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Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma

DigiTrad:
I'LL TELL MA
I'LL TELL ME MA
I'LL TELL MY MA
THE WIND, THE WIND


Related threads:
Lyr Req: The Wind Blows High Jump Rope Lyrics (16)
she is handsome, she is witty, she's the belle of (24)
Tune Title Help Please (answered) (9) (closed)
Lyr Req: I'll Tell Me Ma (6) (closed)
Lyr Req: My Aunt Jane (5)


GUEST,ACHIM B. 14 Nov 00 - 06:30 PM
Liz the Squeak 14 Nov 00 - 06:58 PM
Wavestar 14 Nov 00 - 07:34 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 14 Nov 00 - 07:38 PM
Wavestar 14 Nov 00 - 08:02 PM
Snuffy 14 Nov 00 - 08:03 PM
DonMeixner 14 Nov 00 - 11:08 PM
GUEST,celticblues5 15 Nov 00 - 10:07 AM
paddymac 15 Nov 00 - 07:26 PM
Greyeyes 15 Nov 00 - 08:08 PM
GUEST,Joerg 15 Nov 00 - 08:38 PM
Amos 15 Nov 00 - 10:06 PM
Callie 15 Nov 00 - 10:41 PM
GUEST,Sean MacRuaraidh 16 Nov 00 - 01:57 PM
GUEST,Robby 16 Nov 00 - 08:56 PM
BigDaddy 17 Nov 00 - 05:06 PM
MartinRyan 17 Nov 00 - 06:25 PM
Alice 05 Aug 01 - 05:23 PM
Celtic Soul 05 Aug 01 - 08:39 PM
Alice 05 Aug 01 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,Ewan McVicar 06 Aug 01 - 06:47 PM
Deckman 06 Aug 01 - 10:42 PM
GUEST,DieterB 25 Mar 04 - 06:02 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 26 Mar 04 - 05:40 AM
Skipper Jack 26 Mar 04 - 05:54 AM
Dave Hanson 26 Mar 04 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,DAN BELFAST 20 Jul 04 - 08:58 PM
Desert Dancer 20 Jul 04 - 10:14 PM
GUEST 17 Mar 08 - 04:48 PM
Joe Offer 18 Mar 08 - 02:50 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Mar 08 - 05:49 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Mar 08 - 06:00 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Mar 08 - 06:15 AM
Malcolm Douglas 19 Mar 08 - 06:35 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Mar 08 - 07:02 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 19 Mar 08 - 07:36 AM
Joe Offer 19 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM
GUEST 19 Mar 08 - 03:13 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 19 Mar 08 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,Anne Hamilton 10 Jul 08 - 05:43 PM
Gulliver 06 Aug 08 - 09:39 AM
goatfell 07 Aug 08 - 08:09 AM
MartinRyan 07 Aug 08 - 08:40 AM
MartinRyan 07 Aug 08 - 08:54 AM
GUEST,jim mac farland 07 Aug 08 - 10:50 AM
goatfell 07 Aug 08 - 12:12 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 08 Aug 08 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Melissa 25 Mar 09 - 05:03 PM
Snuffy 25 Mar 09 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,Roy McLean 17 Aug 09 - 04:11 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 17 Aug 09 - 04:22 PM
Seamus Kennedy 18 Aug 09 - 12:51 AM
Lighter 18 Aug 09 - 08:32 AM
Gulliver 18 Aug 09 - 10:30 AM
mayomick 18 Aug 09 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Roy McLean 18 Aug 09 - 08:48 PM
Gulliver 18 Aug 09 - 10:04 PM
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Subject: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,ACHIM B.
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 06:30 PM

Hello, does anybody know something about the song "I'll tell me ma?" Specially the social and historical background is interesting.

Thanx!


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Liz the Squeak
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 06:58 PM

Do you mean the one about the boys won't leave the girls alone??

LTS


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Wavestar
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 07:34 PM

That's the one, Liz... I know very little about it, Achim B., except that it's a fun, quick paced song. Hmmm... let me do a little looking at what books I have... Right, it says, "A Belfast skipping street song." Presumably this is what children sang when they played in the streets, and it sounds about right to me. Oh, you wanted detail? *sigh*...

-J


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 07:38 PM

An anonymous street song, as far as I know. Anywhere I've seen it printed, the point has been made that the lyrics can be adapted to any Irish town - but having said that, they all then stick with "she is the belle of Belfast city."

Seems to be Albert Mooney who has her heart in most versions - but not in the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem Song Book (Oak Publications, New York 1964), which (perhaps accidentally) misses that line out altogether. Anyone seen/heard anyone other than "old Johnny Murray" in the penultimate line of the second verse?

I suppose many do associate the song with the Clancys, but for me it brings to mind a pair that Noreen and others and I once discussed elsewhere, Jackie and Bridie.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Wavestar
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 08:02 PM

Fionn, my version has old Jenny Murphy instead...

-J


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Snuffy
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 08:03 PM

It's not just Irish - it's traditional throughout the whole of Britain.

In NW England in the 50s we sang "she is the girl of the golden city", and if you look up "The Wind, The Wind" in the Digital Tardition database you'll find no less than 6 versions from Scotland.

Wassail! V


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: DonMeixner
Date: 14 Nov 00 - 11:08 PM

I have a video of Tommy makem and Barley Bree doing a version of it with about 10 verses. They only get to the well known verses at the end and sing Jenny Murray.

They said it was the only song that both the Holy Sisters and the Anglican brothers taught in school with equal pleasure, Or lack there of.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,celticblues5
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 10:07 AM

A great, fun song. (It's probably just my malfunctioning ears, but when I've heard it, the name sounded like "Anthony Murray" to me.) A couple of others who have recorded it (there are probably dozens) are the Rankin Family & the Irish Rovers.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: paddymac
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 07:26 PM

We use it as our opening number because it's up-tempo and easy to get the audience "into." Seems to get the gig off to a good start.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Greyeyes
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 08:08 PM

I have a recording of the Dubliners sounding distinctly like "old Johnny Morrissey". The extra syllable (as opposed to "Murray") making the rhythm seem more comfortable, (old Johnny Morrissey says she'll die, If she doesn't get a feller with a roving eye".


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 08:38 PM

Thanks for that hint, Snuffy.

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Amos
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 10:06 PM

ACHIM:

It's an Anglo-Irish street or children's tunes. The lyrics can be found right here in the DT: I'LL TELL MY MA. Enjoy.

A


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Callie
Date: 15 Nov 00 - 10:41 PM

It could be faulty memory, but I thought the Chieftains sang "the belle of Dublin City".

Callie


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,Sean MacRuaraidh
Date: 16 Nov 00 - 01:57 PM

Hi,

This is a good song and is adaptable by region ...

Edinburgh : She is the girl from the golden city Belfast : she is the belle of (the) Belfast City

I always sing Jenny Murray.

Jenny Murray and Albert Mooney sound like Belfast names but I suppose they could be Scottish too.

I am orig. from Belfast and there were Mooney's and Murray's in my school.

I think the following adaption is peculiar to N.Ireland.

My Aunt Jane, she called me in, She gave me tea out her wee tin, Half a bap with sugar on the top And three wee mice from her wee shop.

(A bap is a large round bread roll, the mice are sugar mice )

Cheers,

Sean


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,Robby
Date: 16 Nov 00 - 08:56 PM

Sean,
You beat me to it, sort of, about the verse with My Aunt Jane. That video Don has, I made a video recording from a PBS broadcast called Tommy Makem & Friends, with Barley Bree & cherish the Ladies. I wonder if the rendition on Don's is the same as from the broadcast. I actually thought that they had blended two different songs into the same tune, My Aunt Jane & I'll Tell Me Ma.

Incidentally, I have a 5-LP set, which includes a number of songs sung by David Hammond and I'll Tell Me Ma (from his Songs of Belfast, according to the jacket) is one of them. Anyway, if I am hearing the record correctly, I believe he sings: "Old Biddy Murray says she'll die, if she doesn't get the fellow with the rovin' eye."

Robby, it's night and I am at home, not at work.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: BigDaddy
Date: 17 Nov 00 - 05:06 PM

Used to perform with a maniac who insisted on singing, "She is handsome, she is pretty, she's the girl with the big fat titties." Disapprove though I might, I must confess it's hard to forget.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: MartinRyan
Date: 17 Nov 00 - 06:25 PM

Another variant was "HE is handsome, HE is pretty - so to hell with the belle of Belfast City!"

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Alice
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 05:23 PM

In the 1979 publication of the Clancy Bros and Tommy Makem songbook (The Irish Songbook, 75 songs), they include the Aunt Jane verse--- only not in the song I'll Tell Me Ma. It is added to the song When I Was Young (... I had no sense, etc.) The tunes do have some similarity, typical for kids songs.

I see a version in the DT and have heard this sung recently with a word changed to "tell me who is SHE", which is like fingernails on a chalk board, it makes me cringe to hear it that way! The people who changed it obviously didn't think of the meaning of the lyrics... the point of it all is asking which one of the many men she is courting will be the one she picks, so the question is "Who is HE?" (It drives me nuts to hear it sung "who is she".)

Alice


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Celtic Soul
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 08:39 PM

What exactly do you want to know about it?


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Alice
Date: 05 Aug 01 - 08:59 PM

Hi, Celtic Soul, this is a very old thread. I think the question was answered. I just refreshed it because it was on the list of "origins" thread links that I added.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,Ewan McVicar
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 06:47 PM

There are of course dozens of versions in print from Scotland / England / Ireland, including Greig Duncan, and various tunes.My favourite text has "she'll die, if she doesn't get the fellow with the tartan tie."


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Deckman
Date: 06 Aug 01 - 10:42 PM

Does anyone on this thread remember the late David Spence, and his bride JoAnn singing this in the bay area in the early 1960's? If so, get in touch with me. CHEERS, Bob(deckman)Nelson


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,DieterB
Date: 25 Mar 04 - 06:02 PM

Hi,

who can send me this song as MP3 to this adress:

diebus@gmx.de

thanks a lot

Dieter from hamburg/germany


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 26 Mar 04 - 05:40 AM

I'm not at home, so don't have access to my bookmarked sites, Dieter, and I can't think of an MP3 version off-hand. However this site Irish Stuff has the lyrics and a good midi. The link goes to the main page, as the site is a great source of folklore etc (especially Down and south Armagh) in which others may be interested, as well as songs and verse.


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Skipper Jack
Date: 26 Mar 04 - 05:54 AM

I always understood it to be a children's skipping song?


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 26 Mar 04 - 09:42 AM

I can't recall the Chieftains singing this song but the Dubliners sin
" she is the belle of Dublin City "
eric


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST,DAN BELFAST
Date: 20 Jul 04 - 08:58 PM

THE SONG GOES


I'LL TELL ME MA, WHEN I GO HOME THE BOYS WON'T LEAVE THE GIRLS ALONE. THEY PULL MY HAIR, AND THE MY COMB BUT THATS ALL RIGHT TILL I GET HOME. SHE IS HANDSOME SHE IS PRETTY, SHE IS THE BELLE OF BELFAST CITY, SHE IS A COURTING', ONE TWO THREE, PLESAE WON'T U TELL ME WHO IS SHE.

ALBERT MOONEY SAYS HE LOVES HER, ALL THE BOYS ARE FIGHTIN FOR HER, A RAP AT THE DOOR AN A RING OF THE BELL, SAYIN OH MY TRUE-LOVE ARE YOU WELL?' OUT SHE COMES AS WHITE AS SNOW, RINGS ON HER FINGERS, BELLS ON HER TOES OLD JENNY MURPHY SAYS SHE'LL DIE IF SHE DOESN'T GET THE FELLA WITH THE ROVEIN EYE.

LET THE WIND AND THE RAIN AN THE HEIL BLOW HIGH LET THE SNOW COME TUMBULN FORM THE SKY SHE'S AS NICE AS APPLE PIE AN SHE'LL GET HER OWN LAD BY AN BY. WHEN SHE GETS A LAD OF HER OWN SHE WON'T TELL ER MA WHEN SHE GETS HOME LET THEM ALL COME AS THEY WILL, FOR IT ALBERT MOONEY SHE LOVES STILL.

                           THE END

NOW YAS CANT FIGHT OVER THE WORDS AND THE SONE IT TRADITIONAL TO NORTHEN IRELAND NO WHERE ELSE. ALL THE BEST DAN ;0)


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 20 Jul 04 - 10:14 PM

Dan,

The links at the very top (blue text under "DigiTrad") go to versions of the text in the Digital Tradition Database. The link in Amos's 15 November 00 post is defunct. Chords are provided in this post.

There's further discussion in this thread, as well as those noted at the top under "Related Threads".

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Help: I TELL ME MA
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Mar 08 - 04:48 PM

does anyone know some of the people who sing this because i used to listen to it when i was younger and can't find the right version


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Mar 08 - 02:50 PM

I swear I learned the song from a Clancy Brothers recording, but I can't find a current Clancy CD with the song on it. This Amazon Link (click) will bring up a long list of recordings of the song, among them the Dubliners, Chieftains, Foster & Allen, and (interestingly) Sinead O'Connor.

Hope that helps.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 05:49 AM

Probably all the modern performances of this fetching street rhyme trace back to the 19th century versions published in Alice B. Gomme's Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland.

Though it's unhelpfully indexed there as "The Wind" and thus isn't easy to find, Gomme lists versions from Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Isle of Wight, Yorkshire and Tyrie, and mentions a Warwickshire version. All these versions were collected earlier than the book's publication in 1894. Among them are the "London city" and"golden city" versions.

Gomme describes it as a ring game with one child standing in the center. "When asked, 'Please tell me who they be,' the girl in the middle gives the names or initials of a boy in the ring (or vice versa). The ring then sings the rest of the words, and the boy who was named goes into the centre. This is the Forest of Dean way of playing. In the Shropshire game, at the end of the first verse the girl in the centre beckons one from the ring, or one volunteers to go into the centre; the ring continues singing, and at the end the two children kiss ... "

As to Irish versions and Belfast City: Leslie Daiken, in Children's Games Throughout the Year (Batsford, London 1949), cites a Belfast version from Hugh Quinn's ms. Collection of Belfast Street Rhymes, also one from Cork. He implies it's used as a skipping game.

The search continues, though, for Albert Mooney. My guess: the Rankin Family found a local version and Albert Mooney was in it. (The Rankins also made the song seem a good deal sexier, but maybe they couldn't help that.)

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 06:00 AM

Wikipedia, of all things, gives the following additional information:

"'I'll Tell Me Ma' is a well known children's song. Originally written by Francie McPeake from Springview Street, West Belfast, Ireland. Johnny Murray lived across the street from the McPeakes and this is where "Old Johnny Murray says she'll die" lyric comes about. The chorus usually refers to Belfast city, although it is also adapted to other Irish cities, such as Dublin.[1]

"This song is Roud Folk Song Index number 2649."

The Clancy Bros. recording is titled, appropriately enough, The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone. It was their third album for Columbia and was reissued on a Shanachie CD now out of print. A used copy is listed at Amazon Music for $50. (Whew! Infla-a-a-a-a-ation!)

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 06:15 AM

But I'm betting "written by Francie McPeake" applies only to the local variant.

It all hinges on who Francie McPeake is. If it's Francis McPeake Sr. of the famous McPeake Family of Belfast (famous for introducing "Will Ye Go Lassie Go"), he was born in 1885 and his street singing years can't have started much before 1890. By a mere four years after that, the song was published in versions collected all over England -- too soon by far for him to be its sole source.

All honor to the great Francis and his grand music, but this implies to me that "Tell My Ma" is a street song going much further back in time and tradition, to which McPeake added a few local references, including the name Johnny Murray, which occurs only in some of the versions.

On the other hand, if Francie McPeake was his mother ...

Maybe somebody can furnish better info on that than I.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 06:35 AM

Presumably whoever wrote that little piece didn't actually bother to look at any of the references in Roud, though I suppose it's something that he or she was aware that the Index exists. 'Originally written by Francie McPeake', my arse. Wikipedia has a very long way to go before it can be taken seriously.


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 07:02 AM

Thanks, Malcolm, my view exactly. I just didn't get heavy about it because I figured there might be some detail I didn't know.

These are the cute ways traditional songs get "written" retroactively by recent composers and snapped up into the Big Music Machine. It's only one of a thousand deceiving anecdotes out there circulated for self-serving reasons or through sheer ignorance.

Seems we're battling the tide, like King Canute -- whose name was presumably Cnut or Knut to start with. History glimpsed as one long string of misrepresentations.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 07:36 AM

Well, a cursory combing of Roud yields mostly recent publications of "Tell My Ma". However, here are some early occurrences of the song:

Grainger Collection 1906
Miscellanea of Rymour Club 1906-11
Grieg-Duncan 1907
Cecil Sharp 1908
Gillington (Isle of Wight) 1909
Gatty Ms (Yorks) 1909
Piper, JAFL (American, Illinois) 1915

Plus a few singing game books including Hornby 1913 and Kidson 1916.

What stands out is that all these are AFTER 1900. Thus the pre-1894 English versions in Gomme seem to be the earliest publications -- at least the earliest I have yet identified.

Since the Rankins are Canadian (Nova Scotia I think???) they may well have gotten their version from Helen Creighton, who published the song at least twice.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 02:44 PM

Well, instead of condemning Wikipedia, perhaps we should develop a better article and post it there. You'll note from the Wikipedia that it isn't a fully-developed encyclopedia article.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 03:13 PM

Hi,

I know some of the McPeakes and I never heard anyone of them claim that their grandfather wrote "Wild Mountain Thyme". Unfortunately the grandfather : ME DA" is dead. I suspect that it was a song that would probably have died out if not for the McPeakes singing it at every venue. The air is identical and the lyrics resemble in part the scottish " Braes of Bakquidder". A bit like the chicken or the egg.

" I'll tell my ma" is the type of song that kids could add their own words throughout the years and no place can really claim ownership of it. With many tradesmen having to travel to find work in the olden days( weavers for example), these songs went with them from place to place. so various versions can be found especially in Ireland, England, Scotland and probably Wales,and we should be glad of that.
We sang other words as well as those submitted by
GUEST,Sean MacRuaraidh such as
    "My aunt Jane she's awful smart
    She bakes a ring in an apple tart
    combs her hair with a wagon wheel
    and she died with a blister on her heel
There were other words about "washing her face in the frying pan" but the years have dimmed my memory.


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 19 Mar 08 - 03:59 PM

That was infact the PBS video I have of Barley Bree and Tommy Makem singing "Tell Me Ma, Aunt Jane" a way back in 2000.

I first heard the Scotts varient as sung in 1965 by The Corries on an early Electra album. The cut was The Singing Games. The album is either Promise of the Day or The Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell. I learned the Clancy/Makem version in 1969 at scout camp from Norman George of Malone NY.   Some time in the early 70's I started singing it with Mike Waters, currently of Rhode Island and we did it as is most commonly done, The Clany version.

My current band recorded it this way, www.theflyincolumn.com, has a short sample.

Don


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Anne Hamilton
Date: 10 Jul 08 - 05:43 PM

Hello. I sang 'Tell Me Ma' with Sham Rock. My Irish grandparents taught me the song when I was little. It's "The Belle of Belfast City", because its alliterative, apparently, and I learned to sing "Old Jenny Murray says SHE will die if SHE doesn't get the fella with the roving eye." - which makes sense, if you think about it. Mind you, folk songs are all passed down by aural tradition & get changed over the years - so no version can really be the definitive one. My granny said it was a skipping song when she was a child in 1906. Hope that's useful.


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Gulliver
Date: 06 Aug 08 - 09:39 AM

I've used a little of the information supplied here by Bob Coltman et al to initiate a discussion on Wiki to correct the article--I hope this is OK. I'll check Roud and Gomme if possible myself in the Irish Trad Archive before actually altering the article. It's not too difficult to correct Wiki, rather than simply condemning it.


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: goatfell
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 08:09 AM

I remember when Van Morrison did this song with the cheiftians and they finished the song with the national anthem of Northern Ireland 'the sash' well is a northern Irish song/tune after all but the sash is really a old Scottish song called 'Irish molly o'


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: MartinRyan
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 08:40 AM

... via "The Hat my Father Wore".

Regards
p.s. Mind you, I think the first evidence for "Irish molly-o" appears to come from the U.S.?


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: MartinRyan
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 08:54 AM

Better put in a link to one of the "Irish Molly" threads before we complicate matters by hijacking this one.

THIS THREAD is succinct and has links to earlier ones.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Help: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,jim mac farland
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 10:50 AM

my late granny taught us this little dittie in the fifties when she live with us in Derry

my aunt jane she called me in
she give me tea in her wee tin
half a bap whey sugar on the top
and three wee sweetie balls after that
she told me to go home
but i wouldn't go
she shut the door on my big toe
oh oh oh that was sore
I'll not go back to auntie jane no more

there were more verses like "washing her face in a frying pan" but at the moment i cant remember them


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: goatfell
Date: 07 Aug 08 - 12:12 PM

I have a copy of the song in the book by Ord, called Both ballads and songs from the north east (Scotland), but as you say it might of travelled to/from America we will never know really


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 08 Aug 08 - 07:13 AM

Re the lines "combs her hair with a wagon wheel / died with a blister in her heel" and "washed her face in a frying pan" --

These are, of course, borrowed from the American minstrel hit "Old Dan Tucker." Not a big surprise, as American-derived minstrel shows were all the rage in Britain (and Australia, and other Anglo parts of the world), and while leaning on American repertoire, they eventually developed a style distinctly their own. Odd, but "Tell Me Ma" may be unique in using these; I don't offhand recall any other songs borrowing "Dan Tucker's" pungent verses.

It would be interesting if someone more knowledgeable than I would trace the ways in which the British minstrel shows influenced the rise of early British music hall. Marginally, I suspect, but the influence is probably there, just as it is in early US vaudeville.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Melissa
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 05:03 PM

This song was used on a British TV advert when I was a kid (80s) but I can't remember what it was advertising....

Anyone know?


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Snuffy
Date: 25 Mar 09 - 08:35 PM

Sam, Sam the dustbin man
Washed his face in a frying pan,
Combed his hair with a donkey's tail
And scratched his belly with his big toenail.


in NW England in the early 1950s this was a completely different song, with a different tune: nothing at all to do with She is handsome, she is pretty


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Roy McLean
Date: 17 Aug 09 - 04:11 PM

First heard this song as a child in Belfast at a time when kids used to regularly play in the streets before they got filled up with cars. The young girls especially used the song in their skipping games and so on when they would tie a rope to the old gas lamp posts and jump round it. Later on various Ulster showbands incorporated it into their repetories. A friend in Dublin remembers first hearing the song when a northern showband, the Freshmen she thinks, played it there as a very up tempo foot stamping number in the early 60s. The names I remember hearing in the song as a child were: "Albert Kelly says he loves her"; "old Johnny Morrison says she'll die". The Dubs of course did their usual make over and changed the names around when they recorded it, diminishing its cross community flavour with the introduction of Messers Mooney and Morrissey.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 17 Aug 09 - 04:22 PM

Re Don Meixner's early post on this thread:

I'll Tell Me Ma


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 12:51 AM

The 'My Aunt Jane' song was the theme song for the 'McCooey's', and old radio sitcom on BBC Northern Ireland back in the fifties.

The show starred the legendary James Young along with Joseph Tomelty, Seamus McCrudden among many other top actors and comedians.

I don't know if the song was written for the show, or whether it was an old Belfast song adapted especially for the programme.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Lighter
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 08:32 AM

Just in case nobody's mentioned it:

The lines about frying pans, wagon-wheel combs, and the dreaded heel-toothache appear before ca1845 in Dan Emmett's minstrel song "Old Dan Tucker."

It was a huge transatlantic hit. Whether Emmett created it from nothing or partially utilized a children's rhyme, we may never know.

Similar lines also appear in the northern Irish kids' song "The Wee Falorie Man," recorded by David Hammond around 1962.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Gulliver
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 10:30 AM

I don't know why Guest Roy McLean has a bee in his bonnet about the Dubs singing this song. We sang it as kids in Dublin with "Belfast city" while neighbours sang "Dublin city" and even "Galway city". The song doesn't come from Belfast - it was collected in the 19th century in southern England and the oldest collected version has "the Golden city".


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: mayomick
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 01:40 PM

It seems to me that the chorus at least did originate in Belfast. The line "she is the belle of Belfast city" loses its punning impact when sang about another city. Whoever wrote the song had a wonderful sense of alliteration and composition .It's such a simple singable song ,but very cleverly written , isn't it? I see the phrase "belle of belfast city" as integral to the chorus and therefor probably not adapted from another source city .Certainly not from that Welsh town with the long name.


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: GUEST,Roy McLean
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 08:48 PM

Haven't actually got a bee in my bonnet, so Gulliver can relax. Its no big deal really. I certainly have nothing against kids in Dublin streets singing it their way. Of course, like everyone else, I realise songs travel and are modified at the various places they pass through. This is a natural part of the folksong tradition. However, I feel there is a case for at least trying to remain relatively true to the original when performing songs, especially if the orginal is just from 90 miles up the road (an hours drive away). Im talking here about "formal" performance, ie. a group recording it in a studio and releasing it as a record. Not kids singing it in the street. I dont particularly like the idea of people singing/recording, say "The Cliffs of Doneen" and changing it to the "Cliffs of Dover" or "Scarborough Fair" and changing it to "Ballycastle Fair". Its something about integrity and "growing your own". I see it as a sort of cultural plagairism. I think this is an emotional reaction common to most of us. The fact is this song enjoyed its big surge of popularity in the early 60s in Ireland. I remember it was sung all over Ireland as "the belle of Belfast City". The Dubliners Im sure must have been aware of this, yet, when they recorded it they changed it to "Dublin City". It just seems a bit off to me. Im sure Dubliners like Gulliver would feel a bit peeved if Belfast people started singing and recording, "In Belfast's fair city where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone"(eh Gulliver?).

Actually, I may be being a bit unfair to The Dubliners group (though they're big boys and Im sure they can take it!). The fact is, where non Irish songs are concerned they have an excellent record when it comes to remaining true to the orginal. This is particularly true with Scottish songs with Luke Kelly regularly even going so far as to put on a very good Scots accent. I think his performance of one of of my favourite songs, "Come all ye tramps and hawkers", which he sings in Scots dialect throughout, is an absolute MASTERPIECE!! However, when it comes to Irish songs a bit of southern bias tends to creep in and can be be detected in the way they modify things and even in their selection of songs. That's all im saying.   

One last point, I dont agree with Gulliver that this song is of English origin. Its got Irish and Belfast written all over it!


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Subject: RE: Origin: I'll Tell Me Ma
From: Gulliver
Date: 18 Aug 09 - 10:04 PM

Mayomick and Roy, for further info on this song see: Gomme, Alice Bertha (1894, 1898). The traditional games of England, Scotland and Ireland: with tunes, singing rhymes and methods of playing according to the variants extant and recorded in different parts of the kingdom. London: Nutt. p. 387.


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