Kelligrews Soiree, The

DESCRIPTION: "You may talk of... anything you choose, But it couldn't hold a snuff-box to the spree at Kelligrews." A thoroughly exaggerated account: "There was birch rine, tar twine, cherry wine, and turpentine," and so forth, ad nauseum.
AUTHOR: John Burke (1851-1930)
EARLIEST DATE: 1938 (Doyle)
KEYWORDS: humorous nonballad party dancing
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (14 citations):
Fowke/Johnston, pp. 110-112, "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke/MacMillan 35, "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Blondahl, pp. 25-26, "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle2, pp. 16-17, "The Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle3, pp. 36-37, "The Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle4, pp. 32-33, "The Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Doyle5, pp. 46-47, "The Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mills, pp. 11-13, "Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
English-Newfoundland, pp. 56-57, "The Kelligrew's Soiree" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, KSOIREE
ADDITIONAL: Johnny Burke (William J. Kirwin, editor), _John White's Collection of Johnny Burke Songs_, Harry Cuff Publications, St. John's, 1981, #19, pp. 34-35, "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text)
Johnny Burke, _Burke's Popular Songs_, self-published, 1929 (a PDF is available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. [19], "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text)
Johnny Burke (John White, Editor), _Burke's Ballads_, no printer listed, n.d. (PDF available on Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. 22 "The Kelligrews' Soiree" (1 text)
Johnny Burke, _Burke's Christmas Songster 1926_, self-published, 1926 (PDF copy avallable on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), [no page number], "The Kelligrews Soiree" (1 text)

Roud #4430
RECORDINGS:
Omar Blondahl, "The Kelligrews Soiree" (on NFOBlondahl01)
Clare O'Driscoll, "Kelligrew's Soiree" (on MUNFLA/Leach)

CROSS-REFERENCES:
cf. "The Irish Jubilee"
cf. "Finnegan's Wake" [Laws Q17]
SAME TUNE:
The Teapots at the Fire (File: Blon027)
The Wreck of the Torhamvan, The (The Wreck of the Toravan) (File: ML3Tormha)
Mary Joe Slip on Your Bloomers for the Blueberries Now Are Ripe (by Johnny Burke) (Johnny Burke (William J. Kirwin, editor), _John White's Collection of Johnny Burke Songs_, Harry Cuff Publications, St. John's, 1981, #49, pp. 78-79) (Johnny Burke, _Burke's Popular Songs_, self-published, 1929 (a PDF is available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. [4]) (Johnny Burke (John White, Editor), _Burke's Ballads_, no printer listed, n.d. (PDF available on Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. 44)
Lindbergh's Flight ("Oh, from Roosevelt's field last Friday morn A plucky Yankee boy") (by Johnny Burke) (Johnny Burke (William J. Kirwin, editor), _John White's Collection of Johnny Burke Songs_, Harry Cuff Publications, St. John's, 1981, #49, pp. 78-79)
Baby Show in the Park (by Johnny Burke) (Johnny Burke, _Burke's Christmas Songster 1926_, self-published, 1926 (PDF copy avallable on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), [no page number])
Casey Taking the Census ("Sure they put me on the census, For to go and take the town") (by Johnny Burke) (Johnny Burke, _Burke's Popular Songs_, self-published, 1929 (a PDF is available on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. [5]) (Johnny Burke, _Burke's Christmas Songster 1926_, self-published, 1926 (PDF copy avallable on the Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), [no page number]) (Johnny Burke (John White, Editor), _Burke's Ballads_, no printer listed, n.d. (PDF available on Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. 22) (Johnny Burke (William J. Kirwin, editor), _John White's Collection of Johnny Burke Songs_, Harry Cuff Publications, St. John's, 1981, #57, p. 90)
Nafco Railings ("If you want to get a railing that is pleasing to the sight") (by "A. C. W."?) (Johnny Burke (John White, Editor), _Burke's Ballads_, no printer listed, n.d. (PDF available on Memorial University of Newfoundland web site), p. 60)
NOTES [950 words]: Kelligrews is a small village southwest of St. John's, Newfoundland. - RBW
Is this a cleaned-up version of "The Ball at Kerrimuir"? -PJS
Based on form, it is not. (It's not all that cleaned up, either; while there are no explicit sexual references, there are all sorts of hints, plus references to drunkenness, sodden clergy, and the like.) Fowke and Johnston believe it to be based on "The Irish Jubilee," and the stanzaic form implies they are right. Of course, there are all sorts of songs on the theme of the Ultimate Uproarious Party.
Johnny Burke (1851-1930) lived his entire life in St. John's, Newfoundland (DictNewfLabrador, p. 38, entry on "John Burke"); O'Neil, p. 384, says that he was probably born at 10 King's Road in that town -- the home of his father, also John Burke. His father was a sealing captain (which no doubt explains why Burke wrote many poems about sealing), who was said to have been "very successful." John Burke senior was lost when the Nautilus sank on January 1, 1865; one of his sons, William, was killed at the same time, leaving his wife Sarah, daughter Annie, and sons Johnny Jr. and Alexander (Murphy, p. 152).
Johnny Burke himself in all sorts of small business ventures, evidently without success since he kept changing jobs. But he was primarily a publisher and seller of broadside ballads, as well as a playwright (see "Cotton's Patch (I)" for a description of one of his plays). DictNewfLabrador says that "He would send the place up simply by his appearance on stage, for he was straight-faced, short and chubby, with a voluminous mustache and a slow, shuffling step."
To that description compare Murphy, p. 149, "As Johnny walked out from the wings, with the slow, short, scuffling gait so characteristic of him, adjusted his hard hat, and cracked a joke or two in his own droll manner, he needed no second-hand humor or straining for effect.... For Johnny was a born comedian with a gravity equal to Mark Twain's, and his very appearance was enough to ensure laughter."
Colton, p. 22, declares, "Burke possessed an uncanny ability to capture in verse something of the essence of Newfoundland life, from minute descriptions of local events (often parodic or satirical) [observe his many songs about the sealing fleet going out - RBW] to epic tales of tragedy and heroism, all told from the perspective of an insider who was as much part of Newfoundland society as the varied aspects of that society he chronicled." Colton, p. 23: "According to [ J. H.] Devine, 'the advent of a new Burke Ballad was as eagerly greeted by the public as the best seller ... is today. Boys sold them throughout the city....' Burke's songs remain immensely popular in rural Newfoundland today (arguably more so than in his native St. John's), where they have merged with traditional songs to become seamlessly integrated into the vernacular popular culture.... Despite the enduring legacy of his songs, Burke himself remains an elusive figure."
O'Neill, pp. 385-386, says "He and the sister with whom he lived resembled nothing so much as two characters out of Dickens. In the age of melodians, when people made their own entertainment, there were few homes in St. John's where the works of Burke were not known, loved, and sung." But he also had musical comedies presented in theaters: "The Battle of Foxtrap" was based on an attempt to drive a railroad through Fox Trap on Conception Bay; "The Runaway Girl from Fogo" was a parody of the operetta "The Runaway Girl"; "The Topsail Geisha: A Story of the Wash House" was a take-off on "The Geisha"; his last musical comedy, "Cotton's Patch," produced the two songs of that name found in the Index.
O'Neill, p. 385, tells of him setting up a gramophone to play wax cylinders and draw people to buy his broadsheets. O'Neill concludes of these writing, "He poked gentle fun and might be considered more of a funster than a satirist." He died at 62 Prescott Street, his business location for many years.
According to Lehr/Best, p. 8, there is a biography of him, James D. Higgins, The Bard of Prescott Street, 1970. I have yet to find any other source that acknowledges the existence of this book.
Most of his songsters contain a very high number of ads for local businesses, as well as public notices from the Newfoundland government (including regular ones from Henry W. Le Messurier, author of "We'll Rant and We'll Roar"/"The Ryans and Pittmans," in his capacity as a customs official). It sort of makes me wonder if Burke drummed up business by threatening to write satirical songs about those who didn't support him....
"The Kelligrew's Soiree" is pretty definitely his most popular song, but at least a dozen of his pieces, and probably more, are in the Index (many pieces have been attributed to him which cannot be proved to be his).
At least some of this is based on real people. According to O'Neill, p. 375, "Caroline Bowdin was never seen in public but that he was covered from head to toe in bows of bright-coloured ribbons. She married a fellow of her own mental stature named Flipper Smith, and the two were immortalized by Johnny Burke in a verse of his famous song 'The Kelligrew's Soiree:' Jim Brine, Din Ryan, Flipper Smith and Caroline, I tell you boys we had a time...."
Johnny Burke wrote another piece, "The Wedding Cake at Betsy's Marriage in Fogo," that seems like a combination of, or practice for, "Trinity Cake" and "The Kelligrew's Soiree"; it's about a wedding cake, but the list of improbable ingredients is very like "Kelligrew's Soiree." - RBW
While Doyle3 reports the song was sung in New York in 1938, GEST Songs of Newfoundland and Labrador site shows that the author died in 1930. - BS
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