Thursday, December 13, 2007

Song of the Week: Paddy and the Railway


This edition of Song of the Week comes to you courtesy of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The idea of a railroad built across North America was spurred on by the notion of Manifest Destiny, otherwise known as, "We're superior and we know what's good for you, so get out of the way."

The First Transcontiental Railroad was officially completed in the late 1860's. Chinese immigrants worked on the railway from west to east, and Irish laborers worked from east to west. "Paddy on the Railway" is a song that comes from the Irish side. The "Paddy" in the title is a sometimes-pejorative term for someone Irish, taken from the name Patrick or Padraic. As you can tell from the song lyrics, working on the railway was no picnic. If you're not convinced, take a look at the lyrics for Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill (with a link to a free MP3 download).

The guitar chords for "Paddy and the Railway" are few and simple: E minor, G, and D. You can play the song with a simple up-down strum and everyone can easily join in on the "Filly-me--oori-oori-ay" chorus after each verse. I've heard a couple of variations on the tune, but this is the one I learned first:
Paddy Works on the Erie

PADDY AND THE RAILWAY

In [Em] 18 hundred and 41, I [G] put me corderoy britches on
I [Em] put me corderoy britches on to work [D] upon the [Em] railway

Chorus:
Filly-me--oori-oori-ay, filly-me--oori-oori-ay,
Filly-me--oori-oori-ay, to work upon the railway


In 18 hundred and 42, I left the old world for the new
Bad cess to the luck that brought me through to work upon the railway

In 18 hundred 43, twas then I met sweet Biddy McGee
An elegant wife she’s been to me while working on the railway

In 18 hundred 44, my hands and feet were getting sore
My hands and feet were getting’ sore from working on the railway

In 18 hundred 45, I found myself more dead than alive
I found myself more dead than alive while working on the railway

In 18 hundred 46, I changed my trade to carrying bricks
I changed my trade to carrying bricks from workin’ on the railway

In 18 hundred 47, sweet Biddy McGee was sent to heaven
If she left me a child, she left eleven to work upon the railway

It’s “Pat, do this!” and “Pat, do that!” without a stocking or cravat
And nothing but an old straw hat to work upon the railway

And when Pat lays him down to sleep, the wiry bugs around him creep
And the divil a bit can poor Pat sleep while working on the railway!

4 comments:

Lone Star Ma said...

I was just teaching about Manifest Destiny in class on Monday. Folks had this crazy idea...

Lady K said...

I never know what to expect when I come over here. I love it!

SevenImpossible said...

Why have I never heard this song?

Jules, 7-Imp

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: And yet today, we've got the equivalent of Pax Americana...

Lady K: Thanks! The research keeps me on my toes.

Jules: I've got Nancy Stewart to thank for introducing this song during one of her guitar clinics. She's recently committed to introducing us to American folk songs.