Digital Tradition Mirror

Irish Washerwoman/Corporal Casey

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Pennywhistle notation and Dulcimer tab for this song is also available

Irish Washerwoman/ Corporal Casey

(G. Colman.)

When I was at home I was merry and frisky,
My dad kept a pig and my mother sold whisky,
My uncle was rich, but never would by aisey
Till I was enlisted by Corporal Casey.
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey,
My dear little Shelah, I thought would run crazy,
When I trudged away with tough Corporal Casey.

I marched from Kilkenny, and, as I was thinking
On Shelah, my heart in my bosom was sinking,
But soon I was forced to look fresh as a daisy,
For fear of a drubbing from Corporal Casey.
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey!
The devil go with him, I ne'er could be lazy,
He struck my shirts so, ould Corporal Casey.

We went into battle, I took the blows fairly
That fell on my pate, but they bothered me rarely,
And who should the first be that dropped, why, and please ye,
It was my good friend, honest Corporal Casey.
Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey!
Thinks I you are quiet, and I shall be aisey,
So eight years I fought without Corporal Casey.

There don't seem to be any 'original' words to "The Irish Washerwoman".

According to the late Breandan Breathnach, 'Ceol Rince na
hEireann', Vol. 2, No.19, the tune "Irish Washerwoman" was
originally published as sheet music, 'The Wash Woman,'
c 1785, by Henry Mountain, Dublin. Breathnach noted the tune was
also in Lee's 'New Collection of Irish Country Dances for the
Year 1788. He also mentions some similar earlier tunes. J.
Brysson's 'A Curious Collection of Favourite Tunes', (1791)
entitled it "The Irish Waterman".

The earliest words I've seen are those of George Colman's song
'Corporal Casey' to a slightly altered version of the tune in the
play 'The Surrender of Calais', 1791. In my opinion, this isn't
one of Colman's better songs. Text below from 'The Universal
Songster', I, p. 359, 1828. Original in play/opera 'The Surrender
of Calais', 1791. Song with music is in 'Crosby's Irish Musical
Repository', 1808. Roger Fiske, 'English Theatre Music in the
18th Century', 2nd ed., notes tune is "Irish Washerwoman". Tune
is identified thus elswhere, also. Fiske says song was sung by
Mr. Johnstone. Single sheet edition, c 1800, says song was sung
by Mr. [Robert] Owenson [originally Mac Eoghain].
     The earliest I've seen the title "The Irish Washerwoman"
is in bk. 3 of Gow's 'A Collection of Strathspey Reels' (1792).
What was originally a description, 'Irish', has now become part
of the title. WBO


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