the Ninth Concession
Chapter XI - The Shantymen’s Songs
Before the dances concluded it was
generally the custom to have a song or two from those who could sing. Now
Goarden could not sing very well, but as Jock, the drover, used to say,
"he thought he could, an’ thet did jest es well." In the matter of
singing, as well as in some other respects, the boys used to "run the rig"
on Goarden, and he was generally called on. It was deemed the best of good
form to demur and take a good deal of coaxing before yielding, and you may
be sure that Goarden hesitated sufficiently long to fill the bill. Indeed,
on one occasion he demurred so long that the crowd passed him over and
called for somebody else. Goarden never repeated that mistake.
The first song that I ever heard him sing was "The
True Shanty Lad." I cannot recall the first verses of the song, but the
conclusion runs something like this : —
THE TRUE SHANTY LAD
An’ when I am dead an’ gone, sir,
et that put an end to my life;
Let there be no weepin’ nor wailin’,
But do a good turn for the wife.
Do a good turn for the wife, boys;
An’ one thing more yet I do crave:
Wind me up in my old shanty jacket,
Pray, fiddle, an’ dance o’er my grave.
The last word was spoken in order to
let the audience know when the end of the song was reached. In response to
a vociferous "ancor," Goarden took a pace or two forwards and said:
"Ladies an’ gents, if you’d like it, I’ll sing you a French song which I
larnt on ‘the drive’ last spring."
Of course there was a strong demand
for the French song. As everybody knew, Goarden had a weakness for
exhibiting a knowledge of the French language, which he professed to speak
quite fluently, and into which it was his habitual custom to lapse, much
to the admiration of the "young bloods," and to his own
Well, here is the only stanza of
Goarden’s "French song" of which I could make a note at the time, and I
give it spelled phonetically, exactly as Goarden sang it. Perhaps some
reader may recognise the old favourite which often made the forest ring
forty or fifty years ago in Ontario and Quebec.
GOARDEN’S FRENCH SONG
Oo le lamb ah bully boo yay,
Oo le lamb a boo yay,
Pas ale vous, la dig a maw,
Oo le lamb a boo yaw.
I cannot say whether or not Goarden
spoke the last word of the above, but the point is immaterial, as he half
spoke, half drawled everything he attempted to sing.
Once fairly started, it was
difficult to stop him, and before the dance broke up at daylight he had
gone pretty well through his repertoire, which embraced such well-known
sentimental and musical gems as "Darling Daisy Dean," "Don’t you go,
Tommy, don’t go," "Lottie Lane," and "Now we are Aged and Gray, Maggie."
Some of his songs were evidently old ballads imperfectly transmitted. For
instance, this :—
THE LOVELY BANKS OF BOYNE
I am a youthful damsel;
I loved a laddie well.
I was always true and kind to him,
And the truth to you I’ll
It was in my father’s
That he gained this
heart of mine,
And he tempted me
On the lov-lee banks o’ Bine. (Boyne.)
He coorted me
all for a
And promised for to wed,
And when he ‘d gained my favours
Away from me he fled.
He fled from me like the morning dew
When the sun began to shine,
And he quite forsook his Flora
Of the lov-lee banks o’ Bine.
His hair hung down in ring-a-lets,
His cheeks were like the rose,
His teeth like polished ivoree,
And his eyes as black as sloes.
His come-ly looks enti-ced me,
And his aspect bold but kind;
For he tempted me to wander
On the lov-lee banks o’ Bine.
A-las! I’m told this false young man
To London town has gone,
And it’s there he has got mar-eed
To a lady of high renown.
So, ladies, guess my fee-lings!
Mind how you spend your time,
Or they’ll leave you like poor Flora
Of the lov-lee banks o’ Bine.
I quick-a-lee pursu-ed him
Unto fair London town;
I pack-ed up my jew-el-ree
That very afternoon.
I bade farewell to my parents dear,
Who now in sorrow pine,
And I left my father’s cas-tile
On the lov-bee banks o’ Bine.
Goarden sang not only with great
unction but with that perfect nasal twang which none but he could give. I
have often thought that if some impressario or shrewd theatrical manager
could hire Goarden to appear on the stage and act naturally, there would
be a fortune in the venture.
Perhaps one of the best "Come all
ye" songs that Goarden used to sing was the one entitled "The Rovin’
Rangers," which ran something like this :
THE ROVIN’ RANGERS
Come, all ye Rovin’ Rangers,
Wherever that ye be.
I hope ye’ll pay attention,
And listen unto me.
My name is something extra, —
To you I will not tell;
But to all ye Rovin’ Rangers,
I’m sure I wish ye well.
‘Twas at the age of sixteen
I joined a jolly band.
I marched in Great Ontay-re-o,
Unto a high-yer ground.
Our captain he gave orders
(Pe-raps he thought it right):
"Hyay, — before you reach the
Brave boys, ye’ve got to fight !"
I saw the Injuns comin’,
I heerd them give the yell;
My feelin’s at that mo-ment
No mort-yal tongue could tell!
I thought on my old mother,
And her to me did say:
"To you they are all en-e-mees;
With me ye’d better stay."
(Sung pathetically and softly.)
Pe-raps ye have a mother,
Pe-raps a sister tew;
Pe-raps ye have a sweetheart (audible sobs) To weep an’ murn for yew.
Let this be your condition,
An’ yew are beound to roam,
I’ll tell ye by experians
Ye’d better stay at home.
There’s five as noble Rangers
As ever crossed the west,
Lie buried by their comrades, —
Lie in their peaceful rest.
For the benefit of those readers who
may experience a desire to practise this song, I append the notes of the
tune : —
Sometimes, if John Malcolm, the old
salt, was present, and duly primed, he used to sing "Hearts of Oak," and
other nautical songs. Malcolm was a great favourite in the neighbourhood,
and not without reason, for before the advent of the railway, indeed
before the advent of the stage, he used to act as the means of
communication between the settlement and "the front," — as Brockville,
Prescott, and the St. Lawrence were regarded. Many a commission did he
execute for the settlers, and many a missive did he carry. He would throw
the letters and smaller parcels into the old weather-faded muskrat cap
which he wore, summer and winter, on his long rounds; for in those early
days he peddled beer along the Grand (now Ottawa) River, supplying the
rugged settlers who had located in that tier of counties along the river,
with the "good cheer" which he carried.
Malcolm was never known to lose a
parcel or letter, or forget a commission entrusted to him. He was the best
of good company, with his fund of nautical stories, in which he usually
appeared as the central figure. So that a drive from "the front" to the
settlement, or even a "lift" a short distance, with Malcolm, was a rare
treat. The narration of Malcolm’s stories would fill a small volume, and I
may add, an interesting one; some day they may be given. A kindlier soul
than Malcolm never drove through the Concessions of those eastern
counties, and his memory is often recalled with affection to this very
It was only on the rarest occasions
that Dooley, the blacksmith, could be induced to sing. He had a voice like
a buzz-saw, and as he generally struck a pitch an octave or two too high
(Jock, the drover, said "a few octaves here or there wuz nothin’ to
Dooley"), the effect can be imagined, more especially when his selections
(I think he had only two) contained such inflammatory words as these : —
Come, all ye true-bred Irishmen,
Wherever that ye be!
I hope ye’ll pay attintion
While a story I relate.
It’s of a bluddy Orange crowd,
That killed and murdered Patrick Donohue,
And him did massacrate!
If Whitey Roberts, a red-headed,
peppery north of Ireland man, who always acted as marshal at the annual
"Orange walk" in the county town, was present when Dooley "performed" this
song, there was generally a fight; for drunk or sober, Whitey could not
stand that song, and the moment Dooley concluded the first verse, if
Whitey was about, he always "stumped" the blacksmith out to fight.
An encounter of this nature was a
diversion which the boys, and especially Goarden, keenly relished, and it
was often regarded by the rougher element as an appropriate climax to a
Dooley’s dance, like all other
similar festivities, concluded with a "hoe down," in which, when "balance
on the corner" was called, the boys vied with each other in their efforts
to drive the heels of their boots through the floor. I have perhaps
lingered over it at undue length, and have presented too great an array of
songs; evidently we cannot afford to attend a country dance more than once
in a book, and this will wind up our experiences in that connection.
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