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Mrs McGrath
(Roud 678)
Sean Boyle
Mount Scott, Mullagh
Recorded in Katty’s Bar, Mullagh in the 1980s

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

‘Oh, then Mrs McGrath,’ the sergeant said,
‘I’ll make a soldier of your son Ted,
With a scarlet coat and a big straw hat,
Mrs McGrath, wouldn't you like that?’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

With a big straw hat and a scarlet coat,
She bid him good bye at the door of the boat,
Saying, ‘Teddy a-grá won’t you come back to me,
When you’ll fight all the Russians and the Queen’s navy?’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

Ah, Mrs McGrath lived near the sea shore,
For the space of seven long years or more.
Then she spied a ship coming in one day,
Saying, ‘Here comes Teddy, clear away!’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

And Teddy landed without any legs,
Instead of them, he had two wooden pegs.
And after a dozen auld kisses or two,
She shouts out, ‘Teddy is that you?’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

‘And, was you drunk or was you blind,
When you left your two fine legs behind?’
‘But a canon ball on the fourth of May
Swept my legs from my arse away.’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

‘Oh, the mighty war I will proclaim,
Against the King and the Queen of Spain.
And I’ll make t’auld Kaiser rue the day,
That swept my Teddy’s legs away.’

Chorus
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra;
With my too-ri-ra, fol-di-diddle-la, too-ri, roo-ri, roo-ri-ra.

“This song was said by Colm O Lochlainn, who learned it while serving in the forces, to be ‘known by every true citizen of Dublin’. He went on to say that in the years 1913 to 1916, it was the most popular marching song of the Irish Volunteers. The Bedfordshire singer David Parrott, who sang it for Fred Hamer, said it was sung by one of his ancestors who had served at Waterloo. Alan Lomax described it as a common Irish ballad. The version he arranged and published begins,

I have two sons and a son-in law,
Fightin’ in the wars of America.
But I don’t know if I’ll see them more,
Or whether they’ll visit old Ireland’s shore.

Sam Henry’s Tyrone version ‘My Son Ted’, which he describes as ‘a song of the Peninsular Wars’ in ‘Songs of the People’, is followed by a similar one entitled ‘Lovely Jamie’ which has much in common with it but is set in Sebastopol. It appeared on a broadside around the middle of the 19th century and was published in ‘The Clown’s Comic Songster’ in 1864.”

Reference:
Irish Street Ballads, Colm O Lochlainn, 1946.
Garners Gay, Fred Hamer (N.D.).
Folk Songs of North America, Alan Lomax, 1960.
Jim Carroll


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