Mudcat Café message #493840 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #35946   Message #493840
Posted By: IanC
28-Jun-01 - 09:12 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Arthur McBride - What's the background?
Subject: RE: Arthur McBride- What's the background?
Here's more detail, but mainly smoke.

Susannesīs Folksong-Notizen [1967:] By no means all country workers were credulous bumpkins, as Arthur McBride shows, that most good-natured, mettlesome, and un-pacifistic of anti-militarist songs. It has been a remarkably widespread and well-favoured piece. Patrick Joyce learnt it in Limerick during his boyhood in the early 1840s, and around the same time George Petrie received a version from a Donegal correspondent. Sam Fone [...] remembered it as his father's favourite in Devon in the 1830s, and he sang a good set of it to Baring-Gould in 1893. The song had made its way to the Scottish north-east during the latter half of the century, and Gavin Greig recorded a version, 'Scotticized to some extent', from Alexander Robb, his school caretaker at New Deer, Aberdeenshire. More recently, a singer from Walberswick, Suffolk, recorded it for the BBC early in 1939. [...]

Throughout the whole period from the Restoration to the accession of Victoria - that is, during the liveliest time of folk song creation - the discipline of army and navy was brutal and callous, ruled by the lash. [...]

Desperate recruitment, barbarous treatment, low pay (fixed after the Restoration at eightpence a day for foot soldiers, and so it remained for 123 years regardless of the raised cost of living). [...] (Lloyd, England 239ff)

[1969:] I have always assumed that this highly subversive song was from East Anglia, but in fact I don't know. It is probably 18th century in origin and I learned it from Redd Sullivan. (Notes Martin Carthy, 'Prince Heathen')

[1976:] After the landlord's agent, probably one of the most hated persons in Ireland was the recruiting sergeant. The Irish peasant, destitute of worldly possessions and ground down by poverty, was forced of necessity to fight for a power which he despised. The balladmaker, being aware of this, was not slow to express his feelings in some of his most vicious ballads, always with a sarcastic edge. The earlier ballads such as this one, Mrs McGrath, The Kerry Recruit and Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, set the tone for the later anti-recruiting songs such as Sergeant William Bailey and The Tipperary Recruiting Sergeant, written during the 1914-18 war, when England was attempting to enforce conscription in Ireland. The sarcasm of the song cannot hide the terrible conditions under which soldiers were forced to serve after they had accepted the shilling, and Arthur's words "I would not be proud of your clothes ...", are only too true, when one considers that twenty-five lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails was the minimum punishment and a staggering 1500, the legal maximum. All this for eightpence a day. The song was collected in Limerick by P.W. Joyce about 1840. On account of its phraseology, he was disposed to think that it came from Donegal. The version sung here by Paul is one which he heard in America. (Frank Harte, notes 'Andy Irvine & Paul Brady')

[1977:] The reference to 'a shilling a day' [not in the above versions] must date the song to the nineteenth century, but it has all the economy and directness of the older traditional ballads. [...] The song presumably originated in Ireland, but it was also known in England and Scotland. Our version [close to all the above, but with Arthur McBride the name of the recruiting sergeant] is from the north-east of Scotland, where it was taken by migrant harvesters from Ireland, and became a favourite in the farm bothies. (Palmer, Soldier 56f)

[1988:] This famous song would appear to me to have originated in Donegal or in Scotland. Its popularity was such that it travelled to England and America [...]. The recruiting sergeant and his party must have been a curse to the common people of Ireland at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, especially as most of them would have had more sympathy with Napoleon than with the British. (Andy Irvine, Aiming for the Heart 13)