Mrs. McGrath
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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Lyrics
The composer of the words and lyrics to this song is unknown. It was definately known before World War I and was popular with Irish Republicans before that war. It was also popular in the Easter Uprising of 1916.

However, according to John Anthony Scott's The Ballad of America, Mrs. McGrath appeared on a broadside published in Dublin as early as 1815.

McGrath is pronounced "McGraw."

The foreign war referred to in the song is the Penninsular Campaign of 1808-1814 in the Napoleonic Wars.*

Burl Ives writes, "The thought underlying this song is an expression of courage, the use of wit to paint a tragedy and make the telling bearable."

Oh, Missis McGrath, the sergeant said,
Would you like to make a soldier out of your son, Ted?
With a scarlet coat, and a three-cocked hat,
Now Missis McGrath, wouldn't you like that?
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Oh Mrs. McGrath lived by the seashore
For the space of seven long years or more;
Till she saw a big ship sail into the bay,
Here's my son, Ted, wisha, clear the way!
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Oh, Captain, dear, where have ye been
Have you been in the Meditereen?
Will ye tell me the news of my son, Ted?
Is the poor boy livin', or is he dead?
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Ah, well up comes Ted without any legs
An in their place he had two wooden pegs,
She kissed him a dozen times or two,
Saying, Holy Moses, 'tisn't you.
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Oh then were ye drunk, or were ye blind
That ye left your two fine legs behind?
Or was it walkin' upon the sea
Wore your two fine legs from the knees away?
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Oh, I wasn't drunk and I wasn't blind
But I left my two fine legs behind.
For a cannon ball, on the fifth of May,
Took my two fine legs from the knees away.
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Oh, Teddy, me boy, the old widow cried,
Yer two fine legs were yer mammy's pride,
Them stumps of a tree wouldn't do at all,
Why didn't ye run from the big cannon ball?
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


All foreign wars I do proclaim
Between Don John and the King of Spain
And by herrins I'll make them rue the time
That they swept the legs from a child of mine.
Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa
Too-ri-oo-ri-oo-ri-aa.


Related Links
From *Burl Ives Irish Songs
See Bibliography for full information.