McAlpine's Fusiliers (Sons Of Erin) video
#212 YouTube video by kelticknots
©2008 ~ Used with permission ~


Well, the savage loves his native shore,
That's what the poet said;
Ah, but Paddy fancies England more,
So he packed his pajamas and fled.

Now, here I am from Paddy's land,
From the land of eggs and bacon;
If you think I'll eat your fish 'n' chips,
By Jeasus, you're mistaken.

But the war came on in thirty-nine,
And the skies were full of lead;
And Hitler was headed for London,
And Paddy for Holyhead.

Come all you Pincher laddies,
And all long-distance men;
Don't ever work for McAlpine,
For Wimpey or John Laing.

For he'll stick you behind a mixer,
And he'll work your skin to a tan;
And he'll say, "Get along ya, Paddy,
With your passport in your hand."

For the craic was good down in Cricklewood,
And there was more there down in the Crown;
With glasses flying and biddies crying,
Counters crackin' and bowmen jackin',
The paddies was coming to town.

Oh, Mother dear, I'm over here,
And I'm never going back;
What keeps me here is the price of beer,
The women, and the craic.


And so in the glen came McAlpine's men,
With their shovels slung behind them;
'Twas in the pub that they drank their sub,
And up in the spike you will find them.
They sweated, by George,
and they washed away mud,
With their pints and their quarts of beer;
And now we're on the road again,
With McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I stripped to the skin with the darky, Finn,
Way down upon the Isle of Grain;
With Horseface Toole, well I knew the rule,
No money if you saw a-falling rain.
McAlpine's god was a well-filled hod,
With your shoulders cut to bits and seared;
And woe to he who has to look for tea,
From McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I was there the day that the Bear of O'Shea,
He fell into a concrete stairs;
What Horseface said when he saw him dead,
Well, it wasn't what the rich call prayers.
"I'm a navvy short," was the one retort,
That reached unto my ears;
When the going is rough, by God,
you must be tough,
With McAlpine's Fusiliers.

Well, I've worked till the sweat had me hardly be't,
With the Russian, the Czech, and the Pole,
I'm shuttering jambs on the hydro dams,
Or underneath the Thames in a hole.
I blasted it hard and they got me cards,
And a man named Ganger's fist across me ears;
If you pride your life, then don't join, by Christ,
With McAlpine's Fusiliers.

####.... Variant of Macaldine's Fusiliers, written in 1960 by Dominic Behan [1928-1989] Irish songwriter, short story writer, novelist, and playwright (The Irish Rover, Folklore Limited Edition, 1961, © Essex Music International) ....####
This variant recorded by the Sons of Erin, featuring bandleader Ralph O'Brien, Johnnie Lynn, "Wee" John Cameron, and Denis Ryan on their self-titled c.1970 Sons Of Erin album.

See more songs by Sons of Erin.

From postings at The Mudcat Café:

¹ Per Sir William MacAlpine and Joe Byrne of Arghamore in East Mayo, UK, as told to researcher and author, Ultan Cowley: The classic Behan/Dubliners version was a derivation of an earlier song written (but not copyrighted) by Martin Henry of Rooskey, near Doocastle in East Mayo, probably sometime in the 'fifties. The Darky Finn was a neighbour of Martin Henry and lived in Cloontia, near Doocastle.

²Teribus, a member of the MudCat discussion forum, also noted that the character referred to in this variant of the song as 'the Bear of O'Shea' came from the fishing port of Castletown Bear Haven, more commonly known as Castletownbere. The line should read: "I was there the day that the Bere O'Shea". Teribus said he had met a relative of the man while staying in Castletownbere where he was working on the salvage operation mounted after the tanker Betelgeuse blew up in January 1979, alongside at Whiddy Island.

Additional Notes:

McAlpine's Fusiliers - nickname for Irish navvies employed by the British construction firm McAlpine. The song was originally published as Macaldine's Fusiliers to avoid a potential libel lawsuit by the powerful McAlpine firm.

Biddy - ¹ chick or hen, from the Gaelic bideach, meaning very small; ² female servant; ³ elderly, gossipy woman. Both ² and ³ are derived from the common diminutive of the Irish name Bridget.

Cards - to get cards is to be fired. When an employee left a job, he received back his national insurance card with up to date social security stamps, plus a form showing pay and taxes for the year.

Craic - (pronounced: crack) conversation, small talk. chat.

Crown - although a common name of an English public house similar to a bar in America, this usage refers to a specific pub in the Cricklewood district of London, frequented by expatriate Irish.

Holyhead - largest town on the island of Anglesey in North Wales best known for being a busy ferry port serving routes to and from Ireland.

Isle of Grain - huge petrochemical complex near Rochester, England.

Jambs - vertical posts or pieces that form the sides of a portal or opening.

Navvy - shorter form of the word 'navigator' used to describe a laborer obliged to do menial work on public civil engineering projects; originally, a laborer on canals for internal navigation.

Pincher laddies (pincher kiddies) - men who worked for 'The Pincher Mac', whose name was MacNicholas, per Paul O'Brien of Dublin, IE, as published in the glossary errata of The Essential Ewan McColl Songbook, Sixty Years Of Songmaking by Peggy Seeger ©2001.

Shuttering - wooden sides or forms for casting concrete.


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