Mrs. McGrath

DESCRIPTION: A sergeant urges Mrs. McGrath to make her boy a soldier. He sails away in fine style. For seven years she waits for him, hoping for word. At last he returns with both legs gone. (She curses the wars.)
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1916 (OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads)
KEYWORDS: war injury separation soldier
FOUND IN: Ireland Australia US(MW)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, p. 126, "Mrs. McGrath"; pp. 197-198, "My Son Ted" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Dean-FlyingCloud, pp. 48-49, "Teddy McGraw" (1 text)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 121-123, "Mrs. McGrath" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hodgart-FaberBookOfBallads, p. 211, "Mrs McGrath" (1 text)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H131, pp. 84-85, "My Son Ted" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 71, "Mrs McGrath" (1 text, 1 tune)
Moylan-TheAgeOfRevolution-1776-1815 179, "Mrs. McGrath" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dallas-TheCruelWars-100SoldiersSongs, pp. 37-39, "Mrs McGrath" (1 text, 1 tune)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 275, "Mrs. McGrath" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 285-287, "Mrs. McGrath" (1 text)

Roud #678
Seamus Ennis, "Mrs. McGrath" (on Lomax42, LomaxCD1742)
Pete Seeger, "Mrs. McGrath" (on BroonzySeeger2) (on PeteSeeger15) (on PeteSeeger44)

Bodleian, 2806 b.11(76), "Teddy O'Gra" ("Come all you sons of Hibernia," T. Birt (London), 1833-1841; also Harding B 11(3746), Firth c.12(314), "Teddy O'Gra"
cf. "The Kerry Recruit" [Laws J8] (theme)
cf. "Felix the Soldier" (theme)
cf. "Lovely Jamie" (plot)
cf. "The Wars of America" (plot)
NOTES [352 words]: OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads: "Known to every true-born citizen of Dublin. In the years 1913-1916 it was the most popular marching song of the Irish Volunteers."
Moylan-TheAgeOfRevolution-1776-1815: "This song of the Peninsular War dates, according to one source, to 1815. The earliest account of it in Ireland seems to be 1876 when Sam Henry's informant learned it in Belfast."
The final verse of the three Bodleian "Teddy O'Gra" broadsides seems to refer to the Peninsular War or the 1830s First Carlist War (which included Irish volunteers):
A mighty war I will proclaim
Against the King and Queen of Spain,
And I will make them rue the day,
They shot my Teddy's legs away.
Hoagland's text refers to the First Carlist War: "All foreign wars I do proclaim Between Don John and the King of Spain...."
The following note from John Moulden is quoted with permission:
"I note that all the ballad sheets of this song in Bodley or Madden are English printed. To my almost certain knowledge there is not a single one of Irish popular print origin in those libraries, the British Library, Birmingham University Library or any Irish library in either ballad sheet or 8-page song book form. This suggests that the song originated in Britain and diffused to Ireland only early in the 20th century. This is not the only possibility but the one the evidence most strongly suggests.
Actually, it appears that the mid nineteenth-century texts which begin approximately 'Come all of you Hibernian sons' have been substantially altered in the more recent ones; several of the verses at the beginning have been omitted and the 'humour' of the later ones 'enhanced'."
John Moulden is researcher at the "Centre for the Study of Human Settlement and Historical Change" at National University of Ireland, Galway whose subject is "the printed ballad in Ireland."
The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:
Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "My Son Tim" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte," Hummingbird Records HBCD0027 (2001)) - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
File: MA126

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