Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt?

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X: 1 T:Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt? R:reel H:words provided by Trevor Jennings, who got them from a colleague, H:who learnt them from his grandmother. D:Paddy Moloney & Seán Potts: Tin Whistles Z:id:hn-reel-173 M:C| K:D g|:fde^c dcAg|fde^c d2de|fde^c dBAB|1 =cAGE D3g:|2 =cAGE D2AD|| |:(3EFG AB =cAG2|Add^c d3e|fde^c dBAB|1 =cAGE D2AD:|2 =cAGE D3|| W:Have you washed your father's shirt? W:Have you washed it clean? W:Have you hung it on the line W:Out on the village green? W:



DID YOU WASH YOUR FATHER'S SHIRT? AKA and see: "Bog Road," "Box about the Fireplace," "Disappointed Coquette (The)," "Ghile Beag lé m'Anam Thú," "Marry When You're Young," "Molly Jones," "Shins about the Fireside (3)," "Spailpín Fánach (2) (The)," "Tom Sullivan's," "West Cork Reel." Irish, Reel and Polka. D Major/Mixoldyian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB'. The tune is played in Ireland both as a polka (2/4) and as a reel (cut time) under a variety of titles, no one of them particularly dominant. The "Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt" comes from a ditty sung to it:

Have you washed your father's shirt?
Have you washed it clean?
Have you hung it on the line
Out on the village green?

A variant of the rhyme in Sliabh Luachra goes:

Why don't you wash your father's shirt,
Why don't you wash it clean?
Why don't you wash your father's shirt,
And hang it on the crane.[1]

The words (of unknown provenance), albeit to a different (hexatonic) tune and slightly altered, were popular among children across Britain in the mid-20th century. It was sung by the Beatles on the 1964 Christmas record:

Oh, can you wash your father’s shirt?
Oh, can you wash it clean?
Can you hang it on the line
By the village green.

A version of the tune, under the title "Ghile Beag lé m'Anam Thú" was collected as a vocal air by George Petrie (1790-1866), from F. Keane in July, 1858. Another version was printed in James Kerr's Merry Melodies vol. 1 (c. 1880) as the reel "Disappointed Coquette (The)," giving it an Irish provenance. In America, Boston music publisher Elias Howe included it in his 1000 Jigs and Reels (1867) as "Shins about the Fireside (3)", although that title is also associated with other, different, tunes in 6/8 time (including one collected by George Petrie). Howe's title, however, echoes the name given to the tune in P. Carew's 19th century mss., from which collector George Petrie obtained it; there, its called "Box about the Fireplace" with the note that is is "a Munster reel." If it originated in Munster, it became known throughout Ireland: in the north, County Donegal fiddler John Doherty recorded it as "Marry When You're Young" (which sounds like another set of words went to it, as well). Dublin fiddler and concertina player John Kelly recorded the tune for Topic records in 1975, calling it "West Cork Reel."

Sliabh Luachra fiddlers played the same tune as a polka (2/4) and slide (12/8): Terry "Cuz" Teahan had it as "Molly Jones," button accordion player Jackie Daly called it "Tom Sullivan's," Co. Kerry accordion and fiddle duo Jimmy Doyle and Dan O'Leary recorded it in 1977 as "Bog Road," and John and Julia Clifford recorded on their LP "Humours of Lisheen" without listing a title.

"Oíche Nollag" (Christmas Eve), a 6/8 jig from piper Joe Walsh, has a first strain that is a variant of the first strain of "Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt;" distanced, to be sure, but recognizably cognate. Petrie's reel "Mill Stream (The)", also printed by R.M. Levey in his second collection of Irish music (1873) as "Lough Allen (1)," have first strains that possess similar melodic and harmonic content in the first strain. They are probably cognate as well, but also distanced.


Additional notes





Recorded sources : - Claddagh 83288-2, Paddy Maloney & Seán Potts - "Tin Whistles" (1973). IrishMusic.Net IMdN CD BR42, Caoimhín ÓRallagaigh & Mick O'Brien - "Deadly Buzz/Aoibhinn Crónnán" (2011).

See also listing at :
Alan Ng's Irishtune.info [1]



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  1. From notes by Paul de Grae, "World Fiddle Day 2019, Fiddle Recital" [2].