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American Canal Builder's Songs

ejsant 02 Apr 05 - 06:02 AM
Snuffy 02 Apr 05 - 07:51 AM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 02 Apr 05 - 07:00 PM
Dave Ruch 02 Apr 05 - 08:43 PM
Brían 02 Apr 05 - 09:01 PM
ejsant 03 Apr 05 - 07:23 AM
Brían 03 Apr 05 - 09:32 AM
Brían 03 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM
Brían 03 Apr 05 - 03:19 PM
Dave Ruch 03 Apr 05 - 04:10 PM
GUEST,Brían 04 Apr 05 - 11:43 AM
ejsant 04 Apr 05 - 12:48 PM
georgeward 04 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM
GUEST,Brian 04 Apr 05 - 02:03 PM
ejsant 04 Apr 05 - 03:23 PM
GUEST,Brian 04 Apr 05 - 03:59 PM
GUEST,Art Thieme 04 Apr 05 - 07:35 PM
georgeward 05 Apr 05 - 03:42 AM
Joe Offer 05 Apr 05 - 04:01 AM
ejsant 05 Apr 05 - 08:15 AM
Brían 07 Apr 05 - 01:37 PM
ejsant 09 Apr 05 - 06:14 AM
Dave'sWife 09 Apr 05 - 06:56 AM
Brían 09 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM
Peace 09 Apr 05 - 04:54 PM
Brían 09 Apr 05 - 06:20 PM
Dave'sWife 09 Apr 05 - 10:11 PM
ejsant 13 Apr 05 - 08:34 AM
Leadfingers 13 Apr 05 - 08:55 AM
Amos 13 Apr 05 - 09:10 AM
Dave Ruch 13 Apr 05 - 10:54 AM
ejsant 13 Apr 05 - 02:18 PM
Dave Ruch 13 Apr 05 - 04:40 PM
Dave Ruch 16 Apr 05 - 07:10 PM
georgeward 17 Apr 05 - 01:55 AM
Dave Ruch 17 Apr 05 - 10:03 AM
ejsant 18 Apr 05 - 07:48 AM
Dave Ruch 18 Apr 05 - 07:56 AM
Dave Ruch 18 Apr 05 - 04:22 PM
GUEST 18 Apr 05 - 11:44 PM
georgeward 19 Apr 05 - 03:37 AM
ejsant 19 Apr 05 - 07:40 AM
Liam's Brother 19 Apr 05 - 11:32 PM
Peace 19 Apr 05 - 11:39 PM
ejsant 04 May 05 - 07:40 AM
Dave Ruch 29 Aug 05 - 12:04 PM
GUEST,alexovenden696@hotmail.com 24 Oct 05 - 09:02 PM
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Subject: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 02 Apr 05 - 06:02 AM

Greetings All,

I am searching for songs composed by the Irish emigrants that worked on the building of canals in the US from the late eighteenth century through the mid-nineteenth century.

There are a number of songs I found that speak of life on the canals after they were built but I am looking for those that speak of the building experiences, life in the camps, laborer actions, military intervention, secret societies, and the like.

I am basing my hope that such songs exist on the propensity of the Irish for prose and balladry. Any and all assistance is greatly appreciated.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Snuffy
Date: 02 Apr 05 - 07:51 AM

THE MEETING OF THE WATERS OF HUDSON & ERIE is about building an american canal and uses the same tune as the older Irish song THE MEETING OF THE WATERS by Thomas Moore


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 02 Apr 05 - 07:00 PM

Does it have to be US A or can it be Canadian?


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 02 Apr 05 - 08:43 PM

There's "Paddy on the Canal", which has an Irishman coming to America to work on the canals. I believe it was first reported or published as a broadside in 1843.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 02 Apr 05 - 09:01 PM

Here it is: PADDY ON THE CANAL

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 07:23 AM

Greetings Snuffy

Thank you for "The Meeting of the Waters of the Hudson and Erie". I didn't have that one yet so I am putting it into my repertoire.

Greetings George,

Thank you, I would prefer those that speak of US locations but if you know of songs about locations in Canada that speak of the building experience I would welcome your input.

Greetings Dave and Brían,

Thank you for your suggestion. Paddy on the Canal is already in the works. The song is referenced many times in Peter Way's book entitled "Common Labour, Workers & the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860"


I am really after those songs that speak from the emigrant laborer prospective. There are a number of songs published that hail the Canals and life thereon, but I have yet to find any that speak of the atrocious conditions most laborers had to endure in the interest of sustenance whilst the canals were under construction. As there are many songs about difficult times in Ireland I am hopeful that the crossing of the pond didn't stifle the creative passion for prose that speaks of injustices. One would think not, especially given the number of Civil War era songs that speak of the Irish Emigrant's experiences both positive and negative.

Thank you all once again for you help in this project. I never really paid much mind in school so my research skills are very weak at best. I can only hope my tenacity overcomes this weakness.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 09:32 AM

Doing a Google search I found this: Canal Man

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM

I am not confident that emigrants or immigrants composed any songs about canaling. These were about the worst paying jobs and they were glad to leave them behind them. I will suggest a book about Irish immigration in Maine. There is one article that goes into the work, lifestyle and family structure of Irish who came to Maine in the 19th centurey to build mills and canals.   It can be purchased at the Maine Irish Heritage Center. Two of the historians who contributed to the book are friends of mine. It is the only book on the Irish in Maine I would recommend. It is better written than most histories of the Irish in America I have read. Maybe you could compose a song about it. Maybe we each could and swap them at a Mudcat gathering.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 03:19 PM

If you put "CANAL" in the digitrad search box, there are several interesting songs, including:

HENRY K SAWYER
YELLOW MEAL
THE WAGONER'S CURSE ON THE RAILROAD
THE DARK-EYED CANALLER

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 03 Apr 05 - 04:10 PM

Ed -

Have you seen "Song of the (Erie) Canal"? It's first verse starts:

We are digging the ditch through the mire;
Through he mud and the slime and the mire, by heck!
And the mud is our principal hire;
Up our pants, in our shirts, down our neck, by heck!
etc.

While it doesn't specifically mention the Irish, it could certainly be argued that it would have been at least partially composed - and certainly sung by - the Irish canal diggers. You can find the full lyrics in Lionel Wyld's classic book LOW BRIDGE! Folklore and the Erie Canal, which has an entire chapter devoted to canal ballads and songs. If you can't find the book elsewhere, it can be ordered from my website, which is www.daveruch.com


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST,Brían
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 11:43 AM

I have looked through my collections of ballads sung in New England, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that are probably the same collections the Digitrad is using to no avail. At the risk of creating disagreement, I believe the propensity of the Irish for prose and balladry arises from different social strata than those who worked building the railroads and canals. The author of the article on the Irish in Lewiston, Maine admits her ancestor arrived in Lewiston as a contractor, not an unskilled laborer. Many of the Irish ballad makers were schoolmasters trained in French seminaries. They would have been looking for different types of work in America. However, I am quite interested in this subject and hope to check my local public and historical libraries in hopes of proving myself wrong.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 12:48 PM

Greetings Brían,

Thank you for the link to the "Canal Man". I did find that site earlier but it seems these songs are contemporary and original.

I am not sure that these songs exist either. I was at a session with Don Meade yesterday afternoon and he thought there had to be some. I am hopeful to find the creative inspiration to compose a few songs as part of this project. I know the work available was mostly unskilled and of the lowest order and I would imagine that most workers were marginally literate thereby reducing the possibilities even more.

I will look into the book you recommended. I have others that are in the reading hopper so it may be some time before I can get to that one. The National Canal Society Museum is about an hours drive from my home and they indicated they have a number of first person accounts available in their archives. I will be making that trip in a week or two.

Thank you for the list of songs. Henry K Sawyer seems to be about the railroad. The Dark Eyed Canaller I have in Bill Hullfish's song book. What a quest. Thank you for all your help and insight. I'll stay in touch.


Greetings Dave,

Thank you for the book recommendation. I think I have it somewhere. I'll look for it. If I do not have it then I will get one from you.


Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: georgeward
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 01:47 PM

Ed,

The song Dave Ruch mentions, "We are digging a ditch through the mire,.." MAY be about as old as they get. It has also been bowdlerized. The original substituted "Dammit!" for "By heck!"

Here's the note on it, from my album 'Oh! That Low Bridge!":

'In December of 1942, Walter D. Edmonds sent the text of this song to Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folksong in the Library of Congress (now a part of the Library's American Folklife Center). Edmonds had the song from Samuel Hopkins Adams, who sent it to him with the following note: 'Song found by Prof. J.D.Ibbotson, then Librarian of Hamilton College, written in pencil on the flyleaf of an old book in the library. He thinks it dates from about 1825. As the digging was completed before then, I should think it might be earlier.' "

If the names are not familiar (though I imagine they are), Adams and Edmonds were (and remain) the two giants of Erie Canal storytelling. Adams used the text of the song twice in canal stories, but not - in the mid-twentieth-century - with its "dammits" in place. Such feigned innocence!

I made a tune for the thing, sing it on the album and have sung it ever since. The song should really be in the DT. I'll try to do that. Failing that, Folk-Legacy sells my album. I try very hard not to do mail orders (but...).

"Paddy on the Canal", mentioned above, was - I'm just guessing - the most widely-distributed navvy song of the 19th century in this country ("navvy" = "navigator" = wry Irish term for a canal digger). It was published in broadside in at least Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

Although everything that has been said about working conditions was true, it is also the case that work on the canals was just that...work... and a better prospect than some alternatives for impoverished immigrants. And, at some point, the somewhat-established immigrants become a market for penny broadsides. "Paddy on the Canal" may be the only surviving example, but the very fact of its reprinting suggests to me that it struck enough of a nerve that there may have been more.

I will disagree a bit with Brian, too, about the possibility of songmaking by those at the bottom of the social pyramid. Literacy is no barrier to songmaking. Problem is, we are them dependent upon a continuing oral tradition (or later literacy) if they are to survive.

There's a fiddle tune called "The Navvy on the Line," too.

- George


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 02:03 PM

Well put, George. I won't defend my statement. In fact I am continuing to investigate to prove I am wrong.

Brian


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 03:23 PM

Greetings George,

What a treat, thank you for your time. I was hoping that circumstances would have enabled me to attend the Comhaltas convention in Ottawa this past weekend. My hopes were that on my way either up or down I would have had the opportunity to meet with you to perhaps collect some songs as well as your insight. This endeavor is one of great personal interest as it seems I have been called back to music after thirty years or so and also to my ancestral roots. A long story to be sure, one that started with an unsettling medical happenstance along my path.

As I have never attempted anything like this research in my life I am in somewhat of a learn as you go mode. I sure wish I had paid more attention to things like this whilst in school. I will order your CD, thank you. I will also look for the fiddle tune you mention.

I am glad to hear that you share my hopes, and it seems Brían's as well, that songs of the building of canals may have indeed been composed. I would love to find songs that relate the story of specific events. I did find a reference to a military intervention against a collective navvy action in New Brunswick, NJ that left at least one Irishman dead. The D & R Canal is a place near and dear to me as I spent hours hiking, fishing, and swimming on/in it as a youngster. Unfortunately, as related to me, the newspaper account was cursory at best. Hardly enough of the story's background, at this time anyway, to compose a song with out taking a great deal of license, which is not something I wish to do.

I do have "Paddy on the Canal" from Bill Hullfish's CD and related songbook. Mick Moloney also makes reference to the song in his book of emigrant songs. It is going into the repertoire.

Perhaps one day yourself, Brían, and I can share a pint or two over some songs, stories, and tunes. Thank you again for your input.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST,Brian
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 03:59 PM

If you ever have a chance to talk personally with Mick (please don't someone post his email!), you will find him extremely helpful. The man is a walking encyclopedia.

Brian


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 04 Apr 05 - 07:35 PM

And George's recording is a fine one. I've enjoyed him doing those songs ever since I got it from him (I think) back when I was doing a few festivals with he and his wife.

Art


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: georgeward
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 03:42 AM

Back in the day of the steam-powered tape deck, Art, as I recall. Cumbersome things they were, too. Better than the squirrels on the treadmill that preceded 'em though.

Ed, this whole quest is learn-as-you-go for us all. Yes, there are collections, and you can (and should) learn as much as you can about using them. But there are also attics, forgotten boxes of papers in historical societies, diaries, poems in newspapers....Lord knows what-all. And the human memory, in all its weirdness. Serendipity and just-plain-accident play a big role.

What you seem to be looking for is one of my favorite things, the really local ballad about specific people and events. They did exist. A few "made it big", like "The Jam on Gerry's Rock." But most of them were so local that they passed with their makers and the old communities those folks lived in.

Just occasionally, somebody caring and inquisitive still turns one up.

Good hunting.

And, indeed, the biggest failing of Mudcat is its inability to let us share that pint while mulling all of this.

- G


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 04:01 AM

Gee, George, can I e-mail a pint to you? I'm sure glad you stopped in at this thread.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 05 Apr 05 - 08:15 AM

Greetings George,

Having been in the Antiques business for the last thirty-five or so years I am all to familiar with climbing through attics, basements, and other moldy, dank places. Yes, I am really after those songs that bring a person or event back to life. It seems to me that there is so much more of the Irish emigrant's experience to tell through song. This has also been of great personal value as I am learning so much more about the life experienced by those of my family that have come before me. One of the greatest benefits is understanding where the deep sense of fair play with-in me comes from.

Have you been to the National Canal Society's museum in Easton, PA? They claim to be in possession of many first person accounts. There was no differentiation offered between those accounts of the lock keepers, muleskinners, or barge captains and crew, and those of the navvy's, so I am hopeful that I can find some accounts of the navvy's there. I would even like to find some of the contractor's journals or pay records.

I have been pondering reading Andrew Leary O'Brien's journal. Do you think I would find this helpful?

Lord willing, we will have our opportunity to hoist a jar or two.

Many thanks to all for your time, suggestions, and insight.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 07 Apr 05 - 01:37 PM

I would like to add as an extension to the comment George made about social status and literacy. Anyone who has actually done manual labor would find that is anything but unskilled as historians are fond of saying. While in Donegal on a trip to Ireland, I marvelled at the complex mazes of ditches farmers made to drain fields and the stone walls they constructed to clear them. The woman whose house we stayed in told us how her neighbors watched with interest her first attempts to turn earth with a spade, then quietly showed her how to use the tool more efficiently and with less effort. The Irish who worked on the canals were very skilled. Unfortunately, the job only paid $1.00-$1.25 a day. I hope to do some digging this weekend at the local historical society.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 06:14 AM

Greetings Brían,

I am of the impression that differentiating people by such measures as determining worth based upon ability is simply to assuage the guilt that comes from the exploitation of these people. In my mind the individuals that carry the rivets in the bucket are no less critical links in the chain of talents that culminates in a bridge then the individuals that engineered the project. After all with-out the talents and efforts of all we would be swimming, wouldn't we?

I also believe that those most downtrodden are the very folks that are more likely to openly express their true emotions. One need not be too concerned about losing stature by expressing contrary notions when one has little to lose to begin with.

Somewhere in the social evolution of man (species not gender) it became important for some men to have more than others. To me this is the fundamental flaw of our species.

I can only dream that one day I too will be graciously offered the lesson of turning the soil with less effort. Thank you for the prospective.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave'sWife
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 06:56 AM

Once upon a time, in the mid-1980's, I was involved in a number of archeological digs at early industrial sites and some historic Mohawk village sites near parts of The Erie Canal. Whenever we were engaged in serious digging, we always sang that song "Low Bridge, everybody down!" It was good for getting us all going.

Young ignoramus that I was then, I was shocked to see that there had been several Erie Canals and in some spots, the oldest canal was still to be seen not far off from the later version. They didn't learn us that in school! We got the old "Clinton's Ditch" lecture and then sped right through to The Meeting of The Waters!

It was a beautiful area to spend the summers, I'll tell ya that. HOT, but beautiful.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 08:02 AM

Thank you for a wonderful story, Dave's Wife. In Portland, Maine we have the Cumberland/Oxfrord canal. there are some remnants left. In fact, when I was much younger there was a bank called the Canal bank that was incorporated to raise funds to build it. I asked a local historian if there are any poems or songs commemorating it. He told me that he is not aware of any. I would like to look further anyway.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Peace
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 04:54 PM

It might be of help to ask here, also.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Brían
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 06:20 PM

Thank you Brucie.

Brían


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave'sWife
Date: 09 Apr 05 - 10:11 PM

One of these days, when I go back for a visit, I'd like to take a cruise down the Erie canal just so I can shout "Low Bridge Everybody Down!" at the top of lungs!

I've splashed around the very old parts of the canal but never actually sailed any of the current Canal. If you want to look into it, go here:
Enjoy "Life in the Past Lane." with Erie Canal Cruise Lines

or:

The NYS page on NYS canals

or, if you want some nifty pictures for your 'puter:
Download desktop images showcasing the spectacular scenery of The New York State


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 08:34 AM

Greetings Brucie,

Thank you, I had been in contact with most of the sites you so graciously located. Most of the accounts available seem to be more related to life on the Canal during the operational years not the building.

I will be off to the National Canal Museum in Easton, PA next week, Lord willing. Can I look for other types of information or accounts for any one else whilst there?

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Leadfingers
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 08:55 AM

Having a mild interest in Canals in UK I read this thread right through , and thought I might add a little . To the best of my knowledge there are NO traditional songs about canal life or the digging of the canals in Britain , most of the crop of songs being
composed pieces for the opening of particular stretches of the system , or fairly recent songs written by people who have done the neccessary research , or ,in the case of David Blagrove , actually worked as a boatman . The navvies certainly did not have the leisure to write songs and in many cases ,nor the education ! And we have a lot more miles of canal than America !
Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice , even .


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Amos
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 09:10 AM

What an excellent thread!

The memory comes to mind of Frank Warner singing "Blue Mountain Lake" in which a gang of men are named all of whom "worked for Griffith on Township 19". I always assumed this song, from upper New York State, was about the building of early roads. But come to think of it, the work is not specified. Some of the men are definitely Irish judging from the names -- e.g., "The Sullivan brothers, and Dandy Pat, too....". But, sorry to say, no indication it was canal work.

A


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 10:54 AM

Amos, that's actually a lumbering song from the Adirondack Mt region of NY, and there are at least a few threads here about it.

Ed, I do know of one British Isles ballad - Johnny Troy - that is documented as having been a favorite of the Irish workers during the digging of the Erie Canal, however, the subject matter of the song has nothing to do with working on the canal. I have an interesting version from NYS that may have direct roots to the version sung on the Erie during the early 1800's...if you're interested, let me know.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 02:18 PM

Greetings Dave,

I would love to get this song from you including the variation. Thank you very much. Please would you also include how the song was known to be sung? You are welcome to email me directly at ed@ejsantiques.com.

Greetings Leadfingers,

I too thought that the navvys may not have composed songs for the same reasons as you cite. I would imagine the emigrants that were handed $5.00 and conscripted to fight for both sides in the Civil War were not of any greater literacy and on balance had no more time than the navvys and their songs from the era survived.

Who knows really but I have faith that one or two will turn up if there is enough digging (ironically enough).

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 13 Apr 05 - 04:40 PM

Ed,

It may take me several days due to a busy gig schedule, but I will post the version to your private email and also here, in case anyone else wants to use it at some point. Back soon.....


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 16 Apr 05 - 07:10 PM

The source crediting "The Ballad of Johnnie Troy" as a song brought from Ireland by the Irish canal diggers and sung during the building of the Erie Canal is an article by Hazel A McCombs in the Autumn 1947 issue of the New York Folklore Quarterly. Lionel Wyld talks of the ballad as well in his book "LOW BRIDGE! Folklore and the Erie Canal", and credits Ms McCombs' article as his source. Her family had lived in the Mohawk Valley along the shores of the old Erie Canal since before the days when it was built in the early 1800's. Here is the ballad as her father remembered it:

THE BALLAD OF JOHNNIE TROY

Young Troy was born in Dublin, that city of great fame
He was born of Irish parents, this country knows the same
For the robbing of a widow, he was sent o'er the main
For seven long years to New South Wales to wear the ball and chain

He had not been in Sydney long before he was consigned
Unto a cruel master who did not use him kind
But with that cruel master he had not long to stay
And like a bold bush ranger he went robbing the highway

Four-and-twenty bush rangers bound in iron strong
Some for highway robbery and some for other crimes
Young Troy amongst their number so solemly he swore
This very night I'll set you free your trials shall be no more

Six brave constables were seated in a row, six brave constables were seated at the bow
They being much surprised when Troy commenced his row
They being much surprised when Troy commenced his rush
Four and twenty prisoners were ready for the bush

Hurrah Hurrah it's now were free we'll pull a good stiff oar
We'll smash and break these handcuffs, E'er we gain the shore
We'll smash and break these handcuffs and then we'll shout for joy
It's then we'll sing the praises of gallant Johnnie Troy

Johnnie Troy, Bill Harrington, Jack Jackson and Ed Dunn
As four brave bushmen as ever handled a gun
Said Johnnie Troy to Bill Harrington "load every man your piece
For this very night I'm going to fight against the horse police"

The first man they met was an old man on the road
Johnnie Troy steps up to him and these words he did say
"Your gold watch and your money I quickly do demand
Or your brains I'll blow out instantly if you refuse my stand"

"Sure it's a watch or a clock I never had" the old man did reply
"For a heavy family each day I do provide
I was banished from the shamrock shore for bein a wild Irish lad"
"If that be true you shant be robbed" said gallant Johnnie Troy

The old man being mounted, was about to ride away
Says Troy "Here's fifty pounds old man to help you on your way"
The poor I always help but the rich I do destroy
This country knows me right round well they call me Johnnie Troy

At last poor Troy was captured and he was condemned to die
The twelfth day of November on Sydneys gallows high
The poor they gathered round him and they raised a mournful cry
Alas there goes that gallant youth they called him Johnnie Troy


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: georgeward
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 01:55 AM

Amos. "Blue Mountain Lake" is a lumbering song. "Old Griffin", in the ballad, owned the Griffin Lumber Company in Glens Falls, NY. Even owned a radio station, WGLC, on the wall of which - according to the late and much-missed "Daddy Dick" Richards - a copy of the ballad was posted. It is a floating song, though. I sing two versions, with two different casts of characters, and know of at least two others, one involving not BML but Lake Bomoseen in VT. Alas, I've no text for that one.

Dave, I'd love to hear your "Johnny Troy" sometime. What tune do you use ? Bad question for me to ask, really, as I can't offhand give you another name for the tune I use. My text comes from the same source. My recollection is that Ezra "Fuzzy" Barheidt (sp ?), whom Ellen Steckert recorded down in the southern tier, also sang it, and that I use another tune of his that I liked better. Too late at night to go digging. I'll check later.

-G


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 17 Apr 05 - 10:03 AM

George,

I don't really perform the song - at least not yet - but I do have it in a folder, and have been meaning to learn it. I have a copy of some of Ellen Stekert's field recordings of Ezra "Fuzzy" Barhight, and his melody would indeed be the one I would use. There's an interesting connection there too - Barhight learned the song from the Irish lumbermen & farmers he worked with along the NY/PA border. The area around where he farmed in the summertime in southern Allegany Co. (NY) was initially settled by some Irish laborers who came down there to build the railroad. Lo and behold, these were the same men who had helped enlargen the Erie Canal in the 1830's & 1840's before going down to Allegany Co. for railroad work. So...I like to fantasize that the melody that Barhight learned and sang to Stekert was directly related to the strain sung on the old E-RI-E.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 07:48 AM

Greetings Dave,

Thank you very much for this ballad and its provenance. This works on two accounts for me. One as it is obviously a song of the Emigrant and indeed related to the Canal building era, two as it is a song of the treatment of the Irish as well as their sense of fair play.

Do you have a recording of Ezra "Fuzzy" Barhight singing this song amongst your copy of Ellen Stekert's field recordings? If so I would love to hear it someday.

Greetings George,

Any chance of my taking a road trip this Summer and gathering some songs from you? We could certainly lift a jar or two face to face!

To the both of you I say a hearty Thank you. Your benevolence is inspiring.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 07:56 AM

Ed,

I do have a recording of Barhight singing the song. Ellen Stekert also put out her own recording on the Folkways label of her versions of his songs, and Johnnie Troy is included on it. It is titled "Songs of a New York Lumberjack" or something similar to that, and I'll bet you could find it at a public library, used record store or perhaps order it online from Folkways.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 04:22 PM

By the way, Ed, FYI I tried to email your private address as listed above with the lyrics, but it came back to me as undeliverable


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST
Date: 18 Apr 05 - 11:44 PM

Dave's right about the title of Ellen Steckert's album. The old Folkways catalogue # for the vinyl dinosaur is Folkways FA 2345. Easy enough to remember. Smithsonian Folkways can probably oblige.

"Johnny Troy" has always intrigued me, because - at least when I learned it - so little seemed to be known about it. Ellen herself, writing in 1958, could find it only in US collections, not in Australia , Ireland or England. Almost fifty more years and the internet may have changed that.

BTW, I haven't checked. Is this puppy in the DT, or do we need to do a Lyr. Add, since Dave has been good enough to post the text ? Think I'll check right now, while I think of it.

Ed, my "schedule" is a wonderfully inconsistent thing, but I will be around for parts of the summer.Or so it appears now. Any chance of you coming to Old Songs ?

- G


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: georgeward
Date: 19 Apr 05 - 03:37 AM

GUEST above was me with a lost-cookie-now-restored.

JT * is* in the DT, tune file included. Posted by Dick in 1996. The text is from Gardiner's Michigan collection. A bit different from Hazel McCombs's that Dave posted above, but the same song. Enter "Johnny Troy", and it comes right up.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 19 Apr 05 - 07:40 AM

Greetings George,

I know all to well about "Wonderfully Inconsistent" schedules. I just may make Old Songs this Summer. I haven't done anything like it in thirty years. If not I will stay in touch an enquire if it seems I can take a trip "up North". My musical journey has effectively been reborn over the last three years. I guess a late start is better than no start at all.

Greetings Dave,

I tested the email address I provided and it worked although it was slow to come through. Perhaps my domain host was backed up and your email timed out and was returned. Who knows when it comes to this mysterious thing called the Internet. I'll run down Ellen's recording.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Liam's Brother
Date: 19 Apr 05 - 11:32 PM

Is someone able to post the text of

"Song of the (Erie) Canal"

We are digging the ditch through the mire;
Through he mud and the slime and the mire, by heck!
And the mud is our principal hire;
Up our pants, in our shirts, down our neck, by heck!
etc.

Thanks.

All the best,
Dan


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Peace
Date: 19 Apr 05 - 11:39 PM

Ed,

This thread is a work of beauty. The info is priceless. Thank you for starting it. I used to hang out as a child by a disused part of the old Lachine Canal in Montreal. It seemed to be a 'spur line' leading to the canal itself. Dark, mysterious, fearsome in many ways, and attractive to kids, a few of whom met their ends in its oily water. You have brought back many memories for me.

Bruce M


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: ejsant
Date: 04 May 05 - 07:40 AM

Greetings George,

I received your CD "Oh! That Low Bridge". Wow! It is brilliant, thank you so much.

Greetings Bruce,

It seems a little odd to me to be thanked for having gained so much from my enquiry but I am truly glad this thread has offered you so much. I believe the real thanks should go to the folks that have contributed all this great information.

Greetings Dave,

I received my copy of Ellen Stekert's "Songs of a New York Lumberjack". Boy does that bring me back a number of years to the camp out sing songs as a kid. I don't specifically recall any of the songs on the tape but definitely some aspects of their stories. Another time and place for me to be sure.

Greetings All,

Once again I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all that have offered direction to me in my quest to better understand the life of my forefathers here in the US through their songs and tales. Your unselfish sharing of your knowledge is inspiring. My only hope is that I too can offer to another that which has been given to me here.

Peace,
Ed


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: Dave Ruch
Date: 29 Aug 05 - 12:04 PM

Hello, and thanks, Bob! Apologies for not spotting your illuminating posts before now. I must have been distracted back in June when you posted the last two messages.

Very interesting stuff. I've seen those three ballads (Johnnie Troy, The Wild Colonial Boy and Bold Jack Donohue) listed over here in the US as a trio of unique songs within the theme of Irish convicts in Australia; great to have your perspective on their common source. There have been other versions of the Johnnie Troy story over here under the title "John Detroy".

I wish I knew how to read the tune you took the time to lay out here, and could reciprocate with the tune Ezra Barhight sang. I will try to investigate further as time allows.


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Subject: RE: American Canal Builder's Songs
From: GUEST,alexovenden696@hotmail.com
Date: 24 Oct 05 - 09:02 PM

I don't exactly know how I got to American Canal Builders' Songs from where I was. I wanted to tell the site webmasters that the lyrics given, in the general song lyrics section, for a song called "The Wild Colonial Boy" include several mistakes. I read about "Calais, Maine" for example, when it should be Castlemaine, a small city in Australia. One of the posters to this thread did include the (more or less) correct lyrics in his post, but it seems that no-one has noticed the mistakes in the version given in the official version on the site. I draw this conclusion because now, two months after the last post here, the lyrics still contain their americanised mistakes. Perhaps someone could copy and paste the correct lyrics and delete the incorrect ones?

Love the site, by the way. It seems you have created a bit of a monster, judging by the number of people contributing to all of those many, many threads. Congratulations!


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