The Old Turf Fire
[ Roud 8215 ; trad.]
Steeleye Span recorded this song for their album Horkstow Grange. It was later included in the Park Records sampler A Stroll Through the Park. Gay Woods commented in the original album's sleeve notes:
I used to hear this song when I was a child. “The hearth swept clean” - domestic bliss, my mother's pride and joy. I live near the boglands in the midlands of Ireland now and burn the stuff. There is a spirit and an art in the burning and storing of turf that warms and inspired:
“Confounds all reckoning by sun
Or star as turf-smoke drifts,
Blue bitterness at dusk, and cabins
Kneel in clusters to the dark.”
(Norman Dugdale, an Englishman who lived in Ireland for nearly 50 years)
Steeleye Span sing The Old Turf Fire
Oh the old turf fire
And the hearth swept clean,
There's no-one so contented as myself and Paddy Keane,
The baby in the cradle,
You can hear its mammy say,
Ah, will you go to sleep, Alanna
While I wet your daddy's tea.
Now I've got a little house and land
As neat as it can be,
You'll never see the likes of it
This side of Lisnakea.
No piano in the corner
And no pictures on the wall,
But I'm happy and contented
In my little cottage hall.
Now the man that I work for,
Of noble blood is he,
But somethin' I'll be tellin' you
We never can agree.
He has big towering mansions,
He has castles great and tall.
But I wouldn't change the roof that crowns
My own cottage hall.
Round the old turf fire
Sit the old folk, bent with years,
As they watch us trippin' lightly
They're smilin' thro' their tears.
So sadly they are dreaming
Of their youthful heart's desire -
In those dear old days so long ago
Around the old turf fire.