Song origin

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Song origin

Postby finnobreanan on Wed May 12, 2010 2:04 pm

I'm hoping someone can help me with this. I have been a long time fan of the group "Steal Eye Span", (showing my age!) One of their songs is When I was on Horseback. Question: does anyone know the origin of this song and what battle/conflict it originated from? I can find nothing happening in Cork on May 14.

The tune was used by Irish-American immigrants in Texas and adapted to become Streets of Laredo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q4BrtuM5mU

Here are the lyrics:

When I was on horseback wasn't I pretty.
When I was on horseback wasn't I gay.
Wasn’t I pretty when I entered cork city.
And met with my downfall on the fourteenth of May.

Six jolly soldiers to carry my coffin.
Six jolly soldiers to march by my side.
Its six jolly soldiers take a bunch of red roses.
Then for to smell them as we go along.

Beat the drum slowly and play the pipes only.
Play up the dead-march as we go along.
And bring me to Tipperary and lay me down easy.
I am a young soldier that never done wrong.

When I was on horseback wasn't I pretty.
When I was on horseback wasn't I gay.
Wasn’t I pretty when I entered cork city.
And met with my downfall on the fourteenth of May.
Finn O'Breanan
Wood Kerne

"...The O'Brennans, a sept of thieves without any right or title, ... were a perpetual disturbance to the peace of the county,"
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Re: Song origin

Postby Velund on Fri May 14, 2010 2:13 am

This seems to be a hard case.
Have you seen this link:
http://www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/~z ... eback.html

from there:
One of countless songs of the Unfortunate Rake family. While each telling a completely different story, they all share the description of the funeral (here verses 2 and 3). This version is Irish and is the most stripped down I know, consisting of virtually nothing but the funeral. It is worth noting that most versions have it “…I know I've done wrong” while here it's “…that never done wrong”.

The Fiddler's Companion ( here) says the following:

BARD OF ARMAGH. AKA and see "Phelim Brady." Irish, Air (3/8 time, "plaintive"). D Major. Standard tuning. One part. The air can be found throughout Britain and Ireland, and is the same as that of "The Unfortuate Rake [3]," an 18th century lament which tells of a dying young man. “The Bard of Armagh” has been attributed to Thomas Campbell, written in 1801. Other songs set to the tune are, in Ireland, "The convict of Clonmel" andWhen I was on horseback,” and in America, "The Streets of Laredo, “The Cowboy’s Lament" and "St. James Hospital" (in Sharp and Karpeles English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians). English derivations of the song can be be found printed in broadsides from the mid-19th century, including "The unfortunate lad" and "The bad girl's lament." A Scottish version is “The Road to Dundee.”

yet...no answer to your question:(.
Loads of stuff for reenactors of medieval Europe - casting, armour, leather
http://armourandcastings.com/
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Re: Song origin

Postby finnobreanan on Fri May 14, 2010 7:09 pm

Thanks Velund, at least I know more now than I did before! That's the trouble with old traditional songs, they go back so far that the true origins are often shrouded in the haze of time.
Finn O'Breanan
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"...The O'Brennans, a sept of thieves without any right or title, ... were a perpetual disturbance to the peace of the county,"
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Re: Song origin

Postby the_power on Sat May 15, 2010 2:25 pm

Amusingly, the air is also used for "the Irish Reenactor song". Any remember the lyrics?

"As I walked out in a small town in Ireland, as I walked out in a small town one day,
I saw a young man, all dressed up in linen, in the old Irish way.
Oh I see by your curtain that you're a Reenactor, you can see by my Curtain that I am one so.
So lets to an ale house, to indulge in some quaffing, and maybe some wenching, as reenactors do."
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Re: Song origin

Postby Jess de Búrca Monty on Sat May 15, 2010 4:22 pm

I dunno about the origins of either tune except that the "Irish Re-enactor" song is defintely borrowing heavily from one I've heard round English re-enactment campfires from many moons ago.
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Re: Song origin

Postby Dave Mooney on Sun May 16, 2010 7:51 am

Francis Devenney is always singing that curtain version. Ask him.
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Re: Song origin

Postby finnobreanan on Sun May 16, 2010 4:52 pm

the_power wrote:Amusingly, the air is also used for "the Irish Reenactor song". Any remember the lyrics?

"As I walked out in a small town in Ireland, as I walked out in a small town one day,
I saw a young man, all dressed up in linen, in the old Irish way.
Oh I see by your curtain that you're a Reenactor, you can see by my Curtain that I am one so.
So lets to an ale house, to indulge in some quaffing, and maybe some wenching, as reenactors do."

Love it!
Finn O'Breanan
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Re: Song origin

Postby the_power on Sun May 16, 2010 7:34 pm

So we went to an ale house, to talk about stitching,
and whether our material to period was true,
His leine was machine stitched, his curtain was draylon,
so I felt superior, as reenactors do.

<chorus>

forgotten line..
forgotten line..
I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.
All were impressed, by the length of our swords.

<chorus>

anyone know the rest ?

For the curious, the bouzouki/mandolin tab for the tune is; http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/mando ... Laredo.htm

John
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Re: Song origin

Postby brendan on Mon May 17, 2010 10:57 am

@Dave: Being very formal aren't you? And I am sure that I have heard Fran singing at least 1 other song :)
...it is a funny song though. mind you not as 'current' as it used to be
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Re: Song origin

Postby ronanocaoimh on Tue May 18, 2010 8:57 am

Hey Finn, the air to that tune sounds like a slowed down version of 'The Bould Fenian Men'. The lyrics seem to be a mix and match of a few songs, the second verse is a version of one of the last verses of 'The Newry Highwayman' and the third verse seems to be a version of a verse from the 'Locke Hospital', I think it was in Christy Moores 'Prosperous' album. It seemed to happen fairly regularly with English folk bands, they would grab a verse from here and there and stick an old air to it and pass it off as a old/new song.


Hope that helps.
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