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Lyr/Tune Req: The Green Fields of Canada

22 Jul 99 - 10:23 AM (#98002)
Subject: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Annraoi

Does anyone have the words and music for this song ? It begins:- Farewll to the groves of Shillelagh and shamrock, Farewell to the girls of Old Ireland all round.

It's an emigration song, but that's as much as I can garner. There's also mention of the departing of journeymen tailors and fiddlers "who flaked out the old mountain reels." Annraoi

22 Jul 99 - 10:26 AM (#98005)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Annraoi

Sorry, Folks, I've just got the whole song - but not the tune - from the Database. My apologies again. Annraoi

22 Jul 99 - 10:33 AM (#98008)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Den

Hi Annnraoi the song is on a Planxty album song by Andy Irvine. I think it may be on the Cold Blow and the Rainy night album if memory serves. Den

22 Jul 99 - 02:28 PM (#98088)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Joe Offer

Click here for the lyrics. Are there any other recordings of the song that anybody likes particularly well?
-Joe Offer-

22 Jul 99 - 03:39 PM (#98132)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Liam's Brother

Paddy Tunney on Folk-Legacy available via their website. Folk-Legacy offers this only as a custom made cassette (at no additional cost). Paddy told me a couple of years ago that he felt this was his best recording so, if you'd like to hear a master in top form, this could be your best bet.

The Planxty rendition comes from Paddy Tunney, by the way.

All the best, Dan

22 Jul 99 - 03:55 PM (#98142)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: bigJ

Re: Green Fields of Canada see:

Tim Lyons - The Green Linnet LP (1972)- Leader 3036.
Sean Cannon - The Roving Journeyman LP (1977) - Cottage Records COT411.
Paul Brady - Feed the Folk LP (1985) - Temple Records FTP01
Hiuse Band - The House Band LP (1985) - Topic 12TS439.
Mick Ryan - Alone Agen (self produced - very good cassette) (1995).

23 Jul 99 - 04:09 AM (#98385)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Wolfgang

and on: Mick Moloney et al., Kilkelly


23 Jul 99 - 06:35 AM (#98404)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: John Moulden

Paddy Tunney's "Green Fields of Canada" has a much longer relative on Ballad Sheets, called the "Green Fields of America." It is virtually certain that lines in Paddy's version, like the one Henry (I'm being stubborn - he was Henry when I met him forty years ago, and the same when I met him over coffee yesterday) quoted - "Away o'er the ocean go journeymen tailors, and fiddlers who flaked out the ould mountain reels" to say nothing of dancers taking "splanks" out of the stone floor with their hobnails, are poetic fancies of Paddy's added to what he received traditionally.

Not that such an act is objectionable - rather the reverse, but some people might like to play "spot the Tunneyism" in Paddy's songs - how about his "Out of the window" which has the line "Where hand-slapping dealers loud shouts rend the air"?

23 Jul 99 - 08:20 AM (#98425)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Liam's Brother

Because of John's comments above, I pulled out an old broadside of the Green Fields of America printed by Henry Disley. (Not the Henry with whom John was having coffee, I guess.) Just as John says, there are no fiddlers flaking out old mountain reels, though that is a great image.

I think the last verse is worth repeating...

The ship is now waiting the anchor is weighing,
Farewell to the land I am going to leave.
My Mary she left both her father and mother
With me to cross the western wave.
I'll fill a bumper when we're on our passage
And this is the toast from my heart I will say,
Here's health and long life to those that have courage
To go to the free land of America.

This song is included in an excellent book entitled "Thousands Are Sailing: a Brief Song History of Irish Emigration" that John Moulden put together in 1994. (My recollection is that it is not expensive and can be easily gotten via the Ulstersongs website.) John dates the song to between 1810 - 1820 which, of course, makes it quite old.

All the best,

23 Jul 99 - 09:34 AM (#98453)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: PKD on Teesside

This is one of my favourite, all time great songs. It is on more than one of Paddy Tunney's recordings.

A funny little foot-note. The sleeve notes of one of Paddy's recordings gives the lyric as "pack up your sisters" rather than "pack up your sea-stores". Paddy doesn't sing this - it is in the ears of whoever transcribed the lyrics. However, I have heard more than one singer who learned the song from this source packing up his sisters. What do they mean, I ask myself?

I find this very interesting as it illustrates how the advent of the written word and "mass-entertainment" has distorted the folk process. By which I mean that everyone mis-hears and mis-sings the original lyric, but the written word, and the availability of "definitive" versions, frozen in time, gives a disproportionately wide affect to a single performance.

And I do recognise the conflict between the need to disseminate songs and the need to let them evolve.

Hobby-horses to the fore !



24 Jul 99 - 04:15 PM (#98893)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: bigJ

Just as a footnote to the Planxty version in the database, and for those who might not have the Folk Legacy recording, Paddy Tunney's version as published in his book The Stone Fiddle differs thus:-

Verse 5
The lint dams are dry and the looms are all broken,
The coopers are gone and the winders of creels,
Away o'er the ocean go journeymen tailors,
And fiddlers who flaked out the old mountain reels.

Verse 6 as database (more or less)

Verse 7
Farewell to the dances in homes now deserted,
When tips struck the lightening in splanks from the floor,
The paving and crigging of hobnails on flagstones
The tears of the old folk and shouts of encore.

Verse 8
For the landlords and bailiffs in vile combination,
Have forced us from hearthstone and homestead away
May the crowbar brigade all be doomed to damnation
When we're on the fields of Americay.

Verse 9
The timber grows thick on the slopes of Columbia
With Douglas in grandeur two hundred feet tall,
The salmon and sturgeon dam streamlet and river,
And the high Rocky Mountains look down on it all.

Verse 10
On the prairie and plain sure the wheat waves all golden
The maple gives sugar to sweeten your tay.
You won't want for corn cob way out in Saskatchewan
When you're in the green fields of Americay.

Verse 11
And if you grow weary of pleasure and plenty
Of fruit from the orchard and fish from the foam,
There's health and good hunting 'way back in the forests
Where herds of great moose and wild buffalo roam.

Verse 12 as verse 7 in database.

25 Jul 99 - 03:57 AM (#99017)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Amerikay
From: Philippa

When you're looking up The Green Fields of Canada in the DT, have a look also at The Green Fields of Amerikay, from the Sam Henry collection.

25 Jul 99 - 11:00 AM (#99052)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Susan of DT

We have three songs in the DT, with variant titles (seems like time to give it a DT number): The Green Fields of Canada, The Green Fields of Americay, and The Green Fields of America (2)

25 Jul 99 - 11:25 AM (#99057)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: John Moulden

The version given by bigJ above exemplifies what I said about Paddy Tunney's poetic additions.

25 Jul 99 - 04:29 PM (#99090)
Subject: RE: The Green Fields of Canada.
From: Henry

Thanks, John, for outing me. I might have guessed you would refuse to let me hide myself away. You're right, of course, about Paddy's additions. Their poeticism may be subject to analysis but you can't gainsay the traditionalism behind it. A small point but an interesting one from the language point of view, the "splanks" that were being ris' from the stone floor is derived from the irish word, "splannc" meaning a flash of light / spark. HOP

05 Aug 15 - 01:51 PM (#3728407)
Subject: Canada/America?
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar

I've recently been learning this tune as a slow air on the pipes, and came to the Mudcat for two reasons: first, to find the words as a guide to the phrasing of the tune, and second to settle a bantering argument with my teacher about whether the fields in question are of Canada (my preference), America (his) or indeed Amerikay. Once I had found the words here, I became interested in any discussion of the likely age of the song

This seems as good a thread to revive as any of the others on the topic - I have 10 tabs open on my PC by now in an unsuccessful effort to find the definitive or preferred thread.

First, here's a short video on lint dams - with commentary appropriately in an Ulster accent. This confirms that lint dams are used for extracting linen fibres from raw flax, in a process known as retting (cue "Gone with the Wind" diversion). Linen production in Ireland was particularly concentrated in Ulster.

The reference to lint dams in the song allows me to make a wild shortcut argument that emigration from Ulster is more likely to have been to Canada (that may be true or false, but politicians get elected on the basis of less rigorous logic).

My second argument in favour of Canada is that in several verses the word Canada fits the scansion scheme better (notably in the first two verses of DT THE GREEN FIELDS OF AMERICA (3)).

One of the threads refers to the dating of the song to 1810-1820. That confirms my hunch that it relates to the recession created by the outbreak of peace after the Napoleonic wars, a recession that Milo Minderbender would have understood. Moreover, as US independence was still relatively recent then, the distinction between Canada and America may not have seemed so important.

Finally, a word on the melody. It's a slow version of a tune that is most commonly heard now as the hornpipe "Poll Ha'penny ".

05 Aug 15 - 02:44 PM (#3728421)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: The Green Fields of Canada
From: Jim Carroll

Clare County Library
Jim Carroll

05 Aug 15 - 04:09 PM (#3728447)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: The Green Fields of Canada
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar

Thank you, Jim.

I've seen comments that this song is unusual in that the singer embraces emigration in a positive frame of mind, which is not usually the case with most emigration songs.

That, and the fact that it refers to Canada (now a popular destination for 21st-century emigration from Ireland), makes it a song for our times 200 years on. To quote one of our cack-handed politicians, it presents emigration as a "lifestyle choice" - or, in the worldview of the economists who have become our new priestly caste, as a rational response to economic restructuring in a globalised environment.

This positive attitude to emigration (feck it, the country's banjaxed, I'm getting out of here while I still have a life ahead of me) could also explain the brisk delivery commented on in the song notes Jim links to.

05 Aug 15 - 07:40 PM (#3728482)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: The Green Fields of Canada
From: Jim Carroll

One of my favourite introductions to the song wag given by Ewan MacColl when he used it to introduce Paddy Tunney's rendition of it on the magnificent series of programmes, The Song Carriers, back in the mid sixties.
"Paddy Tunney, a fragment of whose singing you heard a moment ago, has the same marvellous feeling for tempo. Here he is, singing an Irish exile song, "The Green Fields of Canada"!
This highly dramatic piece is in the form of a lament. Tunney's approach to it is revealing. He uses an almost laconic style of utterance, quite unlike his usual lyrical approach. Even his voice is pitched down and the decorations (which are so to speak his personal trademark) are used very sparingly. Surprisingly, and contrary to the usual lamentation style, he takes the song at a rather brisk tempo. Now most exile songs place the singer on a foreign shore and we are asked to picture him sitting down and gazing sorrowfully across a wide expanse of sea. The mood is usually one of stillness. In "The Green Fields of Canada", the singer is about to leave Ireland and Tunney's toned-down, rather brisk singing creates for us the picture of a man walking towards the quay-side where the ship waits which will carry him away from his native land. He walks quickly, not daring to turn round for fear his heart should break."
MacColl updated it for the Philip Donellan film, The Irishman around the same time, it was sung by Paul Lenihan from Dublin, on the soundtrack.
In my opinion, some of MacColl's best songs were composed for the film
Jim Carroll


Farewell to the groves of Shillelagh and Shamrock,
Farewell to the girls of old Ireland all round.
May their hearts be as merry as ever I would wish them,
When I'm away from my own native land.

My mother is old and my father defeated,
By hard work and poverty; it grieves my heart sore
To see them so patient with all hope departed,
And now I must leave them for a foreign shore.

Then farewell to the green hills and lakes of Killarney,
Farewell to the white strand where green billows roll;
Farewell to Blackwater and to wild Connemara,
The pinched face of charity and life on the dole.

The pastures are fenced and the woods are protected,
The pheasant and partridge they nest in the field;
While away 'cross the ocean go journeymen tailors,
And fiddlers who flaked out the old mountain reels.

Young boys and old men and the fathers of children,
In search of employment from Ireland must go;
Abandoned, disinherited, the landless of Ireland,
From Kerry, Cork and Leitrim and the County Mayo.

Then it's pack up your bag and consider no longer,
The boat's at the quay, so it's shoulder your load;
Turn the key in the door, take a last look at Ireland,
The land's for the bullock and the men for the road.

Re-written from a song of the same name recorded from Paddy Tunney of Beleek, Co. Fermanagh and used in a film called 'The Irishmen', about building labourers from Ireland working in Britain.

05 Aug 15 - 08:01 PM (#3728488)
Subject: RE: Lyr/Tune Req: The Green Fields of Canada
From: GUEST,#

It's available by a few artists on YouTube.