century, which treats of the horrors of warfare in a blackly comic way. The location in the final verse is now known as Sevastopol in Russia, which in the 1850s was the scene of one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Crimean War."


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Subject: RE: Mrs. McGraw - origins
From: GUEST,John Moulden
Date: 29 Jul 21 - 03:45 PM

Paddy Berry and I link this song with some others that date from around 1835. Among them is The Bantry Girl's Lament which definitely concerns the civil war in Spain of that time, the first of the so called Carlist wars, of which there were three. the United Kingdom sent volunteers commanded by General Sir George De Lacy Evans. The other songs we associate are 'The brave volunteers', 'The loss of the Francis Spaight' and 'The volunteer's departure for Spain' (which appear in cheap print).

It's clearly satire and I strongly doubt its origin in any kind of music hall or anywhere else than in Ireland though it was probably written for the ballad trade. The Roud index earliest reference is a print which Roud dates 1813-1832 which muddies but doesn't change my opinion.


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