‘That First Night I Heard Me Da Singing’ © Joe Canning 2015. All Rights Reserved.

‘That First Night I Heard Me Da Singing’
© Joe Canning 2015. All Rights Reserved.

I’m recalling a wee pub in Lifford,
where me folks used to go, rest their souls…
where me Da went with Ma when his labour was done,
with Dan Carlin and Godmother Rose.
There was music and laughter and dancing,
in a room full of friends and good neighbours,
old maids in the corner would cackle like hens,
and kind hands always greeted the stranger.

A birthday boy I, just turned eighteen,
I said I could outdrink me Da.
“Right”! said the ol’ fella, “slip on yer coat,
you can come out with me and your Ma”,
He said to the barman on reaching the bar,
“Large whiskey and stout for the boy,
It’s not every day yer wee man turns eighteen,”
and he toasted me wishes and joy.

They sat with their whiskies and wee tots of gin
Dan Carlin his fiddle would play.
The smoke in the place it would take a man’s sight,
and the Guinness was fresh off the dray.
I’ll never forget that damned night till I die,
nor the drums in me head and it’s spinning,
and the lesson the oul fella handed to me,
that first night I heard me Da singing.

He sang of a ‘Bird in a gilded cage,’
of ‘Two little girls in blue’,
of a colleen that lived in the town of Mooncoin,
and ‘The bright silvery light of the moon’.
Dan he kept fiddling and Rozin’ the bow,
on the floor Ma and Rose they were swinging,
Oh well I remember that night in Harte’s bar,
that first night I heard my Da singing.

Scobie, the barman was flat to the board,
Tucker was washing the glasses,
I was quite rapidly falling in love,
I was eyeing up good-looking lasses,
The liquor was working it’s way to me brain,
the heartburn, my inside was stinging,
I feared that I hadn’t much left of this life,
that first night I heard me Da singing.

I was not feeling well and my head was in spin,
I was fearing the wrath of me mother,
and just as I said, “Da! I think I’ll go home”
“No you wont lad”! he said, “have another”.
He whipped from his pocket the juice of the still,
“come on lad!”! he said,” it’s for drinking!”
I knew not the pain I’d endure the next day,
that first night I heard me Da singing.

Dan fiddled on with the jigs and the reels,
Da sang ‘The banks of the Foyle”,
Rose sang ‘The banks of my own lovely Lee’
and me mother she sang “Danny boy”
I was outside, in the wind and the rain,
I was soaked, I was ill, I was whingeing,
but I learned every song and a lesson that night,
that first night I heard me Da singing.

Painting by Ted Jones


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