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Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish

In Mudcat MIDIs:
Romans and English (from The Singing Game, Iona and Peter Opie)


McGrath of Harlow 10 Mar 04 - 07:01 PM
GUEST 10 Mar 04 - 07:43 PM
Leadfingers 10 Mar 04 - 08:08 PM
harpmaker 10 Mar 04 - 09:02 PM
Miken 10 Mar 04 - 11:42 PM
Joe Offer 11 Mar 04 - 02:05 AM
Joe Offer 11 Mar 04 - 02:24 AM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Mar 04 - 07:28 AM
Kevin Sheils 12 Mar 04 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,chloe w 08 Dec 06 - 07:10 AM
GUEST 08 Dec 06 - 04:19 PM
Cluin 08 Dec 06 - 04:47 PM
GUEST 12 Apr 09 - 10:17 PM
GUEST,Irish Chicago Guest 20 Aug 13 - 08:58 PM
Jim Carroll 21 Aug 13 - 04:46 AM
Mo the caller 26 Aug 13 - 06:06 AM
GUEST,Nur Soliman 15 Oct 13 - 07:01 PM
GUEST,annabel simms 24 Oct 13 - 08:39 PM
GUEST,cheryl 15 Sep 15 - 08:47 AM
GUEST 11 Mar 16 - 11:38 AM
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Subject: 'We are the Irish'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 07:01 PM

For some reason I started thinking about a song I once heard that had stuck in my mind, and I was going to start a thread to search it out; only before I did so I thought I'd try the "Lyrics and Knowledge search", and up came this post in a thread from 1999 about Irish children's songs with the words in passing.

And here is the song:

Are you ready for a war, for we are the English
Are you ready for a war, for we are the English soldiers

O yes we're ready for a war for we are the Irish
Yes we're ready for a war for we are the Irish soldiers.

Now we only have one arm.....English

Now we have no arms at all...Irish

Now we only have one leg...English

Now we have no legs at all...Irish

Now we are all dead and gone...English

Now we're all alive again ...Irish.


So I thought I'd start the thread anyway, because 1999 is a fair time ago, and it's an odd song and I wonder if anyone knows more about it. I heard it on a bus from a couple of students from Queens on the bus back from the Burntollet march back in 1969, the one that was ambushed on the road to Derry, and it's always struck me as sort of symbolically marking the start to the Troubles.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 07:43 PM

That is strange. I remember singing that in my primary school playground in about 1969/70. Only remember singing the first lines though....the "Are you ready for a war,we are the english" and "Yes we're ready for a war for we are the irish" part.

Haven't thought about it since then and have no idea where we learnt it from. It was a Roman Catholic school in London and most of us had Irish parents. I imagine the teaching staff dissuaded us from singing it.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: Leadfingers
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 08:08 PM

Another of the delightfully tasteless Irish Childrens songs . I dont know for sure but this one almost certainly dates back to a LONG time before the most recent silliness in Northern Ireland started in 1969.
I had forgotten about this one myself -Most of us stopped doing the 'good' Irish chorus songs after the IRA took over the Civil Rights
thing.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: harpmaker
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 09:02 PM

peace & understanding, now chaps.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: Miken
Date: 10 Mar 04 - 11:42 PM

I remember the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem singing this song as part of a children's medley on a recording from the early 60's.


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Subject: ADD: Are You Ready for a War
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Mar 04 - 02:05 AM

Tradition has a wonderful CD by the Clancy Children called So Early In the Morning: Irish Children's Songs, Rhymes, and Games. This CD titles the song "Are You Ready for a War." tune is "London Bridge Is Falling down."

Are You Ready for a War

Are you ready for a war, for a war, for a war
Are you ready for a war, for we're the Irish soldiers

Yes we're ready for a war, for a war, for a war
Yes we're ready for a war for we're the English soldiers.

(?)All around the doctors thieve (?).. Irish [Help, please]

Now we've only got one ear.....English

Now we've got no ears at all.....Irish

Now we've only got one hand.....English

Now we've got no hands at all.....Irish

Now we've only got one eye.....English

Now we've got no eyes at all.....Irish

Now we've only got one leg.....English

Now we've got no legs at all.....Irish

Now we all are dead and gone...English

Now we're all alive again ...Irish.


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Subject: ADD: Romans and English
From: Joe Offer
Date: 11 Mar 04 - 02:24 AM

In The Singing Game, Iona and Peter Opie have this version:

Romans and English

Have you any bread and wine,
For we are the Romans,
Have you any bread and wine,
For we are the Roman soldiers?

Yes, we have some bread and wine, For we are the English,
Yes, we have some bread and wine, For we are the English soldiers.

Will you give us some of it, For we are the Romans,
Will you give us some of it, For we are the Roman soldiers?

No, we'll give you none of it, For we are the English,
No, we'll give you none of it, For we are the English soldiers.

Then we'll tell our King of you, For we are the Romans,
Then we'll tell our King of you, For we are the Roman soldiers.

What care I for King or you, For we are the English,
What care I for King or you, For we are the English soldiers.

Are you ready for a fight, For we are the Romans,
Are you ready for a fight, For we are the Roman soldiers?

Yes, we're ready for a fight, For we are the English,
Yes, we're ready for a fight, For we are the English soldiers.

    A dramatic dialogue between two lines of girls who advance and retreat as they sing alternate verses, 'Romans and English' ends with the only ritualized fight in the repertoire of singing games. In the Workington, 1962, version above, the combatants fight hopping on one foot, trying to push each other off balance. Anyone who puts the other foot down is out. When the fight is over, everybody forms a ring and dances round singing to the tune of 'Nuts in May':
Buckle on your sword and away we go, away we go, away we go
Buckle on your sword and away we go, on a cold and frosty morning

    Other versions have English and German soldiers.

The tune is interesting - definitely NOT "London Bridge," although the last verse sounds like "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush." The first half of the MIDI is the standard tune, and the second half is the final "buckle" verse.

Click to play


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 07:28 AM

Like a lot of good songs you can read this one either way. Depending I suppose on whether that last line is "Now we're all alive again, we are the Irish soldiers" or just "Now we all are dead and gone..", repeated for the Irish as well as the English.

And another way would be ending it not with "Now we're all alive again we are the Irish soldiers," but "we are the Irish people."

What it makes me think of is "And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves us all toothless and blind".

It seems likely to me that this is really intended to be sung with the playground game in which when you drop a ball for lose a hand, or go down on one knee, and so forth. Sort of anatomical strip poker.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: Kevin Sheils
Date: 12 Mar 04 - 07:55 AM

There's a version recorded by Alan Lomax from Schoolchildren in Trinidad in 1962 which uses the Roman/English soldier format as in Joe's post above but after the we will give you none of it verse follows an interesting pattern of

We will bring a policeman etc

We aint 'fraid no policeman etc

We will bring a big-foot man etc

We aint 'fraid no big-foot man etc

We will bring a sore foot man etc

We aint 'fraid no sore footman etc

We will bring a jigger-foot man etc

We aint 'fraid no jigger-foot man etc

Then the are you ready for a fight verses

It's on The Rounder "Brown Girl in the Ring" CD in the Lomax collection.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: GUEST,chloe w
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 07:10 AM

Came across your thread whilst googling the title of a Manx song. We have an 8 bar tune collected in the Isle of Man during the 1890s by Dr. J. Clague and W.H. Gill. Their words are:

Are you ready for a fight?
We are the Rovers.
We are ready for the fight,
We are the Roman soldiers.

The tune is almost identical to the Joe Offer's midi tune.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 04:19 PM

Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem recorded it on an album called "Live at Carnegie Hall" from 1962 as part of the Children's Medley. The tune wasn't "London Bridge" though.


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Subject: RE: 'We are the Irish'
From: Cluin
Date: 08 Dec 06 - 04:47 PM

We are the robots.

It's still like fuckin' root canal.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST
Date: 12 Apr 09 - 10:17 PM

I remember one of my relatives singing lines like
"We will fetch our big bull dog"
And "We will fetch our big tom cat".


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST,Irish Chicago Guest
Date: 20 Aug 13 - 08:58 PM

My father used to play this on a Clancey Bros album when I was very young (probably 1967-68-69. I still have it on an LP.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 21 Aug 13 - 04:46 AM

FROM CHILDREN'S GAMES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR LESLIE DAIKEN 1949
JIM CARROLL
Warlike games have always appealed to boys above a certain age, and nowhere more than in the places of Ireland near where actual battles or sieges took place. The persistence of the Martial Games has been most extraordinary. It is a subject which has received little attention from historians or folklorists, although it offers fascinating scope for those who would ordinarily try to probe the aggressive instincts of the human race. Foreign elements are more quick to respond to this behaviour than in emulating other customs of the ancient country in which they would take root. For example, it is of considerable historical interest to note that the Huguenot community in the south of Ireland formed a branch of the Irish Volunteer Corps in 1780 for their children who delighted in playing at fighting games1 among themselves.
ROMAN SOLDIERS
The Game of Conquest most widespread among English children is that known as The Roman Soldiers, in which the players divide up into two equal sides. Standing in two lines, A (the Romans) and-B (the English), they face each other a few yards apart, and begin to exchange parley in sung verses alternately. Both sides then stand still, point their left arms at each other and shout "Shoot! Bang! Fire!", and then engage in a fight. After a general scuffle, both sides form a ring and walk round, singing and going through the various actions described in the verses. The antiquity of this game is fairly evident from the text. Frag¬ments of the "words-of-command" appear to have crept into some of the street rhymes referred to in other chapters.

Just as the Roman Invasion of Britain is remembered in this game, so the British brought it with them to several cities. In garrison towns like Tipperary, a version has been noted in which the opening challenge runs:

Are you ready for a fight?
For we are Irish soldiers,

A nice adaptation made by the children themselves.
Of course, the same game is reflected in the pattern of Cowboys and Indians, Gangsters and G-Men and other modernisations.
That it came to Ireland by way of the English soldiery is the case contended here, and its persistence in Dublin, notably in the SLUMS, IS due to the influence of English rule. O'Casey, (I Knock at the Door) in fact, in the quotation of the game, reveals the local irishisms in the very opening line, i.e. "We are ready for to fight . . The extract reads:

"... a green sash to go across his breast; blue belt round his waist; and many coloured strips waving gaily from his cap. Then armed with a home-made wooden sword, he turned himself into a warrior, a conqueror of many, bent on battle, free from terror, ready to strike at the first enemy that came near, as he strode along streaming with coloured orders presented to him by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Whenever a chance came he would share his treasure with a group of Catholic boys, just home from school, decorating them with minor-coloured strips, changing them into soldiers, sergeants, with an ensign carrying a many-hued paper flag, and a drummer bearing on his hip a tin, veiled in strips of yellow and blue, rallying away for dear life, while the boys sang at the top of their voices,

We are ready for to fight,
We are the Rovers;
We are all brave Parnell's men,
We are his gallant soldiers!

a song Johnny didn't like, for he was afraid that, in some way or another, it had a connection with the Fenians. . . ."

Now the vowel conversion of "We are the soldiers", or "We are the Romans" into "We are the Rovers" has a bearing on a song of this class formerly sung in the streets of Belfast by mill- doffers in a truculent mood. "Rovers" means a special type of linen workers. The version, collected by Hugh Quinn, is as follows, the last four lines offering another example of how topicality ousts traditionalism in words to an old tune. They refer to a keenly contested election between Senton, a Nationalist candidate, and Foster, a Unionist, for a seat representing West Belfast in the early nineties. Senton won by a narrow majority:

Do you want to breed a fight        
We are the Rovers,
For it's if you want to breed a fight        
Oh, we're the jolly fine Rovers,        

Senton at the head of the poll
We are the Rovers
And Foster looking up his ****
Oh, we're the jolly fine Rovers,        


All these verses preserve the ancient trochaic measure, which was the popular stress of the Roman soldier, and the literary conti-nuity of the original English Singing Game, with its metrical rhythm of tum-ti tum-ti, turn turn turn enhanced by the beat of the melody, contains all the best qualities of narrative balladry.



Have you any bread and wine?
For we are the Romans:
Have you any bread and wine?
For we are Roman soldiers.

Yes, we have some bread and wine . . .
For we are the English soldiers.

Then we will have one cup full
For we are the Roman soldiers.

No, you shan't have one cup full
For we are the English soldiers.

Then we will have two cups full
For we are the Roman soldiers.

No, you shan't have two cups full
For we are the English soldiers.

We will tell the 'Pope of you
For we are the Roman soldiers.
We don't care for the Pope or you
For we are English soldiers.

We will tell the King of you
For we are the Romans.
We don't care for the King or you
For we are the English.

We will send our cats to scratch
For we are the Romans.
We don't care for your cats or you
For we are the English.

We will send our dogs to bite . . .
For we are the English.

We don't care for your dogs or you
For we, etc.

Are you ready for a fight?
For we are the Romans.
Yes, we're ready for a fight
For we, etc.

FIGHT TAKES PLACE

Now we've only got one arm . . .
For we are the Roman/English.
Now we've only got one leg. . .
For we are, etc.

Now we've only got one eye, etc.
Now we've only got one ear, etc.

In some versions, in the sixteenth verse the two sides, instead od fighting, join hands and dance round in a ring singing as follows:

Then we'll join in a merry ring
For we are the Roman /English
Thhnen we'll joing in a merry ring
For we are Romn/English soldiers

Gomme devotes some pages to variants of an English game called 'We are the Rovers, but the above version is taken from Cecil Sharp's Collection in No. 1109 of Novello's school songs (London)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: Mo the caller
Date: 26 Aug 13 - 06:06 AM

I learnt part of this song just after WW2 from my mother who was born just after WW1
The only verse she sang was

Are you ready for a fight?
We are the English.
Yes, we're ready for a fight .
We are the German soldiers.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST,Nur Soliman
Date: 15 Oct 13 - 07:01 PM

I apologise for contributing to this thread so late, but I've been madly searching for an extant audio of this song and can't find a single thing! As a 1990s child, I used to sing along to this on a tape cassette full of children's songs (sung by a children's choir), and the lyrics were closest to the version recorded by Iona and Peter Opie, but instead with something along the lines of:

"Will you have a pint of ale? / We are the Romans? / Will you have a pint of ale for we are the Roman soldiers. A pint of ale won't serve us all / We are the British / A pint of ale won't serve us all, for we are the British soldiers. Will you have a barrel of ale? / etc. etc."

Does this sound familiar to anyone here? The tune was mostly like the MIDI file linked above, but with some differences in the notes (I can still sing it perfectly, like the cassette version I had), but I just wonder why there's nothing available that we can find, a classic children's song that is forever a golden moment in my childhood, this quiet child sitting in her bedroom playing or reading and singing along to this song which filled her imagination.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST,annabel simms
Date: 24 Oct 13 - 08:39 PM

The version we sang at school in Leeds in the 1950s was:

We are all King George's men (sometimes it was Saint George)
We are the English
We are all King George's men
We are the English army

We are all St Patrick's men
We are the Irish
We are all St Patrick's men
We are the Irish soldiers

Do you want a cup of tea?
We are the English
Do you want a cup of tea
We are the English army

We don't want your lousy tea
We are the Irish
We don't want your lousy tea
We are the Irish soldiers

Are you ready for a fight?
We are the English
Are you ready for a fight
We are the English army

Yes, we're ready for a fight
We are the Irish
Yes, we're ready for a fight
We are the Irish soldiers

General mayhem ensued as the two lines attacked each other and that was the end of the game. I had no idea it was so old. I recognised the Midi tune given at the top of this thread as the same one we marched to. This game has gone down extremely well with my nephews and niece, born in the 1990s.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST,cheryl
Date: 15 Sep 15 - 08:47 AM

We used to sing this as a game, in two lines facing each other, singing
Are you ready for a fight we are the English
marching forward to the opposite line
the other line than sang
Yes we're ready for a fight we are the Germans
marched forward, the other line going back.

this was done a couple of times and I cant remember how but a shout went up and we all ran at each other and that was the end of the game.

Went to catholic school in Jarrow.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Are You Ready for a War?/We are the Irish
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Mar 16 - 11:38 AM

I was reading the lyrics and thought how the 'bread and wine' bits could be brought into the age of modern tecbnology:

"We won't give you bread and wine/eeh eye over (My Auntie used to sing those words, not 'we are the Rovers)
You can order it online, you scrounging bunch of soldiers."

I'm not serious, it just made me laugh when I thought of it.

I'd love to track down a full recording of this song.


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