We’re Irish And Proud Of It, Too

 

 

Regal Zonophone MR205-B

Listen to a clip
of Ella Retford’s
1933 recording

 

Tom Mellor, Harry Gifford & Fred Godfrey — London: Bert Feldman, 1914.

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Songs celebrating Irish-ness were all the rage in 1914. The chorus of this Fred Godfrey contribution became popular — in England, at least — at the start of the Great War. It is one of a number of songs, by Godfrey and others, that assume the willing and plucky contribution of Irish soldiers to the Imperial war effort. At any rate, it served its role as a Music Hall recruiting song. Typical is the third verse:

Once a lot of soldier fellows, just across the sea,
Over in Paree, happy as they could be.
All the mamselles cried “What lovely soldier boys they are!
Do they come from Canada or Zanzibar?”
Sergeant O’Mulligan tippled a wink at one little dainty wench,
Got excited, said to her, in his best kind of French,

(chorus)

Shure we’re Irish, and proud of it, too!
Irish, and proud of it, too!
Oh, we don’t care if it rains,
And we don’t care if it snows,
We come from the land
Where the shamrock grows.
Shure we’re Irish, and proud of it, too,
And we all like a hullabaloo!
We’ve all come over to see the fun,
Ev’ry mother’s son of a gun,
Irish, and proud of it, too!

First and foremost this was Florrie Forde’s song. Among the places she sang it was in the pantomime Cinderella, at the Pavilion, Glasgow, in early 1915. A local newspaper noted:

If you have not yet seen Florrie Forde in “Cinderella” you ought to do so before the week is out....Miss Forde’s pantomime will rank with the best ever seen in the city. It is beautifully staged, some of the dresses are gorgeous, the singing is first-class, and the business of the comedians is always amusing. No pantomime nowadays would be considered complete without “Irish and proud of it too” and...Mis Forde renders [it] in her own inimitable style.1

It was Ella Retford, however, who introduced the song. The Stage noted that she “[is] scoring a decided hit [at the Palladium, London] with a couple of bright and characteristic numbers, the better being ‘Irish, and proud of it, too, ’ which Miss Retford renders dressed as a colleen, with abundant spirit and attraction.”2 Among the other artists who sang the song with success was Charles Whittle, “who continues to hold his place in the front rank of public favour with [the song],”3 and Randolph Sutton, who put the song over at the Empress, Brixton, practically in Fred Godfrey’s back yard.4 Another indication of the song’s popularity is the following report:

Curious plaintive tunes sound from every by-street, buzzed on the mouth-organs that seem to exist in thousands in every London suburb....and the popular air is not “Tipperary,” but “When Irish eyes are smiling.” It had only one rival, a song called “I’m Irish and proud of it, too,” which seems to have come from nowhere in a few days to claim the affection of the capital city.5

 

Recordings

Florrie Forde (Ariel 9493, 1914; Zonophone 1416, 1914)

Murray Johnson (HMV B-455, 1914; HMV-Victor [Canada] 120315, 1914)

Stanley Kirkby (Jumbo A346, 1915)

Stanley Read (The Winner 2781, 1915)

Ella Retford, in “Ella Retford Songs Medley, Part 2” (Regal Zonophone MR-205, 1930); reissued on LP “The Greatest Music Hall Bill Ever Assembled” (Music For Pleasure MFP-1146, ca. early 1960s); reissued on CD “Top Of The Bill” (Pearl PAST CD 9753, 1992)

The London Orch.; dir. by John Firman; with Charles W. Saxby at the Kingsway Hall Organ, in “Shamrockland” (Zonophone 5892, 1931)

The Irish Singers & Players, in “Shamrockland (Selection Of Irish Gems)” (Edison Bell Winner 5376, 1931)

Eddie Molloy, in 7-LP set “Palace Of Varieties — Old Time Music Hall” (BBC CN-1426, 1976 reissue of recordings made 1952–58)

 

Stage Interpolations

Interpolated by Florrie Forde in pantomime Cinderella (Pavilion, Glasgow, January–February 1915); by Josie Leyton in pantomime Dick Whittington (Richmond Hippodrome, January 1915); by Maisie Gerrard in pantomime Dick Whittington (Lyric, Hammersmith, January 1915); by Clara Beck in pantomime Old King Cole (Court Theatre, Liverpool, January-February 1915; in play Mary From Tipperary (Royal Theatre, Chatham, Kent, July 1915)..

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Notes

1  “City amusements,” Daily Record and Mail [Glasgow], 17 February 1915, p. 3.
2  “Variety Gossip,” The Stage, 12 November 1914, p. 13.
3   “Song Notes,” The Stage, 15 April 1915, p. 9.
4  “The Empress, Brixton,” The Stage, 10 June 1915, p. 15.
5  “Song Notes,” The Stage, 24 June 1915, p. 23.