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CD132 -

Irish Songs from Old New England

Young Mathyland
Erin's Green Shore
The Heights of Alma
1 Cork Harbor 5:41
2 Young Mathyland 3:16
3 The Maid of Loggin's Green 4:46
4 Erin's Green Shore 4:06
5 The Dark-Eyed Sailor 4:58
6 The Tanyard Side 3:23
7 James Derry 6:16
8 Lovely Willie 2:34
9 The Peelers of Ballinamore 4:07
10 Barney McGee 3:08
11 Napoleon's Defeat 4:41
12 McCormick & Kelly 2:53
13 The Constant Farmer's Son 4:05
14 Bold McCarthy 3:57
15 Adieu to Old Ireland 3:23
16 The Heights of Alma 7:00




Real Irish folk songs collected in New England, most brought directly from Ireland by immigrants and deep-water sailors during the 19th Century. All were kept alive by men and women who built New England's cities and towns, who worked in its factories and homes, who toiled on its farms and fishing boats, and who felled trees in its rich forests. Some are rarely heard in Ireland today, some were made in America. They are story songs of love and war, frolic and work - Irish ballads that, like their singers, became truly American.

The artists include three All-Ireland Champions - Frank Harte, Jim McFarland & Len Graham; and many of North America's finest modern-day ballad singers - Gordon Bok, Ian Robb, Robbie O'Connell, Sandy & Caroline Paton; plus four leaders of the Irish-American traditional song revival - Bob Conroy, Bonnie Milner, Dan Milner & Deirdre Murtha; and two icons of Britain's folk song movement whose roots stretch back to the Emerald Isle - Louis Killen & Martin Carthy; with guest instrumentalists – Greg Brown accordion/fiddle, Brian Conway fiddle & David Paton concertina.

INTRODUCTION
From the start, New England was an inhospitable place for the Irish. Immigrants who came to Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont learned quickly that they were in for a hard existence of hostility and discrimination. The Anglo-Protestants of old New England reveled in the American way-of-life they had fashioned far from the strife that had consumed their forbearers. They distrusted anyone foreign and they wished to stay clear.

The early Irish of Massachusetts were a scattering of soldiers, indentured servants and transported prisoners. A small Irish merchant class grew with time and the colony's first St. Patrick's Day celebration took place in 1737 with the founding of the Boston Irish Charitable Society. Still, Catholicism could not be practiced lawfully in Massachusetts until 1779 and, 75 years later, Dorchester's first Catholic church was burned to the ground by the aptly named Know-Nothings. The vast majority of Great Famine (1845-1852) escapees who landed in Boston came with nothing and, without funds to engage in farming or trading, were unable to participate in the principal pursuits they had followed in Ireland. In overwhelming preponderance, their employment had to be the work no one else wanted: laboring and service jobs. Struggling on, most gained a foothold and succeeded… some fabulously.

But the scene in Boston was only part of the New England panorama. In 1719, Ulster-Presbyterians settled the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire and, reputedly, cultivated the potato in North America for the first time. Rhode Island's early Irish settlers were mainly Protestants too with Catholics arriving in significant numbers for the construction of Fort Adams at Newport starting in 1824. Many of Maine's Irish are the descendants of “two boaters,” immigrants who came first to Atlantic Canada because fares were generally much cheaper to British North America than to the United States. Matthew Lyon, a native of Co. Wicklow who had started his life in America as an indentured servant in Connecticut, fought with the Green Mountain Boys during the Revolution and served Vermont in Congress from 1796 to 1800. Large numbers of Irish first entered Connecticut to dig the 80-mile long Farmington Canal in the 1820s.

Throughout the 19th Century, waves of Catholic Irishmen supplied much of the sweat and sinew to build the factories of New England and its railways, roads, public buildings and housing. During the Civil War, thousands upon thousands enlisted while others took the places of Yankees who had already left for battle; many New Englanders, new and old, never returned. As America raced towards the 20th Century, daughters of laborers and servants became nurses and teachers and many of New England's Irish Catholic families ascended into the middle class. The eminent historian Kerby Miller writes that, as Southern and Eastern European immigrants began pouring into New England, Boston's Brahmins began to recruit the Irish as “honorary Anglo-Saxons.”

In 1930, when Helen Hartness Flanders first set out from her Springfield, Vermont home to collect folk songs, she was primarily in search of the English and Scottish popular ballads as defined by the Harvard scholar Francis James Child. By the time the fieldwork was concluded 30 years later, she and her collaborators – George Brown, Elizabeth Flanders Ballard and Marguerite Olney – had broadened that mission greatly and had amassed some 4500 musical items. Many of the songs were of Irish origin or of Irish-American making.

The Flanders field collecting came at a critical time. Those who contributed songs were the last generation to sing the ballads of an early Irish-American song tradition that was being broken by radio, the phonograph and other modern inventions. The singers were mainly older rural dwellers and, interestingly, they were not exclusively of Irish background. Just as the Irish themselves assimilated, their ballads became Irish-American songs. Americans of French-Canadian stock like Eugene Neddeau and Paul Lorette sang “In the Town of Donegal” and “Erin-Go-Bragh” and Yankee singers with names like Abe Washburn and Sidney Luther sang “The Irish Patriot” and “Bold Kelly.” Many of the male informants had worked in the lumber camps of New England and Canada where they felled trees and hauled logs alongside Famine immigrants and where the convention was to learn a ballad exactly as you heard it – brogue and all, often speaking the last few words.

Helen Hartness Flanders not only wanted to collect and to preserve ballads but to re-popularize them as well. She wrote articles for New England newspapers, gave lectures incorporating performances by her informants, published nine books containing songs from the collection and established an archive at Middlebury College in Vermont. Her great work preserved a vast legacy for New Englanders, for the Irish People and for lovers of traditional song everywhere. This recording is made with the hope of re-introducing these classic Irish-American ballads into today's living folk song repertoire.


    
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