McNamara's Band

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"McNamara's Band" (originally "MacNamara's Band") is a popular song composed in 1889 by Shamus O'Connor (music) and John J. Stamford (lyrics). The song was performed as a music hall routine by William J. "Billy" Ashcroft. It has been recorded by a number of artists, most notably Bing Crosby. The song is associated with Ireland and often performed on St. Patrick's Day in the United States.

Background[edit]

The composer of the song Stamford was the manager of the Alhambra Theatre in Belfast and the song was written expressly for the theater's owner, the Irish-American music hall veteran Billy Ashcroft. Ashcroft, often referred to as "The Solid Man" for his association with the Edward Harrigan song "Muldoon, the Solid Man," had earlier in his career in the U.S. performed a blackface routine called "The Lively [or 'Musical'] Moke," which interspersed comic song and dance with brief performances on multiple instruments. "McNamara's Band" gave him scope for a similar Irish "character song."[1][2]

Irish music hall historians Watters and Murtagh described Ashcroft's performance of the routine: "Here 'McNamara' breaks into a dancing quick-step March up and down the Stage, his nimble fingers snatching up one instrument after another, blowing the bassoon, tootling the flute, beating the drum with the knob of his baton - A One-Man Band." [3]

Modern listeners associate the song with the version recorded on December 6, 1945 by Bing Crosby,[4] with a set of lyrics credited to "The Three Jesters." Released on Decca Records in early 1946, the song became a Top Ten hit for Crosby. It remains one of his most popular songs and is often performed on St. Patrick's Day in the United States.[5] A slightly earlier recording of this song appeared in the 1945 film The Way to the Stars. Stanley Holloway leads the crowd in a pub close to a Royal Air Force base during in World War II.

It has been claimed that the song was inspired by an actual band, the St Mary's Fife and Drum Band, formed in Limerick in 1885. In the late 19th century the band featured four brothers, Patrick, John, Michael and Thomas McNamara, and became famous for playing shows all across Ireland. In the early 20th century Patrick and Thomas emigrated to the United States and formed the "McNamara's Band" with Patrick "Patsy" Salmon, another Limerick emigre. After Salmon left the group Patrick and Thomas formed "McNamara's Trio" with Thomas on piccolo, Patrick on violin and Patrick's daughter, Eileen, on the piano. The trio recorded and released several songs for Vocalion Records.[6]

John McNamara served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers during the Second Boer War and First World War. He was killed in action on 9 May 1915, and his body was never recovered after the war; his name is today commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France.

Lyrics[edit]

The most widely used set of lyrics is the adaptation by Crosby's "Three Jesters" (Red Latham, Wamp Carlson and Guy Bonham).[7]

Original lyrics[edit]

My name is McNamara, I'm the Leader of the Band,
And tho' we're small in number we're the best in all the land.
Oh! I am the Conductor, and we often have to play
With all the best musicianers you hear about to-day.

(Chorus)
When the drums go bang, the cymbals clang, the horns will blaze away,
MacCarthy puffs the ould bassoon while Doyle the pipes will play;
Oh! Hennessy Tennessy tootles the flute, my word 'tis something grand,
Oh! a credit to Ould Ireland, boys, is McNamara's Band!

Whenever an election's on, we play on either side-
The way we play our fine ould airs fills Irish hearts with pride.
Oh! if poor Tom Moore was living now, he'd make yez understand
That none could do him justice like ould McNamara's Band.

(Chorus)

We play at wakes and weddings, and at every county ball,
And at any great man's funeral we play the "Dead March in Saul,"
When the Prince of Wales to Ireland came, he shook me by the hand,
And said he'd never heard the like of "McNamara's Band."

Three Jester's version[edit]

The Three Jesters' version is different: The politics of "Ould Ireland" are removed; the words are made more "Irish," e.g. "Me name is..." rather than "My name is...;" and stereotypes are added in the final lines to make the selection essentially a comedy song.[citation needed]

Oh!, me name is McNamara, I'm the Leader of the Band,
And tho' we're few in numbers we're the finest in the land.
We play at wakes and weddings, and at every fancy ball,
And when we play at funerals we play the march from Saul.

(Chorus)
Oh! the drums go bang, and the cymbals clang, and the horns they blaze away,
McCarthy pumps the old bazoon while I the pipes do play;
And, Hennessey Tennessey tootles the flute, and the music 'tis somethin' grand,
A credit to old Ireland is McNamara's Band!

Right now we are rehearsin' for a very swell affair,
The annual celebration, all the gentry will be there.
When General Grant to Ireland came, he took me by the hand,
Says he, "I never saw the likes of McNamara's Band."

(Chorus)

Oh me name is Uncle Yulius and from Sweden I have come,
To play with McNamara's Band and beat the big bass drum,
And when I march along the street the ladies think I'm grand,
They shout "There's Uncle Yulius playing with an Irish band."

(no chorus here)

Oh! I wear a bunch of shamrocks and a uniform of green,
And I am the funniest looking Swede that you have ever seen.
There's O'Briens and Ryans and Sheehans and Meehans, they come from Ireland,
But by Yimminy I'm the only Swede in McNamara's Band.

Others[edit]

The English Premier League football team Tottenham Hotspur F.C. adopted the song as their club anthem, with one verse changed:[citation needed]

Oh the whistle blows the cockerel crows, and now we're in the game,
It's up to you, you Lilywhites, to play the Tottenham way.
Oh there's many a team from many a town and some are great and small,
But the famous Tottenham Hotspur are the greatest of them all.

In popular culture[edit]

  • "MacNamara's Band" (note correct spelling) is a club song for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. a Premier League Football Club in North London. The connection to the club may be that the song was written in Barnet, also North London and not far from the Spurs Ground. Spurs is the well known nickname for Tottenham Hotspur. The song was adopted by Spurs long before popular legend cites its adoption after Northern Irish international Danny Blanchflower joined the club in 1954. Whilst the song was used at this time and underwent something of a revival during the Glory Glory years of the early 1960s, its use at White Hart Lane predates either. It was played at the beginning of every Tottenham home game for over 30 years, and is still used as the players return to the pitch at the start of the second half.[8][9]
It has been suggested by older Spurs supporters, and in some books, that it was because Spurs had a Manager, Peter McWilliam (1912–27 & 1938–42) and that this is the reason McNamaras Band (Macs band) was adopted. Whatever the origin many fans will remember the tingle of excitement when the music started to play as the captain appeared coming up the steps of the old West Stand that led to the pitch, always exactly as the music started. The last player out of the dressing room pressed a button on the wall of the passage which rang a bell which in turn prompted the tape to be played.[citation needed]
  • The melody is used in Harold Baum's "The Pentose Phosphate Shunt" in The Biochemists' Songbook.[10]
  • "McNamara's Band" is a nickname for fans of Syracuse University basketball star Gerry McNamara.[11]
  • In addition, the song was part of a sing-a-long in the Famous Studios animated short, The Emerald Isle (1949).[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Meade, Don. "The Life and Times of "Muldoon, the Solid Man"" (PDF). Blarney Star Productions.
  2. ^ The "City Summary," New York Clipper, December 17, 1870, p. 294 reported Ashcroft's act at the Globe Theater: "Wm. Ashcroft, the original performer of the song and dance entitled 'The Lively Moke,' in his performance of it introduced a great variety of dances, and played with real proficiency upon a large number of musical instruments.
  3. ^ Eugene Watters and Matthew Murtagh, Infinite Variety: Dan Lowrey's Music Hall, 1879-97, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1973
  4. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  5. ^ "When McNamara's Band were kings of the local music hall". Belfast Media Group. 8 September 2016.
  6. ^ limerickslife.com/st-Mary's-band/
  7. ^ "MacNamara's Band" (PDF). Orange County Public Libraries.
  8. ^ Davies, Hunter (10 April 2006). "The fan - Hunter Davies hums a good old tune". New Statesman. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  9. ^ "Leader of the band". Tottenham Hotspur. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  10. ^ "The Biochemists' Songbook MP3 Files", California State University Long Beach
  11. ^ Kilgore, Adam (31 January 2006). "Tale of Two Cities". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2007.
  12. ^ "The Emerald Isle". Cartoon HD.

External links[edit]