From the recording Two To Get Ready
Mark Clavey: vocals, guitar
Mary Hanover: lead vocals, hammered dulcimer
Rachel Gaither-Vaughan: vocals, fiddle
…this is a song Mary was downright insistent on doing. We first heard this song from the singing of dear friend and fellow performer Sandy Lee (Prof. Barnswallow T. Farquar – for the uninitiated among you). The song has been famously recorded by Mary Black, Sinéad O’Connor, Paul Brady, and Linda Thompson. Alternately known as “By The Hush” (an anglicization of a phrase in the first verse that means “be silent”), the song relates the experience of one of the half-million Irish immigrants to the US in the mid-1860s. With a country enmeshed in Civil War, the Union and the Confederacy recruited 140,000 such Irishmen, promising them citizenship if they would serve as soldiers in the cause. It was a novel and enticing opportunity to be so welcomed and trusted – as Catholics were outlawed from owning weapons in Ireland. Many of these recruits found themselves in Thomas Meagher’s hard-charging Irish Brigade… “Who never retreated from the clash of spears”… and who endured the third-highest number of battlefield casualties of any Union brigade. The soldier in our song could have been one of thousands. The tune we’ve woven into the arrangement is a Shetland tune called “Da Full Rigged Ship”…
Well, it’s bí i do thost, me boys. And sure that’s to hold your noise, and listen to poor Paddy’s lamentation. I was by hunger pressed and in poverty distressed, so I took a thought to leave this Irish nation. Well I sold my horse and cow, my little pigs and sow. My little farm of land and I were parted. And my sweetheart Biddy McGee I’m sure I’ll never see for I left her there that morning, broken hearted. So here’s you boys, take my advice. To Amerikay I’ll have youse not be faring. There is nothin’ here but war where the murdering cannons roar, and I wish I was at home in dear old Erin.
Myself and a hundred more, to Amerikay sailed o’er - our fortunes to be making we were thinking. But when we got to Yankee land, they shoved a gun into our hand, saying, "Paddy, you must go and fight for Lincoln." General Meagher to us he said, “If you get shot or lose your head, every murdered soul of you will get a pension.” Well in the war I lost my leg, all I’ve now is a wooden peg. And I swear it is the truth to you I mention. So here’s you boys…
Now I think myself in luck to be fed upon Indian buck in old Ireland, the country I delight in. And with the Devil, I do say, "Curse Amerikay!" – for I’m sure I’ve had enough on their hard fighting. So here’s you boys…
And I wish I was at home, yes I wish I was at home, and I wish I was at home in dear old Erin.