Shule Agra (Shool Aroo[n], Buttermilk Hill, Johnny's Gone for a Soldier)
DESCRIPTION: The girl laments for her love, sent (to France) as a soldier. She says she will cry till "every tear would turn a mill." She will sell her spinning wheel to arm him. She will dye her clothes red and "round the world... beg for bread" till he returns
EARLIEST DATE: 1876 (Waite) (but five broadside prints are listed in Edwin Wolf 2nd, _American Song Sheets, Slip Ballads, and Political Broadsides 1850-1870_, Library Company of Philadelphia, 1963, p. 78); a partial text is reported from 1823
KEYWORDS: loneliness separation foreignlanguage
FOUND IN: US(Ap,MA,MW,Ro,SE,So) Britain(England,Scotland) Ireland Canada(Mar,Newf)
REFERENCES (34 citations):
Greig/Duncan6 1107, "Shule Agra" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Belden-BalladsSongsCollectedByMissourFolkloreSociety, pp. 281-282, "Shule Aroon" (1 text)
Randolph 107, "Shule, Shule" (3 texts, 1 tune, though "A" is mixed with "Ease that Trouble in the Mind" or "The Swapping Boy" or some such, "B" is a nonsense fragment, and "C" is largely floating material); also probably the "A" fragment of 455, "When I Get on Yonder Hill" (2 texts)
Bronner/Eskin-FolksongAlivePart2 38, "Buttermilk Hill" (1 text, 1 tune)
Eddy-BalladsAndSongsFromOhio 40, "Putnam's Hill" (3 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes)
Peters-FolkSongsOutOfWisconsin, p. 296, "I'll Sell My Hat, I'll Sell My Coat" (1 short text, 1 tune)
Brown/Belden/Hudson-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore2 127, "Shule Aroon" (1 fragment, so short that it might just be nonsense though it is probably this song)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 130, pp. 275-276, "Shule Aron" (1 text, short and even more damaged than usual, to which is prefixed the rhyme "Snail, snail, come out of your hole, Or else I'll beat you as black as a coal," elsewhere filed as "Snail, Snail (I)")
HudsonTune 32, "Snail, Snail" (1 text, 1 tune, the version with the verse about the snail)
Browne-AlabamaFolkLyric 172, "My Sweetheart's Gone to the Fair" (1 short text, 1 tune; the first verse metions the sweetheart going to the fair and is unique or nearly so, but the rest is this)
Sharp-EnglishFolkSongsFromSouthernAppalachians 93, "Putman's Hill" (1 fragment, 1 tune, which might mix verses from two different songs)
OCroinin/Cronin-TheSongsOfElizabethCronin 139, "Siuil A Ruin" (4 texts, 1 tune)
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland, p. 110, "Shule Aroon" (1 text)
Lehr/Best-ComeAndIWillSingYou 96, "Siul a Ghra" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hugill-ShantiesFromTheSevenSeas, p. 347, "Shule Agra" (1 text, 1 tune)
Creighton-MaritimeFolkSongs, p. 131, "I Dyed My Petticoat Red" (1 text, 1 tune)
Pottie/Ellis-FolksongsOfTheMaritimes, pp. 24-25, "I Dyed My Petticoat Red" (1 text, 1 tune)
Scott-TheBalladOfAmerica, pp. 32-35, "Siubhal a Gradh (Come, My Love, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lomax/Lomax-FolkSongUSA 35, "Johnny Has Gone far a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-FolkSongsOfNorthAmerica 20, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-AmericanBalladsAndFolkSongs, pp. 298-299, "Shoo, Shoo, Shoo-lye" (1 text, 1 tune)
Dallas-TheCruelWars-100SoldiersSongs, pp. 12-13, "Shule Agra" (1 text, 1 tune)
Salt-BuckeyeHeritage-OhiosHistory, pp. 41-42, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Olson-BroadsideBalladIndex, ZN199 "As from Newcastle I did pass" (listed as "Traditional? Ancestor of Scots 'Dicky Macphalion' and Irish 'Shule Aroon'")
Wolf-AmericanSongSheets, #1143, p. 78, "Johnny Is Gone for a Soldier" (5 references)
Behan-IrelandSings, #94, "Walk My Love" (1 text, 1 tune, claiming to be an independent translation of the Gaelic)
Fireside-Book-of-Folk-Songs, p. 68, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hylands-Mammoth-Hibernian-Songster, p. 79, "Shule Agra" (1 text)
Silber/Silber-FolksingersWordbook, p. 280, "Buttermilk Hill" (1 text)
Tobitt-TheDittyBag, p. 25, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, SHULARN1* (SHULARN2*) SHULARN3 SHULARN4
ADDITIONAL: Diarmaid O Muirithe, An t-Amhran Macaronach (Baile Atha Cliath: An Clochomhar, 1980) #4, pp.40,196, "Siul, Siul, Siul a Ruin" ("Siul, Siul, Siul a Ruin") (1 text)
James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "Kentucky Folksong in Northern Wisconsin" by Asher E. Treat, p. 235, "I'll Sell My Hat, I'll Sell My Coat" (1 text, 1 tune, sung by Mrs. M. G. Jacobs)
ADDITIONAL: Henry Randall Waite, _Carmina Collegensia: A Complete Collection of the Songs of the American Colleges_ first edition 1868, expanded edition, Oliver Ditson, 1876, pp. 32-34, "Shool" (a fragment which appears to have several added verses but which retains the second verse about the girl's lover being gone for a soldier); pp. 64-65, "Shule Aroon" (1 text, this the true song)
Anita Best and Pamela Morgan, "Suil a Gra" (on NFABestPMorgan01)
Pearl Jacobs Borusky, "I'll Sell My Hat, I'll Sell My Coat" (AFS, 1940; on LC55)
Porter Brigley, "I Died My Petticoat Red" (on MRHCreighton)
Robert Cinnamond, "Shule Agra" (on IRRCinnamond03)
Elizabeth Cronin, "Shule Aroon" (on FSB01);" Siuil A Ruin" (on IRECronin01)
Chubby Parker, "Bib-A-Lollie-Boo" (Gennett 6077/Silvertone 5012, 1927; Supertone 9188, 1928) (Conqueror 7891, 1931)
Ellen Emma Power, "Siul A Ghra" (on ITMA/CapeShoreNL)
Pete Seeger, "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (on PeteSeeger31)
Art Thieme, "Bibble-a-la-doo" (on Thieme04)
cf. "Song of the Pinewoods" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Hey Bonnie Laddie, Mount and Go" ("I'll sell my rod, I'd sell my reel" lyrics)
cf. "My Mary of the Curling Hair" (lyrics)
Mickey's Gone for a Laborer ("Being out of work it was no fun") (words by John C. Cross) (Wolf-AmericanSongSheets p. 97)
NOTES [468 words]: In its earliest forms this song seems to have been simply a girl's lament for her departed lover. In many American versions (Randolph's 107 A and C, Eddy-BalladsAndSongsFromOhio's D) we find unrelated stanzas about the girl's "very cross" father.
Scott (following Joyce) theorizes that the song arises out of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The Irish supported James II, and were defeated at the Boyne. William III, who defeated James, offered forgiveness to the rebels who would swear loyalty to him, but many preferred exile. The only evidence for this theory, at least in English versions, seems to be the lines "But now my love has gone to France, To try his fortune to advance...."
It's hard to tell how much of this song was originally Gaelic. Although there are Gaelic choruses (e.g. from Barry, in JAFL XXII 15; Connie Dover's modern recording is as close to this as makes no difference), I've never heard a truly traditional Gaelic verse, and even the chorus is usually only a mangled imitation of Gaelic. (Of course, it doesn't help that Gaelic spelling is far from standardized.)
Jonathan Lighter notes that Bruce Olson found two verses that seem to be this in some 1823 correspondence by Sir Walter Scott:
I went to the mill, but the miller was gone
I sat me down and cried ohone!
To think of the days that are past and gone,
Of Dickie Macphalion that's slain.
Shoo, shoo shoolaroon
To think on the days that are past and gone,
Of Dickie Macphalion that's slain.
I sold my rock, I sold my reel,
And sae hae I my spinning wheel
And 'a to buy a cap of steel
For Dickie Macphalion that's slain.
Lighter notes that these were published the following year in Sharpe's Ballad Book.
Lighter also notes "he phonological similarity between
'For Dickie McPhallion that's slain'
and P. W. Joyce's phonetic rendering, for English speakers, of the Irish refrain as
'Is go dee tu mavourneen slaun.'"
I agree that they appear likely to be related.
Jonathan also notes that Thomas Moore set his poem "I Wish I was by That Dim Lake" to the tune "Shule Aroon" in 1824, and that this tune is similar to one of the tunes for this song. - RBW
The Thieme recording retains only the tune, chorus and two verses of "Shule Agra"; otherwise, it's humorous floaters. - PJS
Like another Newfoundland text, Lehr/Best-ComeAndIWillSingYou 96, the ITMA/CapeShoreNL text is 3 verses in English except for the last line -- which is Irish -- and the chorus is Irish.
One of two broadsides for this ballad as "Shule Agra"/"Johnny Is Gone for a Soldier" at Bodleian Library site Ballads Catalogue is printed in New York c.1860, shelfmark Harding B.18(326).
See three "Shule Agra"/"Johnny Is Gone for a Soldier" broadsides [America Singing: digital id sb40500a/as201910/cw103140] at the Library of Congress American Memory site. - BS
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