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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Karen Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues (286* d) RE: Origin: Saint James Infirmary Blues 15 Nov 17


Hello Brian

I think we are talking at cross purposes. I am sorry about this.

It has certainly been claimed (albeit perhaps not be anybody on these threads) that the song has an Irish origin. The specific claim was first made as far as I am aware by Phillips Barry, in the US, in about 1911 on the basis that My Jewel My Joy, a fragment collected in Cork, was a version of The Unfortunate Lad. His supposition was later referred back to more or less as if facts in a whole thread of writing stretching through the 20th century.

I apologise if I gave the impression I felt you were arguing that the song had an Irish origin.

For all I know, it might indeed have been Irish or 'Anglo Irish' as AL Loyd once (controversially, perhaps) put it, in origin. I don't claim to know the origin.   

You wrote that there are "several independent versions of 'Unfortunate Rake' mentioning St James' Hospital from oral tradition in various countries.."

This is exactly the sort of statement that I am attempting to unpick. As it happens, the record industry folk-arm had international sales, so the fact that Goldstein was American is not so important as it might appear.


I am afraid that I do not really believe that County Clare was cut off from the rest of the world in some sort of rural isolation and independence whereby a pure oral tradition was maintained. The links of that part of the world with the USA via emigration as well as via the general cultural are plain. I believe that they had radios and record players and folk magazines in County Clare just as early as they had them in England.

I cannot find precisely where I gave the impression that I thought a farmer in Co Clare actually heard a Louis Armstrong version: of course there were hundreds of version, the song was a worldwide hit. This is my point, a general one.

But thank you for the reference.

I stand by my view that A L Lloyd's song was the first *actually titled* 'The Unfortunate Rake' which included the words 'St James', and though the link to Co Clare is interesting, it does not as far as I can see challenge that view.


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