Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A thought from St. Patrick's Day.


As down the glen came McAlpine's men with their shovels slung behind them.
It was in the pub that they drank their sub or out on the spike you'll
find them.
We sweated blood and we washed down mud with quarts and pints of beer.
But now we're on the road again with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I stripped to the skin with Darky Finn down upon the Isle of Grain,
With Horseface O'Toole I learned the rule, no money if you stop for rain.
For McAlpine's god is a well filled hod with shoulders cut to
bits and seared.
And woe to he who looks for tea with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I remember the day that the Bear O'Shea fell into a concrete stair.
What Horseface said, when he saw him dead, well it wasn't what the rich
call prayers.
"I'm a navvy short," was his one retort that reached unto my ears,
When the going is rough, well you must be tough, with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I've worked till the sweat near had me beat with Russian, Czech and Pole,
At shuttering jams up in the hydro-dams, or underneath the Thames in a hole,
I grafted hard and I got me cards and many a ganger's fist across me ears.

If you pride your life, don't join, by Christ, with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I quite like the idea of learning this song, of which this is only a part. It commonly includes a narrative element at the start that sets the scene.

In so far as I am currently aware this first appeared recorded on the LP 'Finnegan Wakes' (sic) in 1966 as Transatlantic Records (TRA 139).

The song went on to become a staple of The Dubliners' live performances and therefore it appears on many live and compilation albums since, which is how I came to know of it, as well as many cover versions. Here is a live version by The Dubliners, sung by the late Ronnie Drew.

Much later, on the 1983 studio album 'Prodigal Sons' (Chyme Records, CHLP 1030), The Dubliners recorded another Dominic Behan song on the subject of the trials and tribulations of itinerant construction workers - Building Up And Tearing England Down.

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