> Folk Music > Songs > My Father’s Servant/Serving Boy / North Amerikay

My Father’s Servant/Serving Boy / North Amerikay

[ Roud 1910 ; Laws M11 ; Henry H198, H525 ; Ballad Index LM11 ; Bodleian Roud 1910 ; trad.]

Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger: Travellers’ Songs From England and Scotland

Mick McAlinden sang My Father’s Serving Boy to by Peter Kennedy and Sean O’Boyle in Rostrevor, Co. Down, on 28 April 1953. This track was included in 2012 on the Topic anthology of ballads sung by British and Irish traditional singers, Good People, Take Warning (The Voice of the People Volume 23).

Maggie Murpy sang My Father’s Serving Boy to Keith Summers in McGrath’s pub, Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, in Spring 1979. This track was included in 2004 on the Musical Traditions anthology of songs from around Lough Erne’s shore, The Hardy Sons of Dan. Rod Stradling noted:

A song almost entirely restricted to the north of Ireland, and Roud’s 17 examples only include three instances of it elsewhere; two from Travellers, and one from Canada. It saw a number of broadside printings—at least four outside its home area—but doesn’t seem to have caught-on elsewhere (though I’ve just been told that Tom Munnelly recorded it from Joe Mikey MacMahon in Quilty, Co Clare). Moville, in Co Donegal, is one of the places where the migrant boats used to sail from.

Maggie Murpy also sang this as My Father’s Serving Boy in 1995/96 to John Howson, which was included in 1996 on her Veteran CD Linkin’ O’er the Lea. John Howson noted:

Scots traveller John MacDonald was recorded singing this song by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and in their book Travellers’ Songs From England and Scotland they say that they were unsuccessful in locating printed texts in any English or Scottish traditional collections. Although it was published by Catnach as a broadside, it does seem to be a song which is peculiar to Ireland and in fact is localised to between Dungannon and Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone and they are only about 11 miles apart. Sam Henry notes that the song ‘has been printed as a broadside and sold at our markets and fairs.” It is often called Answer to the Philadelphia Lass and Henry got it from J. MacKinnon, Craignagat, Ballycastle, in 1927.

Notable commercially produced recordings are: Roisín White, Attical, Co. Down (Veteran VT126), Willie McElroy, Brookeborough, Co. Fermanagh (Outlet QAS3001) and John Quinn, Mullaghbawn, Co. Armagh (Outlet 0AS3018). Maggy again got this from her mother.

Niamh Parsons sang North Amerikay in 1992 on her Greentrax album Loosely Connected.

This is a December 2011 video of Niamh Parsons, accompanied by Gerry O’Beirne, singing North Amerikay in Hughes Pub in Dublin:

Roisín White sang My Father’s Servant Boy on her 1992 Veteran Tapes cassette The First of My Rambles.

Nuala Kennedy sang Ye Lovers All on her 2023 CD Shorelines. She noted:

In memory of the late, great Mick Moloney, who suggested it for this record.


Maggie Murpy sings My Father’s Serving Boy

You maidens all, both great and small,
Pay attention to my song.
There’s none on earth I love so well
As my father’s serving boy.

I lived between Dungannon
And the town of Aughnacloy,
But I’m living in Amerikay
With my father’s serving boy.

Where is the man who will or can
A farmer’s boy despise?
His bread to win he must begin
Before the sun doth rise.

My love and I are of a seed,
As I never will deny.
There’s none on earth I love so well
As my father’s serving boy.

My parents wished to have me wed
Unto a gentleman;
And at the church I was to meet
And join the wedding bond.

The night before, I stole away
Unto a village nigh,
Where I did meet my own true love,
My father’s serving boy.

To Moville town we both went down
To where the Earthen (sic), she did lie,
And on that ship I sailed away
With my father’s serving boy.

For when I landed on the other side
Our money was all gone,
Sometimes I was supported
By a good old Irish fund,

’Til a gentleman from Ireland
Who gave us both employ.
Some pounds a week I then received
From my father’s serving boy.

I wrote to them a letter,
To the town of Aughnacloy:
Saying I was living in Amerikay
With my father’s serving boy.

They wrote me back an answer
To Philadelphia town,
Saying if I would come back again
I would get five hundred pounds.

I wrote them back an answer,
That the truth I’d never deny,
That I was living in Amerikay
With my father’s serving boy.

Niamh Parsons sings North Amerikay

Ye lovers all both great and small, that dwell in Ireland,
I hope you pay attention whilst I my pen command.
O it was my father’s anger that drove my love away
But I still have hopes we’ll meet again in North Amerikay.

O my love he’s tall and handsome, to him I gave my heart,
But little was my notion that we would ever part.
It was in my father’s garden this flower it did decay
But I still have hopes it will bloom again in North Amerikay.

Now we did not want for money, kind fortune on us shone,
Out of my father’s castle I stole five hundred pounds.
It was in the town of Belfast my passage I did pay,
My mind made up to follow my love into North Amerikay.

Well the Captain’s wife was kind to me as you may understand
And she kept me in her cabin until we reached dry land.
It was in the town of Quebec we landed on the quay
And I knew not where to find my love in all Amerikay.

Now I being sick and sore and tired I went into an inn
And it’s there I met my William the lad I loved within.
Well I took him gently by the hand and to him I did say
“O I never thought to see your face in North Amerikay.”

And it’s now this couple have got wed as you may understand
And I hear they live quite happy in a town they call Saint lohn.
And the money that she stole from home in gold she paid it down
and she thinks no more of Ireland nor Enniskillen Town.