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The Old Turf Fire

[ Roud 8215 ; Mudcat 170246 ; Johnny Patterson]

The Old Turf Fire is printed in Herbert Hughes, Irish Country Songs 4 (1936), pp. 41-44.

Steeleye Span sang The Old Turf Fire in 1998 on their Park album Horkstow Grange, crediting Johnny Patterson (1840-1889) as the song’s author. This track was included in the following year on the Park Records sampler A Stroll Through the Park. Gay Woods noted:

I used to hear this song when I was a child. “The hearth swept clean”—domestic bliss, my mother’s pride and joy. I live near the boglands in the midlands of Ireland now and burn the stuff. There is a spirit and an art in the burning and storing of turf that warms and inspired:

“Confounds all reckoning by sun
Or star as turf-smoke drifts,
Blue bitterness at dusk, and cabins
Kneel in clusters to the dark.”
(Norman Dugdale, an Englishman who lived in Ireland for nearly 50 years)


Steeleye Span sing The Old Turf Fire

Oh the old turf fire and the hearth swept clean,
There’s no-one so contented as myself and Paddy Keane,
The baby in the cradle, you can hear its mammy say,
Ah, will you go to sleep, Alanna, while I wet your daddy’s tea.

Now I’ve got a little house and land as neat as it can be,
You’ll never see the likes of it this side of Lisnakea.
No piano in the corner and no pictures on the wall,
But I’m happy and contented in my little cottage hall.

Now the man that I work for, of noble blood is he,
But somethin’ I’ll be tellin’ you we never can agree.
He has big towering mansions, he has castles great and tall.
But I wouldn’t change the roof that crowns my own cottage hall.


Round the old turf fire sit the old folk, bent with years,
As they watch us trippin’ lightly they’re smilin’ thro’ their tears.
So sadly they are dreaming of their youthful heart’s desire –
In those dear old days so long ago around the old turf fire.