From the recording Six Strings and Coffee Beans

In cart Not available Out of stock


Mark Clavey – vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover – vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither – lead vocals, fiddle

As anti-recruitment songs go, "Arthur McBride" is in a class unto itself. The most well-known song that best exemplifies the anti-recruitment genre is "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye". Rhetorically speaking, the song is an ad misericordiam argument against war (in general) and recruitment (in the context of the song). When Johnny finally came home, he was not to be recognized - the war had claimed his arms and legs, and he would have to be put with a bowl to beg. In exchange for a (seemingly) hefty enlistment bonus, that was what the listener, the prospective recruit, had to look forward to. "Arthur McBride" had quite the different predisposition - rather than entertain the recruiting sergeant's pitch, Arthur and his cousin let him know exactly how unappealing and unwelcome his offer is... and when that rebuff was met with hostility, Arthur and cousin literally beat them to the punch. From early-1800s Ireland, the song was collected by Henry Payne and Patrick Joyce, and made popular by Planxty, Paul Brady, and Bob Dylan. The opening tune, "Andy Renwick's Ferret", is a reel from the late Gordon Duncan. The closing tune, "The Fishermen's Song for Attracting Seals", is a Scottish air that appeared in the Rev. Patrick McDonald's "A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs".


I had a first cousin called Arthur McBride. He and I took a stroll down by the seaside a-seeking good fortune and what might betide - 'twas just as the day was a-dawning. Then after resting we both took a tramp, and we met Sergeant Harper and Corporal Cramp and besides a wee drummer, who beat up our camp with his rowdy-dow-dow in the morning.

"Well now," says the sergeant, "if you will enlist, it's ten guineas I quickly shall shove in your fist. And besides the crown for to kick up the dust and drink the King's health in the morning." "Had we been such fools as to take the advance, with a wee bit of warning we'd barter our chance - for you have no scruples but to send us to France where we would be killed without warning."

"Well now," says the sergeant, "if I hear one more word, I instantly now and will out with my sword and into your bodies as strength will afford - so now, my gay devils, take warning!" But Arthur and I - we took up the odds, and we gave them no chance for to launch out their swords. Our whacking shillelaghs came over their heads, and we bade them take that as fair warning.

As for the wee drummer - we rifled his pou, and we made a football of his rowdy-dow-dow... and into the ocean to rock and to roll and bade it a tedious returning. As for the old rapier that hung by his side - we flung it as far as we could in the tide. "To the devil I pitch you," says Arthur McBride, "to temper your steel in the morning."