When You and I were Young Maggie

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WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE. AKA and see “Maggie (2).” American, Irish, Scottish; Air (4/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABCD. The music to the internationally popular song "When You and I were Young, Maggie" [1] was composed by Chicago violinist, singer and music teacher J.A. Butterfield (1837 1891) while the words were written by Canadian lyricist George Washington Johnson, in memory of "a beautiful and vivacious young woman" named Maggie Clark (b. 1841) of the town of Glanford, Ontario. "George Johnson came to the town to teach and he fell in love with Maggie. They were subsequently married and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where George had obtained a post as a journalist. Tragically, Maggie contracted tuberculosis and died on May 12, 1865, when only 23 and less than 12 months after being married" (Neil, 1991). Interestingly, the tune was popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and the words and music were adopted by the Scottish burgh of Selkirk, "where they have been sung and played for over 100 years." In Ireland the tune is sometimes known as "Nora," from the adaptation by Sean O'Casey for his play about the Easter Uprising, The Plough and the Stars [2] (1926). In one scene Nora says:

'You haven't sung me a song since our honeymoon. Sing me one now, do Please, Jack!'

Clitheroe: 'What song? Since Maggie went away'?

Nora: 'Ah, no, Jack, not that, it's too sad. When you said you loved me.'
(Clearing his throat, Clitheroe thinks for a moment and then begins to sing. Nora, putting an arm around him, nestles her head on his breast and listens delightfully)

Clitheroe: (singing verses following to the air of 'When you and I were young, Maggie.')
'Th' violets were scenting th' woods, Nora'...
[Loesberg, Folksongs and Ballads Popular in Ireland, vol. 2, 1980].

The song was in the repertoire of old-time musicians, particularly North Ga. Fiddlers, c. 1922, and was recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson (1923), Riley Puckett (1924) and (Clayton) McMichen's Melody Men (1927). See also the Ozarks Mountains regional old-time fiddle variant “Maggie (2).”

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Neil (The Scots Fiddle), 1991; No. 41, p. 53.

Recorded sources: RCA 5798-2-RC, "James Galway and the Chieftains" (1986). Shanachie 79018, De Danann - "Star Spangled Molly" (1981).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]




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