Arthur McBride

TITLE: Arthur McBride
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Public Domain, Traditional
KEYWORDS: army, fight, recruiting, humorous
EARLIEST DATE: before 1867 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(2131))
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:  The song refers to being “sent to France,which could be referring to Ireland’s involvement in the Glorious Revolution (1688), the Nine Years War(1688-97), or the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-1691).

Arthur McBride“Arthur McBride” was first collected around 1840 in Limerick by Patrick Weston Joyce. also in Donegal by George Petrie.  He believed it to originally come from Donegal, based on the phraseology of the song. It’s an anti-recruiting song similar in theme to The Kerry RecruitMrs. McGrath and Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya..; and there are many more.  The “Recruiting Sergeant” was a popular target for poetic ire, because he conscripted young Irishmen to fight on behalf of England. The roots of this song, however, likely link back to the 17th century, given Ireland’s involvement in the Glorious Revolution (1688), the Nine Years War(1688-97), and especially the Williamite War in Ireland (1689-1691).

FYI: In the mid-eighteenth century, if an English soldier took off his uniform, the minimum penalty was twenty-five lashes with a cat-o-nine-tails, and 1500 lashes the maximum. Average pay was eightpence a day. (from Wikipedia and Cantaria Folk Song Archive)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Arthur McBride and the Sergeant
  • Teddy O’Brown

RECORDINGS:

YOUTUBE VIDEO: 

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Paul Brady

Arthur McBride

Oh me and my cousin one Arthur McBride
As we went a-walking down by the seaside
A-marking what followed and what might betide
For it being on Christmas morning

And for recreation we went on a tramp
And we met Sergeant Harper and Corporal Ramp
And the little wee drummer intending to camp
For the day being pleasant and charming

“Good morning, good morning” the Sergeant he cried
“And the same to you gentlemen” we did reply
Intending no harm as we meant to pass by
For it being on Christmas morning

But says he “My fine fellows if you will enlist
It’s ten guineas in gold I will slip into your fists
And a crown in the bargain for to kick up the dust
And drink the King’s health in the morning

For a soldier he leads a very fine life
He always is blessed with a charming young wife
And he pays all his debts without sorrow and strife
And he always lives pleasant and charming

And a soldier he always is decent and clean
In the finest of clothing he’s constantly seen
While other poor fellows look dirty and mean
And sup on thin gruel in the morning”

But says Arthur “I wouldn’t be proud of your clothes
For you’ve only the lend of them, as I suppose
And you dare not change them one night for you know
If you do you’ll be flogged in the morning

And although that we are single and free
We take great delight in our own company
And we have no desire strange faces to see
Although that your offers are charming

And we have no desire to take your advance
All hazards and dangers we barter on chance
For you would have no scruple for to send us to France
Where we would get shot without warning

“Oh no,” says the Sergeant, “I’ll hear no such chat
And I never will take it from rascal or brat
For if you insult me with one other word
I’ll cut off your heads in the morning”

And then Arthur and I we soon drew our odds
And we scarce gave them time for to draw their own blades
When a trusty oak branch came over their heads
And bade them take that as fair warning

And their old rusty rapiers that hung by their sides
We flung them as far as we could in the tide
“Now take them out, devils,” cried Arthur McBride
“And temper their edge in the morning”

And the little wee drummer we flattened his pouch
And we made a foot-bowl of his rowdy-dowd-dowd
Threw it in the tide for to rock and to roll
And bade it a tedious returning

And we having no money, paid them off in cracks
And we paid no respect to their two bloody backs
But we lathered them there like a pair of wet sacks
And left them for dead in the morning

And so to conclude and to finish disputes
We obligingly asked if they wanted recruits
For we were the lads who would give them hard clouts
And bid them look sharp in the morning

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook (Peter Blood and Annie Patterson) A Sing Out! 2004, original 1988

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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