IRISH WASHERWOMAN, THE

Latest update on 01/03/2010

Artist: Charles D'Almaine
Author: traditional
Label: Edison cylinder
Year: 1904

In medley with Pop Goes The Weasel (see there). Although the tune has popularly been known as a quintessential Irish jig, it might just as well have been an English country dance tune published in the 17th century and probably known since the late 16th century. Irish emigration is alas of all times. First publication in Ireland circa 1785 as The Wash Woman by Henri Mountian in Dublin; as The Irish Washerwoman since 1792. In fact, the word 'Irish' in the title only makes sense outside Ireland. A local wash woman in Ireland can do without the word Irish prefixed. Bread in France is 'baguette', not 'pain Français'.

Covers:

1905:

Thomas Garrigan [professional uilleann piper from Coventry (England) but originating from Co. Mayo (Ireland); the first traditional Irish musician to record]

1917:

Raoul Gagnier [in Medley of Irish jigs]

1922:

Arthur Pryor's Band [in Reminiscences of Ireland]

1926:

Chicago Symphony Orch. [arranged by Leo Sowerby]

1940:

Cousin Emmy

1941:

Will Bradley [melody of Scrub Me, Mama, With A Boogie Beat; n°2 US]

1941:

Andrews Sisters [idem]

1944:

Bob Strong

1950:

Shand Family [musical dynasty: grandpa Jimmy Shand Sr. learned it from his grandfather; that's the same Jimmy Shand Richard Thompson sings about in his Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands]

1951:

John Burgess [at the Edinburgh People's Festival Ceilidh in the Lomax series]

1957:

Larry Williams [vocal in You Bug Me Baby]

1958:

Michael Herman's Folk Dance Orch.

1960:

Alan Mills [as The Alberta Homesteader]

1964:

Jumping Jewels

1972:

Edwards [as Highland Fling]

1978:

Tannahill Weavers

1988:

Bart Peeters [as I'm Into Folk]

1990:

Patrick Sebastien [as Le Gambadou]

In Bringing It All Back Home, a BBC documentary about the Irish origin of many American tunes, Pete Seeger explains that when you speed up the melody of negro spiritual Rock My Soul In The Bosom Of Abraham you end up with the Irish Washerwoman. Part of the reason the tune is considered old fashioned, holding a trite and hackneyed millstone around the neck. Nevertheless it remains a classic encore among County Donegal and County Clare fiddlers. In Doolin, whistle player Micho Russell called it "The Big Jig."

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