Mudcat Café message #2905942 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #129436   Message #2905942
Posted By: Jim Carroll
13-May-10 - 07:21 AM
Thread Name: Req: Songs of political despair
Interesting the way some subjects prod the thought processes awake - didn't think I knew any 'songs of political despair' until this came up.
This is a song with enough despair in it to fell an elephant.
I've included the notes to it as I believe it is an example of the way that some songs use despair to make a point and try to improve the situation.
I believe that, in a way, MacColl's last verse for 'Nobody' adds that little touch of anger to despair.
Jim Carroll

TEXT: Broadside in the N.L.I. Written by Charles Joseph Kickham, under the pseudonym of Darby Ryan, Junior. First printed in The Kilkenny Journal, 7th October, 1857; ((Patrick Sheehan, a recruiting song for English recruiting officers)).

My name is Patrick Sheehan,
My years are thirty-four;
Tipperary is my native place ?
Not far from Galtymore;
I came of honest parents ?
But now they're lying low ?
And many a pleasant day I spent
In the Glen of Aherlow.

My father died, I closed his eyes
Outside our cabin door
The Landlord and the Sheriff, too,
Were there the day before ?
And then my loving mother,
And sisters three also,
Were forced to go with broken hearts
From the Glen of Aherlow.

For three long months, in search of work,
I wandered far and near;
I went unto the Poorhouse
For to see my mother dear ?
The news I heard nigh broke my heart;
But still in all my woe
I blessed the friends who made their graves
In the Glen of Aherlow.

Bereft of home, and kith and kin ?
With plenty all around ?
I starved within my cabin,
And slept upon the ground!
But cruel as my lot was,
I ne'er did hardship know,
Till I joined the English army,
Far away from Aherlow.

Rouse up there, says the Corporal,
You lazy Hirish hound,
Why, don't you hear, you sleepy dog,
The call 'to arms' sound?
Alas! I had been dreaming
Of days long, long ago ?
I awoke before Sebastopol,
And not in Aherlow.

I groped to find my musket ?
How dark I thought the night;
O, blessed God, it was not dark,
It was the broad day-light!
And when I found that I was blind,
My tears began to flow;
I longed for even a pauper's grave
In the Glen of Aherlow.

A poor neglected mendicant
All in the public street,
My nine months' pension now being out,
I beg from all I meet;
As I joined my country's tyrant
My face I'll never show
Along my kind old neighbours
In the Glen of Aherlow.

Oh! blessed Virgin Mary,
Mine is a mournful tale,
A poor blind prisoner here am I
In Dublin's dreary jail;
Struck blind within the trenches
Where I never feared the foe,
And now I'll never see again
My own sweet Aherlow.

Then Irish youths, dear countrymen,
Take heed of what I say,
For if you join the English ranks
You'll surely rue the day,
So whenever you are tempted
A-soldiering to go,
Remember poor blind Sheehan
Of the Glen of Aherlow.

NOTE: On 28th September, 1857, The Freeman's Journal published the following information:0"A young man named Patrick Sheehan was brought up in custody of Police-constable Lynam, charged with causing an obstruction to the thoroughfare in Grafton-street. The constable stated that the prisoner was loitering in Grafton-street for the purpose of begging, having a placard on his breast setting forth that he had served in the Crimea in the 55th regiment; that he had lost his sight in the trenches before Sebastopol, and that he was discharged on a pension of six pence per day for nine months; and that this period being now expired, he was now obliged to have recourse to begging to support himself. A Crimean medal was found on his person ..."   
The prisoner was committed for seven days for begging.
Reading this article, Kickham saw there an opportunity "to discourage enlistment in England's service by exposing the savage ingratitude she displays to those who become disabled while soldiering for her." (Quoted in James Maher's anthology The Valley near Slievenamon, p. 85.) With the song, the Kilkenny Journal printed a letter from the author explaining that he had done his best to compose his verses in the popular style; "I wrote them tough and vigorous, such as the old ballads of the people used to be, that they may seize on the popular ear and produce the intended effect on the popular heart, and mind, and spirit of the country. And for this object there is nothing like a   rough, but racy street-ballad . . ."
Kickham was successful in his attempt, for the ballad was soon sung in the streets all over Ireland; it appeared on many broadsides, the only changes being in the punctuation. It is said to have shamed the government into inquiring about the ex-soldier, to whom a life pension of a shilling a day was granted.