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By the Hush / Paddy's Lamentation

[ Roud 2314 ; Ballad Index DTbyhush ; Old Songs ByTheHush ; Mudcat 4988 , 45783 ; trad.]

O.J. Abbott sang the emigrant and Civil War song By the Hush, Me Boys in a 1957 field recording made by Edith Fowke that was included in 1975 on the Leader album Far Canadian Fields, which was sold as the acoustic companion to her Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs. She commented in the album's booklet:

Although this song obviously came out of the American Civil War it seems to be unknown in the United States. O.J. Abbott learned it from Mrs. O'Malley, the wife of an Ottawa valley farmer, for whom he worked back in the 1880s. We can only surmise that she must have heard it from some Irish-American who wandered up to Canada after the Civil War.

This is an interesting combination of two themes common in many Irish songs: that of emigrating, and of becoming involved in other countries' wars. Of course thousands of Irish emigrants did ‘fight for Lincoln’, and the ‘General Mahar’ mentioned was probably General Thomas Francis Meagher, commander of the famous Irish Brigade that distinguished itself on the heights of Fredericksburg and in the battle of Richmond. His promise of a pension ‘if you get shot or lose your head’ is a fine example of Irish graveyard humour.

Margaret Christl and Ian Robb sang By the Hush on their 1976 Folk-Legacy album of traditional songs found in Canada, The Barley Grain for Me. They give Abbott's version collected by Fowke as their source.

Ian Giles sang By the Hush (Paddy's Lamentation) in 1997 on his WildGoose CD The Amber Triangle. He noted:

One of a number of cautionary tales from the Irish-American community during the American Civil War. Source: Mr O.J. Abbott of Hull, Quebec, collected by Edith Fowke.

The Battlefield Band sang The Emigrant on their 2006 CD The Road of Tears. A 2007 live recorded from Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, was released in the following year on their CD In Concert at the Brunton Theatre.

Jeff Warner sang By the Hush in 2011 on his WildGoose album Long Time Travelling. He commented:

Edith Fowke collected this song, also known as Paddy's Lamentation, in 1957, from O.J. Abbott (1872-1962) who was born in Enfield, England, and came across to work in Ontario lumber camps. It has been found in print as a broadside ballad called Pat in America, but it appears that Abbott's version might be the only one collected in oral tradition.

The realisation that Irish immigrants were essentially drafted off the ships into the Union Army during the Civil War provides the distressing backdrop for this song. General Meagher led the renowned Irish-American Sixty-Ninth Brigade from New York.

Andy Turner learned By the Hush in his first student year from Margaret Christl and Ian Robb's album. He sang it as the 1 July 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Will Finn and Rosie Calvert sang Paddy's Lamentation in 2018 on their Haystack album Beneath This Place. They noted:

A song from the Irish Diaspora, this story was unfortunately true for millions of Irish immigrants who fled terrible conditions in Ireland for the promise of a new start in America—only to be conscripted into a civil war that they had no stake in.

More Maids sang By the Hush on their 2021 CD Fourmaids. They noted:

This song is among the first ones Barbara [Coerdt] learnt when she started getting interested in Irish Music, and she is very grateful to have come across it on Andy M. Stewart’s epic solo recording. It is one of the saddest emigrant songs as it tells the story of a man who gets no chance to start a new life but is drawn into the American Civil War, loses his leg and is denied the pension he was promised. In the end he only wishes to be back home, poor in “dear old Erin”—“dear old Ireland”.


Margaret Christl and Ian Robb sing By the Hush

It's by the hush, me boys,
I'm sure that's to hold your noise,
And listen to poor Paddy's narration.
For I was by hunger pressed,
And in poverty distressed,
And I took a thought I'd leave the Irish nation.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
So, here's you boys,
Now take my advice;
To America I'd have youse not be coming,
For there's nothing here but war,
Where the murdering cannons roar,
And I wish I was at home in dear old Erin.

I sold me horse and plough,
Me little pigs and cow,
And me little farm of land and I parted.
And me sweetheart, Biddy McGee,
I'm sure I'll never see,
For I left her there that morning, broken hearted.

Meself, and a hundred more,
To America sailed o'er,
Our fortunes to be making, we as thinking;
But when we landed in Yankee land,
they shoved a gun into our hand,
Saying, “Paddy, you must go and fight for Lincoln.”

General Mahar to us said,
if you get shot or lose your head,
Every murdered soul of you will get a pension.”
Well, in the war I lost me leg,
All I've now is a wooden peg;
I tell you, 'tis the truth to you I'll mention.

Now I think meself in luck
To be fed upon Indian buck
In old Ireland, the country I delight in;
And with the devil i do say,
“Curse Americay,”
For I'm sure I've had enough of their hard fighting.

More Maids By the Hush

And it's by the hush, me boys, and that's to hold your noise
And listen to poor Paddy's sad narration.
I was by hunger pressed and in poverty distressed
So I took a thought I'd leave the Irish nation

Well I sold my horse and plough, I sold my pig and cow
And from that farm of land I parted
And my sweetheart Biddy McGhee, O I'm sure l'll never see
For I left her on that morning brokenhearted

Chorus (after each verse):
Here's you boys, now take my advice
To Americay I'd have you not be cornin'
For there's nothin' here but war
Where the murdering cannons roar
And I wish I was at home in dear old Erin

Now meself and a hundred more to Americay sailed o'er
Our fortunes to be makin', we were thinkin'
When we landed in Yankee land they shoved a gun into our hands
Saying, Paddy, you must go and fight for Lincoln

General Meagher to us said, If you get shot or lose your head
Every mother's son of you will get a pension
In the war I lost my leg, all I've now is a wooden peg
By my soul, it is the truth to you I'll mention

Now I'd think myself in luck to be fed on Indian buck
In old Ireland, the country I delight in
And with the devil I do say, o Christ curse Americay
For I'm sure I've had enough of your hard fighting