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Fiddlers' Green

[ Roud 26370 ; Ballad Index FR439 ; Mudcat 47889 ; John Conolly]

This sentimental song is so ubiquitous that many people believe it is a traditional song. But Fiddlers' Green (note spelling!) was written in 1966 by John Conolly. He sang it in 1986 in Rupert Creed and Jim Hawkins's Remould Theatre Company play The Northern Trawl. He also recorded it in 1998 for his and Pete Sumner's Fellside CD, Trawlertown. This track was included in 2001 on Fellside's 25th anniversary anthology Flash Company. Paul Adams noted:

John is the most unlikely writer of a hit song I know. It depends on how you define “hit”. There was a time in the 70s when you would hear this song sung every week in just about every folk club in the country. One of its great accolades is that people think it is traditional—doesn't do much for John's bank balance, though. It has been recorded numerous times. There are even Fiddlers' Green festivals. Look out for Fiddlers' Green slippers, mouse-pads and woolly hats.

John Conolly also recorded Fiddlers' Green for his 2004 album Ranter's Wharf. He noted:

I felt that the song which gets me all the work had earned a berth on this CD, but I've recorded it several times before, and I wanted this one to be special—so I wrote some extra verses, which transport the listener to some of the alternative versions of Fiddlers' Green found in folklore and legend… The song is increasingly being used as a final farewell to old shipmates, and I hope this version may provide some comfort in those sad circumstances.

And in this 2010 video he sang it at Faldingworth Live, accompanied by Bill Whaley and Dave Fletcher:

Tim Hart and Maddy Prior recorded Fiddlers' Green in 1969 for their second duo album Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 2. The record's sleeve notes comment:

Written by John Conolly, this is a fine example of the work of this singer/song-writer from Grimsby describing the fisherman's Utopian concept of the after-life.

Aly Bain and Mike Whellans sang Fiddlers' Green in 1971 on their Trailer album Aly Bain & Mike Whellans and in 1975 on the Trailer anthology Our Folk Music Heritage.

The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen sang Fiddlers' Green in 1972 on their LP Show Me the Way.

Archie Fisher and Barbara Dickson sang Fiddlers' Green in 1971 on their Decca album Thro' the Recent Years.

Filey Fishermen's Harmony Group sang Fiddlers' Green on the 1985 musical souvenir of Yorkshire and Humberside, Sounds of Yorkshire.

Danny Spooner sang Fiddlers' Green on his 2002 CD Launch Out on the Deep. He noted:

Written by John Conolly in 1966, this song has become so much a part of the folksong culture that it's often referred to as a traditional song—a great compliment indeed. Fiddlers' Green was a name for areas of docklands and ports frequented by sailors ashore. But over time the sailor's imagination turned those districts into Utopia or even Heaven. Wouldn't it be nice?

Jon Boden sang Fiddlers' Green as the 26 February 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

One of those songs that conveniently became traditional only a few years after being written! I understand John Conolly is gradually recouping some of his lost royalties. Quite right too—a fabulous song.

Les Barker wrote an accountant's version of this song called Fiddlers' Greenberg. John Conolly sang on the 2011 charity CD of Les Barker's songs and poems, Herding Cats (Guide Cats for the Blind Vol. 5). He also sang it with the title Fiddlers' Green According to Les Barker on his 2010 live album The Grumpy Old Men of Old England.

Lyrics

John Conolly sings Fiddlers' Green on Trawlertown

As I walked by the dockside one evening so rare
To view the still waters and take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song
Oh take me away boys, my time is not long

Chorus (after each verse):
Dress me up in my oilskins and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell my old ship-mates I'm taking a trip, mates
And I'll see you someday in Fiddlers' Green

Oh Fiddlers' Green is a place I've heard tell
Where the fishermen go if they don't go to Hell
Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away

Where the sky's always clear and there's never a gale
Where the fish jump on board with a swish of their tail
Where you lie at your leisure, there's no work to do
And the skipper's below making tea for the crew

When you get back in dock and the long trip is through
There's pubs and there's clubs and there's lasses there too
Where the girls are all pretty and the beer is all free
And there's bottles of rum growing from every tree

Oh I don't want a harp nor a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good rolling sea
And I'll play my old squeezebox as we sail along
With the wind in the rigging to sing me the song

John Conolly sings Fiddlers' Green on Ranter's Wharf

As I roved by the dockside one evening so rare
To view the still waters and take the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song,
Oh take me away boys, my time is not long

Chorus:
Dress me up in my oilskins and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell my old shipmates I'm takin a trip, mates
And I'll see you someday in Fiddlers' Green

Far over the foam lies the land of the leal
The crossing, the voyage, the turn of the wheel
Where fabled Valhalla once called to all men
And friends long forsaken may meet once again

Where all journeys end at the rim of the world
The banners of Avalon now are unfurled
And where is the boatman to bear me away
With the fast falling sun at the close of the day

Warm westerly wind my old fair weather friend
Come whisper your welcome to dreams without end
Old songs and old stories ring out and ring true
In Tír na nÓg's land where all things are made new

I don't want a harp nor a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good rollin’ sea
And I'll play my old squeezebox as we sail along
With the wind in the rigginf to sing me this song

Chorus:
Dress me up in my oilskins and jumper
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell my old shipmates I'm takin a trip, mates
And I'll see you someday in Fiddlers' Green

Just tell my old shipmates I'm takin a trip, mates
And I'll see you someday in Fiddlers' Green