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Colin of 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 self-gratification.

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 tell.
It was
in my father’s cas-tile
That he gained
this heart of mine,
And he tempted
me to wander
On the lov-lee banks o’ Bine. (Boyne.)

He coorted me all for a while
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 station, oh,
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 day.

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 first-class dance.

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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