ABOUT THE IRISH BALLADEERS…
The Irish Balladeers comprise the three Rogers brothers, Chuck, Bob and John and their brother-in-law Ted Andrews. Accompanying them on the accordion is their father Charles, Sr., and on banjo and guitar Eddie Lennihan popular Scranton musician.
Born into both an Irish and mining family it was only natural that they grew up on a diet of Irish songs and music, as well as the folk songs of the mining area. One of the first songs Chuck remembers singing as a boy was Kevin Barry. As youngsters they had done most things together, as brothers often do, and singing was one of them. With their father playing the Irish style accordion it was a happy musical household. When Bob got out of the Navy, he came home with a guitar, and with Chuck playing the harmonica and John on tambourine, away they went. When Ted Andrews joined the family, it was only natural that he follow suit. The boys enjoyed it immensely with no thought of joining the professional ranks. But one thing led to another and they found that the songs and their style were well received. Engagements came one after the other and they found themselves in show business.
A friend brought the boys to our attention and they submitted an audition tape. We were very impressed. About this time, much publicity was being given to the saga of The Molly Maguires and Chuck felt a recording of the songs of those times would be welcomed. This recording is the result of all our endeavors. We enjoyed doing it and we know you'll enjoy listening to it.
ABOUT THE SONGS…
SONS OF MOLLY
This a song in memory of three Molly Maguires, Mickey Doyle, Edward Kelly and Alex Campbell. They died by hanging on June 21st, 1877 at Mauch Chunk (recently renamed Jim Thorpe), together with another Molly Maguire. On that same day six more Molly Maguires were to suffer the same fate at Pottsville. For years thereafter, the day was called Black Thursday, ten men in all having been executed.
WHEN THE BREAKERS GO BACK ON FULL TIME
This song is still very popular in the mining area. It was written by one Con Carbon, born into a mining family in Hazleton. He had a sweet tenor voice and exceptional Irish wit. The breaker is where the slate is separated from the coal and many a miner's young son started to work there at the age of seven. Of course, the luxuries listed in the song represent only wishful thinking, for even when the breakers were on full time these were beyond the reach of the average worker. It did, however, express a hope for the future.
THE BLACK LEG MINER
The name applied to the strike breakers. Ironically, the Pinkerton Detectives throughout their early history were employed as strike breakers not only in the coal fields but in other industries as well.
A song in the lighter vein, on the order of Mick McGilligan's Daughter Mary Ann or the six foot four beauty they tried wedding to Patsy McCann.
This song was written by one Daniel Kelly, alias Manus Coll. He called himself a Molly Maguire and was subsequently to become a paid informer. He occupied a cell in Pottsville jail near Thomas Duffy. He composed this song for Duffy and upon release sold it to a reporter for the Shenandoah Herald where it appeared in September 1876. Duffy was found guilty of murder and was hung in Schuylkill County prison courtyard at the age of 25.
DAD'S DINNER PAIL
When Dad went off to the mines in the morning, underneath his arm would be his dinner pail. No matter how bad times were, dad always managed to leave a little something in the pail to bring home as a treat to the children. He was a proud Union man, and the Johnny Mitchell referred to is the famed Union leader.
THE KNOX MINE DISASTER
This was a very recent disaster and is included to show that even a century later with all our modern advancements, nothing has been developed to prevent these terrible mine disasters. In this case greed raised its ugly head. It was winter, snow lay on the ground. The temperatures rose, snow started to melt, but the men in the mines below knew nothing of this. They were instructed to remove a great pillar of coal which supported the roof of the mine holding up the river bed. When it was struck the swollen river came rushing into the mine.
PAT DOLAN or THE SONG OF THE MOLLY MAGUIRES
James McPharlan had a way with an Irish song. It was with this song originating in Ireland that he made his debut among the Molly Maguires singing it with great effect in the barroom of Pat Dormer's Sheridan House in Pottsville one November night in 1873. It came to this country from Ireland where many local versions were to appear but the original version was probably based on the murder of a justice of the peace (an Orangeman) in County Cavan in 1845.
UP WENT O'REILLY
This a comic song and is a variation of The Start that Casey Got. The original version was written by Bob Quigley an anthracite balladeer and minstrel who later became a famed vaudeville headliner with his brother George. This was before the days of Harry Lauder a Scottish coal miner who was to go from the mines to international acclaim. The song tells of a Wilkes-Barre miner who tired of the hazards of coal mining took what he considered a safe job in a powder mill at Dupont.
The Shoo-Fly was a colliery located between Pottsville and New Philadelphia along the banks of the Little Schuylkill river. It was razed in the nineties. This was written by Felix O'Hare during the depression of the 70's, when the small mine at Valley Furnace was closed. Many of the miners would get jobs at the Shoo-Fly when the Furnace was shut down. But a bad seam had been struck at the Shoo-Fly. The poor people of the area experienced great hardship during this period.
THE TAX MAN AND THE MINER
Also known as The Excise Taxman. It is the story of the tax collector brought down into the mines who thinks he has descended into the regions of Hell with ensuing comic results. McPharlan is reputed to have also sung this song among the Molly Maguires.
A CELEBRATED WORKINGMAN
Known under various titles including Mining in the Barroom and Performing His Manual Labor in the Barroom. This a satire on the off hour braggert of the coal mines. It was written by famed coal mining minstrel Ed Foley. Foley lived most of his life in the vicinity of Mt. Carmel and with his faithful old fiddle under his arm he would stroll throughout the country side singing his ballads.
THE IRISH EMIGRANT MINER
This a song typical of the fate of many of the Irish Emigrants. The signs over the doors said no Irish need apply. A pick and a shovel were the tools they could ply. In the cities and in the mines they were given the most menial and lowest paying jobs.
PAT MULLIGAN'S WAKE
We end up our album with a humorous song. The Irish have a great knack of creating comical wake songs such as Tim Finnigan's Wake and Steve O'Donnell's Wake. Well, this another one to add to the collection. I imagine the fact that the Irish have been able to find humor in all phases of life, from death to English persecution have enabled them to survive lo these many centuries with humour and wit intact.
Notes by ANNE CASHIN © 1968