True-Born Irish Man (With My Swag All on My Shoulder; The True-Born Native Man)

DESCRIPTION: The singer arrives in (Australia/Philadelphia) from Ireland and sets out to ramble. The girls rejoice at his presence. (A tavern-keeper's daughter) is scolded by her mother for wanting to follow him. She is determined to do so anyway
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1837 (Leander R. Miller manuscript; see NOTES)
KEYWORDS: rambling emigration mother courting
FOUND IN: Australia US(MA,MW,So) Ireland Canada(Mar,Ont) Britain(England(Lond,South),Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (25 citations):
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, pp. 62, 122, "Dennis O'Reilly"; p. 138, "Tramp the Bushes of Australia" (3 texts, 3 tunes)
Anderson-StoryOfAustralianFolksong, pp. 112-114, "With My Swag All on My Shoulder" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ward-PenguinBookOfAustralianBallads, pp. 68-69, "Like a True-born Native Man" (1 text)
Stewart/Keesing-FavoriteAustralianBallads, p. 18, "Dennis O'Reilly" (1 text)
Cazden/Haufrecht/Studer-FolkSongsOfTheCatskills 126, "The Roving Irishman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bethke-AdirondackVoices, p. 97, "The Roving Ashlaw Man" (1 text, 1 tune, heavily localized); pp. 134-135, "The Roving Cunningham" (1 text, 1 tune, which Roud files with #498, "The Roving Gambler (The Gambling Man)" [Laws H4], but while the first two lines resemble that song, the rest seems to be more like this)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp.124-125, "The Roving Irishman" (1 text)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, p. 48, "The Roving Irishman" (1 text, 1 tune, Rickaby's transcription of Dean)
Abernethy-SinginTexas, pp. 39-40, "The Roving Gambler"; "The Gamboling Man"; "The Roving Journeyman" (3 texts, 1 tune; the first two are "The Roving Gambler," but "The Roving Journeyman" is a short form of this piece)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 76-77, "Denis O'Reilly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-PintPotAndBilly, pp. 16-17, "Dennis O'Reilly" (1 text, 1 tune)
Greig/Duncan7 1397, "Scrogie's Bell" (1 fragment)
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 84, "The Roving Journeyman" (1 text)
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 353, "The Roving Journeyman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 696, "Roving Navigator" (1 text)
Manifold-PenguinAustralianSongbook, pp. 36-37, "With My Swag All on My Shoulder (Denis O'Riley)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Paterson/Fahey/Seal-OldBushSongs-CentenaryEdition, pp. 125-127, "With My Swag All On My Shoulder" (1 text)
Smith/Hatt/Fowke-SeaSongsBalladFromNineteenthCenturyNovaScotia, pp. 86-88, "The Rambling Irishman" (1 text)
Creighton-FolksongsFromSouthernNewBrunswick 15, "The Roving Journeyman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fowke-TraditionalSingersAndSongsFromOntario 37, "The Rambling Irishman" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #2040, p. 137, "The Roving Journeyman" (1 reference)
ADDITIONAL: Roger Elbourne, Music and Tradition in Early Industrial Lancashire 1780-1840 (Totowa, 1980), p. 74, "The Roving Journeyman" (1 fragment)
Bill Wannan, _The Australians: Yarns, ballads and legends of the Australian tradition_, 1954 (page references are to the 1988 Penguin edition), pp. 166, "The Diggers" (1 excerpt)
Bill Beatty, _A Treasury of Australian Folk Tales & Traditions_, 1960 (I use the 1969 Walkabout Paperbacks edition), p. 307, "The Diggers" (1 short text)

ST MA062 (Partial)
Roud #360 and 676
Paddy Doran, "The Roving Journeyman" (on FSB3)
Tom Willett, "The Roaming Journeyman" (on Voice20)

Bodleian, Harding B 11(3353), "Roving Journeyman," J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Harding B 11(1229), Harding B 11(1479), Johnson Ballads 2807, Harding B 11(3354), Harding B 11(3355), 2806 b.11(33), Firth c.18(249), Harding B 11(3352), Harding B 11(804), 2806 d.31(40), Harding B 11(1228), 2806 b.11(203), Firth c.26(218), Harding B 25(1671), "[The] Roving Journeyman"
LOCSinging, sb40459b, "The Roving Journeyman," J. Andrews (New York), 1853-1859

cf. "The Roving Gambler (The Gambling Man)" [Laws H4] (plot)
cf. "The Union Boy" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Neuve Chappelle" (tune, form)
Neuve Chappelle (File: HHH526)
NOTES [1268 words]: The popular version of this piece, "With My Swag All on My Shoulder," is by A.B. "Banjo" Paterson, but the song appears to be older. Perhaps more characteristic than any particular plot is the second half of the first verse, which often becomes a chorus:
With my (swag/bundle) on my shoulder,
My (stick/billy) in my hand,
I'll travel round (the country/Australia/etc.)
(Like/I'm) a (true-born Irishman/true-born native man/roving journeyman).
What appears to be the earliest datable version of this is the text found in the Supplemental Tradition, dated 1837 and supplied to us by John Aldrich. It was written out, according to its colophon, on January 31, 1837 by Leander R. Miller. Aldrich supplied this information about Miller:
Leander R. Miller was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island on June 22, 1818 and died March 16, 1842. He did not marry. He is buried at the Elder Ballou Meeting House Cemetery in Cumberland. He was the fifth child of ten children of Jonathan and Polly (Ballou) Miller of Cumberland. His father Jonathan was a farmer and boat builder and is the son of William Miller. His mother Polly is daughter of Oliver Ballou. One of his brothers is the Hon. Edwin Ballou Miller who was a very successful businessman, real estate developer and member of the General Assembly of Rhode Island in 1888.
Oliver Ballou is the son of Noah Ballou Sr. who is a descendent of Maturin Ballou. Maturin Ballou is the first Ballou to have immigrated to New England around 1640. Oliver Ballou and son Dexter Ballou (younger brother of Polly and uncle to Leander) were honored as very successful pioneers of the cotton spinning mill industry in Woonsocket Falls.
Noah Ballou Jr. was another son of Noah Ballou Sr. and was the brother of Oliver (uncle to Polly and great uncle to Leander). At the age of 16, Noah volunteered in the Continental army just after the battle of Bunker Hill and rose to be sergeant with Gen. Greene. Later, Noah was a proprietor of a store/livery stable where he sold molasses, rum, lumber, tobacco, coffee, salt, sugar, chocolate, and other items and he rented out his horse, oxen, wagon and sleigh. Noah Ballou kept a ledger that documented the sale of each item and the amount owed by each customer. The name of the customer was at the top of each page (a separate page for each customer) and a list of items purchased or rented was documented in this ledger and noted when payment was met. Customers included Oliver Capron, William Eddy, Ariel Cook and Jonathon Miller (I believe to be the father of Leander). The ledger is dated from 1806 to 1817. It is believed that this ledger was passed down through the family, to Noah's brother Oliver and then to his daughter Polly. It is here where it is believed that the children of Jonathan and Polly Miller wrote in the empty pages and spaces of this ledger some thirty years later. Writings include "The Voice of Her I Love," "The Prentice Boy," The Hazel Dell," "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp" and what is believed to be the original writing of "Roving Irishman" dated and signed January 31, 1837 by Leander R. Miller.
This ledger continued to be passed down through the generations into my possession since I am a descendent of Jonathan and Polly (Ballou) Miller.
Is it possible, as Aldrich contends, that this 1837 text is the original of this well-known song? The song is known in the U.S., including in the northeastern part of the country, and the Miller text is clearly localized to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania -- not just by the mention of Philadelphia but also by the mention of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Miller's is not only the earliest text, it appears to be the only non-broadside text from before about 1880. And it precedes what appears to be the earliest American broadside by at least sixteen years.
On the other hand, although the song is known in the U.S., it is much more widely known in Britain and Ireland, which makes it more likely that it originated there.
And then there are the British broadsides. The Bodleian collection contains two copies of a broadside of this piece printed by James Catnach -- Harding B 11(3353) and Harding B 11(3355). It has one by J. Pitts -- Harding B 11(1229). Catnach was active 1813-1838; Pitts was active 1819-1844. Thus, although we cannot absolutely date their broadsides, in terms of time, 92% of Catnach's period of activity preceded the Miller copy, and 72% of Pitts's active period. Also, the Catnach and Pitts versions are much longer than Miller's and set in Carlow, implying that there must have been some sort of rewriting between the Catnach and Miller text (although we of course cannot know who did the rewriting).
Sadly, the scans of the broadsides on the Bodleian site are not good enough to reveal watermarks in the broadside paper, so we have little evidence to date the prints within Catnach's and Pitts's active periods. However, Steve Roud tells me that that a catalog of Catnach's publications from 1832 includes the song. Thus, although we cannot prove that the Bodleian broadside predates the Miller text (because broadside printers sometimes reprinted their texts), we can say with certainty that Catnach had printed the song before the Miller copy was transcribed.
It should also be kept in mind that, until the mid-twentieth century and the creation of the songwriting-industrial complex, to "write" a song usually meant to "copy" or "transcribe" it, not "compose" it -- and the Miller text as written has in any event no tune.
Nonetheless the Miller text remains the earliest American version, and is very interesting as an example of how a song could be rewritten. - RBW
The Elbourne fragment is from a weaver version of "The Roving Jouneyman."
The Greig/Duncan7 fragment is from a navvy version of "The Roving Journeyman." It is tempting to make this a separate version on the assumption that navvies modified the more common song for their own use, but the songs are too close to support the split. The fragment begins "I hadna been in Huntly toun a week but barely three"; the Great North of Scotland Railway (GNSR) came to Huntly around 1853 (source: "Great North of Scotland Railway" at the Steam Index [British Steam Locomotive History] site). This passage illustrates the other -- besides the "navvy" reference -- difference between the navvy version and the more common "Roving Irishman" texts: in these the singer roves in Scotland or England (see "The Navvie Man," Sam Richards and Tish Stubbs, The English Folksinger (Glasgow, 1979), p. 111, and the EFDSS LP sited below) or Scotland (Greig/Duncan7), rather than Pennsylvania or Australia.
Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland, on page 801 note to Kennedy-FolksongsOfBritainAndIreland 353, "The Roving Journeyman," has the last verse of "The Roving Navigator" ending "Now she's happy and contented with her roving navvy man."
"I Am a Roving Navvy Man" on EFDSS LP 1008 All Jolly Fellows is also this song. Fred McCormick provided the words from the LP. Steve Gardham had the Richards and Stubbs reference. Both answered my query to the Ballad-L list when I was speculating whether the Greig/Duncan7 fragment belongs here with "The Roving Journeyman."
You can get some information on "The Navvy Age" in the notes to "The Roving Newfoundlanders (II)" [as the navvies moved to Canada], and, about their reputations as rakes in "The Courting Coat," "The Navvy Boy" and "Navvy on the Line."
Broadside LOCSinging sb40459b: J. Andrews dating per Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS
Last updated in version 5.2
File: MA062

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 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.