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The Drunkard’s Dream
(Roud 722)
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer’s home, July 1980

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

Oh, Dermot you look healthy now,
Your dress is neat and clean.
I’ve never seen you drunk about;
Oh tell me where you've been.

Your wife and children they’re all well,
You won’t still use them strange.
Or do you, kinder to them grown?
How came this happy change?

It was a dream, a warning dream,
That Heaven sent to me.
To snatch me from the drunkard's curse:
Grim want and misery.

My wages all were spent in drink,
And what a wretched view.
I almost broke my Mary’s heart,
And starved my children too.

What was home or wife to me?
I heeded not her sighs.
Her patient smile would welcome me
Though the tears bedimmed her eyes.

My children too, they’ve oft a-woke,
‘Oh father dear’, they’d say.
‘Poor mother has been weeping so
Because we have no bread.’

Oh Mary’s form did waste away,
I’ve seen her sunken eye.
In straw my bed in sickness lay
And I heard that wailing cry.

I sang and laughed in drunken joy,
While Mary’s tears did stream.
And like a beast I fell asleep
And had this warning dream.

I dreamt once more I straggled home,
There seemed a solemn gloom.
I missed my wife, where has she been?
And strangers in the room.

I heard them say, ‘Poor thing she’s dead.
She led a wretched life.
Grief and want has broke her heart,
Who’d be a drunkard’s wife?’

I saw my children kneeling round,
I scarcely drew my breath.
They called and kissed her lifeless form,
For ever cold and dead.

‘Oh father come, and wake her up,
The people say she’s dead.
Oh make her speak and smile once more;
We’ll cry no more for bread.’

‘She is not dead,’ I frantic cried.
And rushed to where she lay.
And madly kissed her once warm lips,
For ever cold as clay.

‘Oh Mary, speak one word to me.
No more I’ll cause you pain.
No more I’ll grieve your loving heart,
Or ever drink again.’

While Mary speaks, tis Dermot’s call,
‘Why so I do,’ she cried.
I awoke and through my Mary dear
Was kneeling by my side.

I pressed her to my throbbing heart,
And joyous tears did stream.
And ever since I’ve Heaven blessed
For sending me that dream.


Conversation after the song between Martin Reidy, Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll:
Martin: That’s it now.
Jim: That’s a lonesome old song, isn’t it?
Martin: Very lonesome, sure.
Jim: Did you ever see that in a ballad, Martin?
Martin: Well twas in a songbook I got it. I used to buy a lot of songbooks. When I’d go to town and I young I’d be going down to Caseys for a songbook.
Jim: Where did you get the airs for the songs then?
Martin: The airs? Ah you’d get ‘em yourself, put ‘em on yourself.

“Ozark collector Vance Randolph described this as ‘a common English Broadside Entitled “The Husband’s Dream”’. It has hardly put in an appearance in Britain and Ireland but this is more likely due to the early collectors baulking at its moralising, ‘broadsidey’ nature, than to its popularity among English country singers. It was enormously popular in America, where it appeared in ‘Wehmann’s Irish Songbook, Book 2’ (1889) and ‘O’Connor’s Irish Come-all Ye’s’ (1901), though there is no indication of it having any Irish connections. A clue to its age can be found in an American note:

‘I have seen a printed copy, probably clipped from some old farm magazine, with the prefatory comment: "An English song, as sung by Fred Hill, an English sailor and ordinary seaman on board the United States sloop-of-war Portsmouth, West Coast of Africa, 1850. Miss Lucile Morris, Springfield, Mo., Jan. 16, 1935, showed me a manuscript copy dated 1857, which began: ‘Why, DeMont, you are healthy now!’”

The note to an American version reads:
‘Sung by Mrs. Judy Jane Whittaker, Anderson, Mo., Apr. 16, 1928. "This certainly is an old song," says Mrs. Whittaker. "I learned it from my mother when I was just about knee-high, an' I'm nearly eighty now."’

Ozark Folksongs (vol. 2); Collected and edited by Vance Randolph, Univ. of Missouri Press, 1980.
Jim Carroll

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