Morrissey and the Russian Sailor [Laws H18]
DESCRIPTION: A Russian sailor in Tierra del Fuego challenges Morrissey to a duel. Morrissey takes on the challenge to uphold the honor of Ireland. The fight, for a large stake, takes 38 rounds, and each knocks the other down, before Morrissey is victorious
EARLIEST DATE: 1901 (O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland)
KEYWORDS: fight patriotic
FOUND IN: US(MW,NE) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland Australia
REFERENCES (13 citations):
Laws H18, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor"
Rickaby-BalladsAndSongsOfTheShantyBoy 48, "Morrisey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Rickaby/Dykstra/Leary-PineryBoys-SongsSongcatchingInLumberjackEra 48, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp. 4-5, "Morrisy and the Russian Sailor" (1 text)
Finger-FrontierBallads, pp. 44-47, "Morriseey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 216-217, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sandburg-TheAmericanSongbag, pp. 398-399, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 325, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie-BalladsAndSeaSongsFromNovaScotia 135, "Morrissey and the Russian" (1 text)
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland, p. 30, "Morrisey and the Russian" (1 text)
OLochlainn-MoreIrishStreetBallads, pp. 255-256, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (1 text, tune referenced: see OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 26)
Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast 38, "Morrisey and the Russian Bear" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 694, MORRRUSS MORRRUS2*
Joe Heaney, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (on Pubs1, Voice08)
Alexander March, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (on MUNFLA/Leach)
Denis McGrath, "Morrissey And The Russian Bear" (on ITMA/CapeShoreNL)
Johnny McDonagh, "Morrissey and the Russian Sailor" (on Lomax42, LomaxCD1742)
cf. "Morrissey and the Black" [Laws H19] (subject)
cf. "Donnelly and Cooper" (subject, tune)
cf. "Heenan and Sayers" [Laws H20] (subject, tune)
cf. "Morrissey and the Benicia Boy" (subject)
NOTES [363 words]: John Morrissey was born in Ireland in 1831 but was raised in New York and apparently went to California at the time of the Gold Rush. In 1852 he gained fame as a boxer by defeating George Thomson. The climax of Morrissey's career came in 1858 (so the Dictionary of American Biography and other sources; I've seen a date of 1860 cited), when he defeated champion John C. Heenan and promptly retired. In the years that followed his gambling resort in Saratoga Springs proved very successful, and Morrissey was twice elected to congress. He died in 1878.
In addition to his boxing prowess, he is said to have been a "hatchet man" for the New York Tammany Hall machine.
There is no record of Morrissey ever fighting a Russian sailor -- and certainly not in Tierra del Fuego! On the other hand, he did fight some very long matches; in 1853 it took Morrissey 37 rounds to defeat James Sullivan.
(That win, incidentally, made Morrissey arguably the American champion; Sullivan in 1849 had beaten Tom Hyer in what the February 2006 issue of American History magazine says was "considered to be the [first[ American championships prizefight") - RBW
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland's last verse refers to other fights. Specifically, "Our hero conquered Thompson, the Yankee Clipper, too, The Benicia Boy, and Sheppard he nobly did subdue."
We have a ballad for "Morrissey and the Benicia Boy", at least.
"Thompson" was George Thompson, California champion, who lost a controversial fight to Morrissey in 1852.
The "Yankee Clipper" refers to Morrissey's controversial victory over Yankee Sullivan to become "Champion of America". See "The Fight at Boston Corners" and "The Great Prize Fight Which Took Place at Boston Corners, Oct 12, 1853" broadsides at the Library of Congress American Memory site.
There is also a broadside "Rough and Tumble, or the Amos Street Fight between Poole & Morrissey" at the Library of Congress American Memory site.
Sources: Biography of John Morrissey on the International Boxing Hall of Fame site; Biography of John Morrissey on the HarpWeek Explore History site; "Yankee Sullivan (James Ambrose)(alias Frank Murray)" at Cyber Boxing Zone site. - BS
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