The Gypsy Rover


Image result for Gypsy loverThe Whistling Gypsy, sometimes known simply as The Gypsy Rover, is a well-known ballad composed and copyrighted by Dublin songwriter Leo Maguire in the 1950s.

There are a number of similar traditional songs about a well-off woman’s encounter with gypsies, dating back at least as far as the early 19th century, known as “The Raggle Taggle Gypsy”, “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies”, “The Gypsy Laddie”, “Nine Yellow Gypsies”, “Gypsie Davie” and “Black Jack Davie”.

The story-line usually revolves around a woman leaving her home and her “wedded lord” to run off with one or more Gypsies, to be pursued by her husband. In some songs the lady is pursued by her father, and when he catches the pair the “Gypsy” reveals himself to be the “lord of these lands all over”.

The Gypsy Rover has been recorded by numerous artists, including The Clancy Brothers, The Kingston Trio, The Highwaymen (who had a Top 40 hit with the song) and The Wiggles, among others.

GYPSY ROVER Traditional in the Key of C

The Black Velvet Band


Image result for transportation to Australia punishmentThe Black Velvet Band is a traditional folk song collected from singers in Australia, England, Canada, Ireland and the United States describing how a young man is tricked and then sentenced to deportation to Australia, a common punishment in 19th century Britain and Ireland. 

There are 98 known entries for this song, comprising ballads, versions collected from traditional singers, and field recordings. It was published as a ballad by the music company Swindells of Manchester, sometime between 1796 and 1853, and by H. Such of London sometime between 1863 and 1885. A 1911 version is set in Belfast and contains the words “Her eyes they shone like diamonds” in the Chorus. Image result for The Black Velvet Band

While working for the BBC, Peter Kennedy recorded a version in Belfast in 1952. In 1959, a version was found in Australia. An earlier version by the publisher Swindells of Manchester is very wordy, and has no chorus. It places the events in Barking, Essex. Some of the earliest versions mention the Old Bailey and London Town. The publication date of that version is probably between 1837 and 1853.

The Dubliners version, possibly the best known, is slightly adapted from a version recorded by Ewan MacColl from the Norfolk singer Harry Cox in 1955, and recorded by MacColl and Peggy Seegar on their 1964 LP Chorus from the Gallows. The Irish Rovers recorded the well-known version on their album The Unicorn in 1967 and released as a single on the B-side of The Unicorn Song.

In the video below by Paddy Riley you will also hear his turn-around chord, which is not in the sheet music I provide, but can be incorporated into your performance after “neat little town” with a couple of repeat strums on G7. This is my favourite Irish song for St. Patrick’s Day next to Molly Malone.

Black Velvet Band C The official T’UkeS version, in C.

Black Velvet Band G I believe this one is from Jim’s online, slightly different wording, in G.

The Irish Rover


Related imageThe Irish Rover is an Irish folk song about a magnificent, though improbable, sailing ship that reaches an unfortunate end. It has been recorded by numerous artists, some of whom have made changes to the lyrics.

The song describes a gigantic twenty-seven masted ship with a colourful crew and varied types of cargo in enormous amounts. The verses grow successively more extravagant about the wonders of the great ship. The seven-year voyage comes to a disastrous end after losing its way in the fog, striking a rock, and spinning nine times around before sinking with most of the crew and the captain’s old dog aboard – everyone except the singer, who in the last line of the song is revealed to be the lone survivor of The Irish Rover’s ill-fated final voyage, so there is no one alive to contradict the tale. Image result for Irish Rover

The song is attributed to songwriter/arranger J. M. Crofts. The Irish Rover is one of the most popular Irish-Gaelic Scottish country dances and is set to the music of the song. The Canadian musical performance band, The Irish Rovers, created in 1963, were named after the traditional song “The Irish Rover” by their mother in Ballymena, N. Ireland. They first recorded this song on their 1966 debut album, The First of the Irish Rovers.

THE IRISH ROVER C Our version from T’UkeS – Tillsonburg Uke Group.

The Wild Rover


Image result for The Wild RoverThe Wild Rover is a popular English-language folk song. It is the most widely performed Irish song, although its exact origins are unknown and still contested. Historically, the song has been referred to in Irish folklore and, since the late sixteenth century, it has been noted in written records—although it is likely that some northern Atlantic fishing crews knew the song before these historical accounts were made.

The song is a staple for artists performing live music in Irish pubs. For many people, The Wild Rover is the stereotypical Irish drinking song. In the twentieth century the location of the song became a major concern due to its popularity, spurring continued debate amongst several European nations. Related image

The song tells the story of a young man who has been away from his hometown for many years. Returning to his former alehouse the landlady refuses him credit, until he presents the gold which he has gained while he has been away. He sings of how his days of roving are over and he intends to return to his home and settle down.

Scottish Historians declare that this song was written as a temperance song. Fans of Celtic Football Club in Scotland sing The Wild Rover at away matches. The chorus is well known throughout most Irish, Irish-American and British cultures, even among people who have no knowledge of the rest of the song. As with Celtic Football Club, the chorus is sung by football fans throughout England, usually with the words adapted to suit the team in question.

In the song sheets below, there is a section of the chorus indicated for 3 or 4 strikes on a table, OR, since holding our ukulele’s limits us for this, stomping our boots instead. The song is unique in that you go strait into the chorus without pausing after the last word of each verse.

The Wild Rover C This version provided by BUG – the Bytown Uke Group located in Ottawa.

4.Wild Rover in G

Tell Me Ma


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A well-known children’s song, known as a “skipping song”, collected in various parts of England in the 1800’s and appearing in collections again just after the turn of the century.

In Ireland the chorus usually refers to Belfast city and is known colloquially as The Bell of Belfast City. English versions refer to it as “Golden City” or “London City”. The song also accompanies a children’s game.

In 1988 Van Morrison and The Chieftains collaborated on an album called “Irish Image result for The Rankin FamilyHeartbeat” inlcuding this song, which reached 18 on the Uk Albums chart.

The Rankin Family released this song as Tell My Ma on their second album “Fare Thee Well Love” in 1990. Other famous artists who recorded this song are The Wiggles, Sinead O’Connor, The Young Dubliners, The Irish Tenors, The Rumjacks and Celtic Thunder.

Tell Me Ma G This is in the Key of G by Richard G’s Ukulele Songbook, at

Tell Me Ma C This one is available at the Bytown (BUG) Uke Group’s website in both word and PDF documents. I find this version is a better key for me to sing.


Wasn’t That a Party


8. WASN’T THAT A PARTY – 1980, written by Tom Paxton

Image result for Irish Party graphicsIn the 1980’s The Irish Rovers briefly renamed themselves The Rovers and had enormous success with this single. The subject matter is neither Irish nor nostalgic, but it had large cross-over success in the Country Rock genre.

The Irish Rovers had formed in 1963 and named themselves after the traditional Irish
folk song, The Irish Rover. The signature sound of the band is the accordion, pipes and guitar. All but one of the band members were from Ireland, the last hailing from Scotland. Before the family emigrated to Canada, founding band members had performed in Ireland as “The Millar Kids”.

Meeting other musicians of Irish descent and immigration in Toronto, the band quickly formed in the early 60’s and were received well playing in various folk song festivals, Image result for Wasn't that a Party 1980clubs and hootenanys. At one point they became regulars at Calgary’s Depression Coffee House, a well-known folk club that had contributed to the start of Joni Mitchel’s career.

In 1966 they headed for California and recorded their first album. While recording their second album in 1968, Canadian folk singer/songwriter Glen Campbell suggested Shel Silverstien’s 1962 folk song The Unicorn Song. Glen Campbell actually played guitar on their original recording. Also in 1968, the Irish Rovers were named Band of the Year at the JUNO Awards.

By the 1980’s after performing literally for decades hosting their own television shows, the band’s sound had evolved away from traditional Irish and well into the Country Rock genre, which accounts for the large success of Wasn’t That a Party. It was written by Tom Paxton, who was already an award-winning fixture of this genre. In 1968 Paxton had licensed his song, My Dog’s Bigger Than Your Dog to the makers of Ken-L Rations Dog Food for use in a television commercial.

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Tom Paxton during a celebration event honouring John Denver

 During his career Paxton travelled in circles with the likes of Woody Guthrie, John Denver and Pete Seeger. John Denver recorded one of Paxton’s songs, Whose Garden Was This in 1970. Paxton was highly regarded as an important writer of songs with both environmental and social topics, highlighting such issues as the plight of anti-aparthied activists; the effects of energy production and consumption on the environment; and the as-yet-not-socially-acceptable topic of mental health – depression in particular, after a friend took his own life. However, it’s been suggested that Wasn’t That a Party is a light-hearted reference to “conditions that arise” after stage performances. *Can be found on “At the Pub: A Celtic Celebration”. 

Wasnt That A Party

The Unicorn Song


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Image result for Where the Sidewalk ends This song by accomplished author Shel Silverstein was made very popular by The Irish Rovers in 1968. Silverstein was fascinated by folklore, myths, fables and legends. The lyrics to the song were printed as a poem in Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends. What seems to be a timeless Irish folk song was written by a Jewish children’s book author from Chicago.

When the Irish Rover’s picked it up for recording, their – – “very, very authentic Irish sound and ethnic background” complemented the subject of the piece. It remains one of the best-known songs of the Irish Rovers’ long career, who were named Band of the Year at the JUNO Awards in 1968. It was a #2 hit for them in North America and #5 in Ireland.

It can still be heard regularly in Irish Pubs. Image result for The Irish Rovers

In the original version of the song, The Irish Rovers speak half of the lyrics, as well as part of the 4th Chorus. The final line of the 5th verse is spoken freely without the music: “And that’s why you’ll never see a Unicorn to this very day”. Many people today also claim there are gestures that accompany the song. 


Oh Danny Boy


6. OH DANNY BOY – 1910/1913

Image result for Oh Danny BoyA ballad set to an ancient Irish melody. The words were written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly in Bath, Somerset, in 1910, and eventually set to the Irish tune of “Londonderry Air” when his Irish-born sister-in-law, living in the U.S., sent him a copy of the song in 1913.

Jane Ross of Limavady (Londonderry, Northern Ireland) is credited with collecting the melody of “Londonderry Air” in the mid-19th century from a musician she encountered.

By the time it was recorded in 1915, Weatherly’s Oh Danny Boy was one of the most popular songs in the new century. Through the years it has become Image result for John McDermott Danny Boyan unofficial signature song of Irish Canadians due to our own close ties to Great Britain.

Over the years this song has had more Top Ten rankings than any other Irish song, beginning with Judy Garland in 1940; Glen Miller, 1940; Bing Crosby, 1945; 1956 Ruby Murray – The Voice of Ireland in Ireland, UK. In the 60’s: Andy Williams, Connie Francis, Patti LaBelle, Johnny Cash and Ray Price. 1972 Roy Orbison and Canadian Glen Campbell; 1976 Elvis Presley; 1990 Carly Simon; 1992 Canadian John McDermott.

Oh Danny Boy From the Ukulele Club of Santa Perez.

I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover



Related imageWritten by Bronxeville, New York composer Mort Dixon, whose first hit was That Old Gang of Mine in 1923, followed by Bye Bye Blackbird in 1926.

Music composed by Harry M. Woods (a Tin Pan Alley Songwriter of the depression years), of Boston, Mass. Woods also wrote these hit songs: When the Red, Red Robin and Side By Side, among others.

The original hit recordings of the song were made in 1927, but the song was revived in 1948 by several artists, most notably Art Mooney, whose recording topped the charts for 18 weeks. (First result to come up on Youtube)

Ukulele-playing television personality Arthur Godfrey also had a hit recording of this Related imagesong during the same year, topping the North American charts at #14. It is likely that no other single person has been directly responsible for the sale of as many ukuleles as Arthur Godfrey, an enormously popular television star of the 1950’s and 60’s.

This song was created after WWI and during the Roaring Twenties. Musically it’s called a Chorus Song. Lyrically it’s an Appreciation Song. Times were tough during the first Word War, but we survived and are having fun in the 1920’s! As the U.S. entered the second World War in 1941, it was a very popular big band song on the Eastern coast, and became an Irish-American WWII tribute song which was played repeatedly in home-coming parades.

I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover This version is from Dr. Uke and we like to play it twice over. There is another version that has verses, and below is a video of the song as performed by Donny and Marie Osmond.

Lord of the Dance


4. LORD OF THE DANCE – 1963 – Gospel

Related image A Traditional Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts”, words added by Sydney Carter, 1963. Carter was an English poet, song writer and folk musician who wrote many folk songs, carols and gospel songs. During WWII he served as a volunteer in the Friend’s Ambulance Service in Egypt, Palestine and Greece, and was a self-described pacifist.

Regarding Lord of the Dance, Carter wrote that he was using the metaphors of dancing and playing music, ie. playing a flute or pipe, to represent the life and times of Jesus. Related image

Due to it’s musical allusion to flute playing, it has long been associated with traditional Irish music.

Lord of the Dance An excellent adaptation made available by the Bytown Uke Group – BUG, based in Ottawa.