Paul Brady’s version of Arthur McBride was seemingly the first recorded on the album Andy Irvine and Paul Brady (still considered one of the finest recordings of Irish traditional song to date.) Andy would later record it with Planxty, but I love the melody here as Paul sings it best. If you want to hear Andy’s newer “tarted up version” click here.
This song was collected around 1840 in Limerick by P.W. Joyce. He believed it to originally come from Donegal, based on the phraseology of the song. It’s an anti-recruiting song similar in theme to The Kerry Recruit, Mrs. McGrath and Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye.; and there are many more. Along with The Landlord and The Excise Man, the Recruiting Sergeant was a popular target for poetic ire, because he conscripted young Irishmen to fight on behalf of England.
In the mid-eighteenth century, if an English soldier took off his uniform, the minimum penalty was twenty-five lashes with a cat-o-nine-tails, and 1500 lashes the maximum. Average pay was eightpence a day.
Oh me and my cousin, one Arthur McBride
As we went a walkin’ down by the seaside
Now mark what followed and what did betide
It being on Christmas morning
Out for recreation we went on a tramp
And we met Sergeant Knacker and Corporal Cramp (or Vamp)
And a little wee drummer intending to camp
For the day being pleasant and charming
This is a variant on the song Barrack Street, sometimes Patrick Street, with words and music by Bob Bickerton. This is a New Zealander’s take on the old song tradition of a young man being deceived by a fair young woman. It’s performed in a reasonably well-known version from Andy Irvine.
The Close Shave
Come gather round you diggers all who work the goldfields rare
It’s of a trick was played on me and it’s caused me to despair
I came to town the other day me precious gold to trade
And there I met a pretty maid who did me heart betray
And her lips were red as roses and her eyes a deep sky blue
Her hair was yellow as the gold she stole from me and you
We went into a Public House and there we did imbibe
Whiskey and strong porter and dreadful stuff beside
‘T was then she asked me up to bed to which I did agree
But truth to tell I fell asleep before she’d earned her fee
Here’s another As I Rode Out in lovely performance by Kate Rusby with Cathy Jordan and the band Dervish. This version was made famous by Plantxy in 1073 and supposedly comes from the singing of the great Paddy Tunny.
We learned this sad and beautiful song from the singing of Paddy Tunney who lives in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. He has described it as dating back to the days of the famine, when any bit of property at all was enough to tempt a man to jilt his true love in favour of the lassie with the land. – Andy Irvine
As I Roved Out
As I roved out on a fine May morning
To view the meadows and flowers gay,
Who should I spy but my own true lover
As she sat under yon willow tree.
I took off my hat and I did salute her,
I did salute her most courageously.
When she turned around, well the tears fell from her,
Sayin’, “False young man, you have deluded me!
“A diamond ring I owned I gave you,
A diamond ring to wear on your right hand.
But the vows you made, love, you went and broke them
And married the lassie that had the land.”