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By the Hush / Paddy's Lamentation

[ Roud 2314 ; Ballad Index DTbyhush ; 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.


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.


See also the Mudcat Café threads Lyr Add: Paddy's Lamentation and Origin: By the Hush / Paddy's Lamentation.