Breedloves's Folk Songs


  • “Mrs. McGrath” (also known as “Mrs. McGraw”) is an Irish folk song. The song tells the
    story of a woman whose son enters the British Army, and returns seven years later having
    lost his legs to a cannonball fighting against Napoleon in the Peninsular War. The general
    theme of the song is one of opposition to war, the mother claiming that she would rather
    have her son as he was. “Mrs. McGrath” is also a song by the The Dubliners based on the
    tune of the original folk song. This version of the song tells the story of a country boy
    who goes to Dublin to college but fails due to spending all his money and time on women
    and drink
    Bruce Springsteen recorded a version of the song on his 2006 album, We Shall
    Overcome: The Seeger Sessions”. Performed frequently on the subsequent Sessions Band
    Tour, this incarnation was included on the 2007 Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions
    Band: Live in Dublin audio and video release. In all this, Springsteen changed the
    traditional lyrics slightly. In the original song, Mrs. McGrath would rather have her “son
    as he used to be than the King of France and his whole navy.” In Springsteen’s version,
    this is changed to “King of America.”
    “Oh, Mrs. McGrath,” the sergeant said
    “Would you like to make a soldier out of your son Ted
    With a scarlet coat and a big cocked hat
    Oh, Mrs. McGrath, wouldn’t you like that?”
    With your too-ri-a, fol-di-diddle-da, too-ri, oor-ri, oor-ri-a
    With your too-ri-a, fol-di-diddle-da, too-ri, oor-ri, oor-ri-a
    Now, Mrs. McGrath lived on the shore
    For the space of seven long years or more
    She spied a ship coming into the bay
    With her son from far away”
    “Oh captain dear, where have you been
    You?ve been sailing the Mediterranean
    Have you news of my son Ted
    Is he living or is he dead?”
    Up came Ted without any legs
    And in their place, two wooden pegs,
    She kissed him a dozen times or two
     And said “My god, Ted is it you”

    “Now were you drunk or were you blind

    When you left your two fine legs behind
    Or was it walking upon the sea
    That wore your two fine legs away?”
    “No, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind
    When I left my two fine legs behind
    A big cannon ball on the fifth of May
    Tore my two fine legs away”
    “Oh, Teddyboy,” the widow cried
    “Your two fine legs were your mothers pride
    Stumps of a tree won’t do at all
    Why didn’t you run from the big cannon ball?”
    “All foreign wars I do proclaim
    live on the blood and the mothers pain
    I’d rather have my son as he used to be
    Than the King of America and his whole navy”

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