Paddy Works on the Railway
DESCRIPTION: Paddy describes the working conditions on the railway: "In (1841), I put me corderoy britches on... to work upon the (railway)." He recalls the hard work, courting and losing a wife, and the drink he uses to relieve his burdens
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag); there is a clear reference from 1864 in a manuscript from the clipper _Young Australia_
KEYWORDS: railroading work marriage death drink hardtimes
FOUND IN: US(NE) Britain(England)
REFERENCES (22 citations):
Cohen-LongSteelRail, pp. 547-552, "Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text plus extended excerpts to illustrate variations in the song and a broadside print of "Mick Upon the Railroad," 1 tune)
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 356-357, "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Colcord-SongsOfAmericanSailormen, pp. 107-108, "Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Harlow-ChantyingAboardAmericanShips pp. 139-141, "Oh, Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, pp. 155-156, "Roll the Cotton Down" (1 text, version "E" of "Roll the Cotton Down"); pp. 337-338, "Paddy Works on the Railway," "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (2 texts, 2 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 252-253]
Shay-AmericanSeaSongsAndChanteys, pp. 77-78, "Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
MacColl-ShuttleAndCage-IndustrialFolkBallads, pp. 20-21, "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 conflated text, 1 tune)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 670, "Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 76, "Paddy Works On the Erie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 20-22, "Paddy Works on the Erie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Eckstorm/Smyth-MinstrelsyOfMaine, p. 238, "Working on the Railway" (1 text)
Botkin/Harlow-TreasuryOfRailroadFolklore, p. 438, "Paddy Works on the Erie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Seeger-AmericanFavoriteBallads, p. 43, "Fillimeeooreay" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greenway-AmericanFolksongsOfProtest, pp. 42-43, "Pat Works on the Railway" (1 text)
Fonre, p. 78, "Pat Works on the Railway" (1 text)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, p. 330, "Pat Works on the Railway" (1 text)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 150, "Paddy Works on the Erie" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 101 "Pat Works On The Railway" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Paddy on the Railway" is in Part 3, 7/28/1917.
ADDITIONAL: Frederick Pease Harlow, _The Making of a Sailor, or Sea Life Aboard a Yankee Square-Rigger_, 1928; republished by Dover, 1988, pp. 344-345, "Oh, Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Jon Raven, _VIctoria's Inferno: Songs of the Old Mills, Mines, Manufacturies, Canals, and Railways_, Roadside Press, 1978, pp. 31-32, "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pete Seeger, "Paddy Works on the Railway" (on PeteSeeger07, PeteSeeger07b)
cf. "The Bluestone Quarries" (tune & meter)
cf. "The Shaver" (tune)
The American Railway
NOTES [266 words]: Greenway prints a three-verse version ending with complaints about the company store. It is not clear whether this is a parody or a natural addition -- or whether the Sandburg/Lomax versions have cleaned this up.
There is a broadside, NLScotland LC.Fol.178.A.2(086), entitled "Paddy on the Railway," beginning "A Paddy once in Greenock town, For Glasgow city he was bound." The chorus is "Engine, boiler, water tight, Driving in with all his might, Upon my soul it was a sight To see the Greenock railway." This may well be related; I wouldn't consider it the same song. Cohen thinks there is "no relation."
Cohen also discusses the origin of this song, observing that it has two basic forms, which might be distinguished by their choruses -- the one more common in old versions being "I'm weary of the railway, Poor Paddy works on the railway"; the other, which is the one they taught us in grade school, is "Fil-i-me-oo-ri-ee-ri-ay" or some such noise. Cohen hints darkly about the fact that the earliest source of the second tune is a Lomax book, and I can offer no contrary evidence. There is also evidence of miixng of versions; Cohen notes the similarity of these several Lomax verses to the undated broadside "Mick Upon the Railroad."
Shay describes his version as a capstan chantey. The only support for this is the last of his nine verses, in which the singer goes to work for the Black Ball Line in 1849 ("and that's the end of my monkeyshine"). It is clear that the song functioned as a shanty of some sort, though, given the number of sea song collections in which it is found. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.2
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2021 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.