My dad came from a small town in Quebec, with Irish and French ancestry going back for centuries. As a kid, I used to love sitting in the living room with my family and singing along to my dad’s favourite records of The Clancy Brothers, sometimes with Tommy Makem. The group sang rousing Irish folk songs that were fun and funny and were often what you’d term as “Irish drinking songs”. We all enjoyed them, and I can still remember my father’s face as he sang along in his best off-key voice or teased my mother by playing the one she just couldn’t stand — “They’re Moving Father’s Grave to Build a Sewer” (which apparently is actually an English music hall song).
In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I would like to share a few of the songs I loved best as a child. For some reason, I always loved the gallows humour of “Welia Walia”, despite the subject matter of this old children’s song about a mother who kills her baby and finally receives the punishment prescribed.
The moral of this story is (Welia Welia Walia),
Don’t stick knives in bubbies’ heads down by the River Sallia!
Another that we loved and that my husband (without a drop of Irish in him!) has even learned to sing and strum on the guitar is “Finnegan’s Wake”. This is a funny drinking song about Tim Finnegan who, after a drop or two, falls from a ladder and is presumed dead. During his wake as the crowd are drinking and raising “a row and a ruction”, he wakes up shouting, “Thunderin’ blazes! You think I’m Dead?” Here it is live by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
There were so many, and they were best heard with the stories told at the beginning in a live show. I always loved the naughty story of “The Jolly Tinker” who did more than just patch old pots as he roved the land.
Well she led me up the stairs me lad to show me what to do,
and she fell on the featherbed and I fell on it too!
Well indeed I did! Don’t you know I did!
To me right-fol-looral-laddy, well indeed I did!