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Origins: Here's a Health to the Company

Dave Rado 09 Apr 17 - 05:36 PM
BobKnight 10 Apr 17 - 04:28 AM
Tattie Bogle 12 Apr 17 - 06:57 AM
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Subject: Origins: Here's a Health to the Company
From: Dave Rado
Date: 09 Apr 17 - 05:36 PM

I recently watched Aidan Moffat's lovely documentary Where You're Meant to Be, the centrepiece of which was the Traveller and traditional folk singer Sheila Stewart MBE singing Here's a Health to the Company. However, I found the film's coverage of that song very confusing in several respects:

In the film, Aidan Moffat said the song was called The Parting Glass, rather than Here's a Health to the Company – and yet the words Sheila Stewart sang were those of Here's a Health to the Company. The words of The Parting Glass are totally different. (The Parting Glass starts "Oh all the money that e'er I spent/I spent it in good company").

Here's the DT version of Here's a Health to the Company and here's the DT version of The Parting Glass. The two songs appear to be totally unrelated to each other, although admittedly they're both songs about parting.

I've subsequently found a Soundcloud recording of Sheila Stewart singing Here's a Health to the Company here. As in the film, this recording calls it The Parting Glass – and yet she's not singing The Parting Glass: she's singing Here's a Health to the Company.


In both the above Soundcloud recording and in the recordings of her singing it in the Aidan Moffat film, she also sings the song to a different tune from the tune everyone else seems to sing it to. The usual tune for Here's a Health to the Company is the one sung by The Chieftains here. But she sings it to the tune of Lovely Molly (aka I once was a Ploughboy). For instance, there's a recording of Lovely Molly here and that's the tune she sings Here's a Health to the Company to. There are many recordings of Lovely Molly sung to that tune, but she's the only person I know of who sings Here's a Health to the Company to that tune.


Either she or Aidan Moffat also says in the film that The Parting Glass was commonly sung at New Year in Scotland until Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne; and while that appears to be true of the song that is usually called The Parting Glass (e.g. see here), I don't believe it is true of Here's a Health to the Company, which is the song she sings.


She says in the film that she learnt the song from her mother, who learnt it from her grandmother, and that it's been passed down unchanged from generation to generation for many centuries; and she also speaks very disapprovingly in the film of the idea of folk singers changing traditional songs in order to "make them their own" – and yet in a way that seems to be exactly what her family have done, unless I'm missing something – they appear to have taken the words from one song, the tune from another, and the title from a third, and mixed them all together!

To be fair to her, those words work very well indeed with that tune (and it's a glorious tune); but it's still funny and ironic that she or one of her ancestors should have done that, given her professed belief that traditional songs shouldn't be altered in any way.

My question is, am I missing something, or has she (or one of her ancestors) really mixed three songs together, as I've described above?

Dave


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Subject: RE: Origins: Here's a Health to the Company
From: BobKnight
Date: 10 Apr 17 - 04:28 AM

Here's another "Parting Glass" for you. By Frank Harte this time.
Sheila sang it as she received it from her mother and grandmother.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG9NfhvrqI4


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Subject: RE: Origins: Here's a Health to the Company
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 12 Apr 17 - 06:57 AM

I have a whole subsection of one folder devoted to "Parting Songs", many of which mention "a parting glass": many have lines or phrases in common with each other. so, not surprisingly, their origins sometimes get confused, and/or "Which song are you talking about?"

I have heard the "Frank Harte" song which Bob linked to above being described as Irish, probably because he and Cathal McConnell are known for singing it. Its usual title is "When First we Met" and is by English songwriter, Alan Bell. And it's in the DT under that title.

As for Sheila's song, I was taught it as "Kind Friends and Companions" - again using the first line as title, and it does then distinguish it from other "Parting Glass" songs. The tune is shared by a number of other songs - not such an unusual scenario in folk music - apart from "Lovely Molly" there's "Puir Roving lassie". You can't keep a good tune down!


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