Katie O’Donahue

Katie O'Donahue

Oh, me name it is McGuire and I’ll quickly tell to you,
A pretty girl I admire named Katie O’Donahue,
She’s rosy, fat, and hearty, now mind me what I say,
And every night when I go to her house, the old woman will joyfully say,

Chorus:
“Paddy, git up from the fire and give that man a sate,
Don’t you see it’s Mr. McGuire, that’s courtin’ your sister Kate,
You know right well he has a farm a little ways out of town,
So git up out of that, you impudent brat, and let Mr. McGuire sit down.”

The first time that I met this girl she was dancing the Tra-la-le,
And though I was a stranger then, she grew very fond of me;
She axed me if I would see her home and with her take some “tay,”
And the very moment we got in the house the ould woman did joyfully say,

Chorus:
“Paddy, git up from the fire and give that man a sate,
Don’t you see it’s Mr. McGuire, that’s courtin’ your sister Kate,
You know right well he has a farm a little ways out of town,
So git up out of that, you impudent brat, and let Mr. McGuire sit down.”

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Play MP3 instrumental)

This song is a bit of a curiosity, in that all versions seem to start the same way, but there are at least three endings. One is the version found here, which is Dean’s Minnesota version; the implication is that the singer is rich (at least by nineteenth century Irish standards, under which anyone with any land at all was a catch), that he courts Katie successfully, and presumably they live happily ever after.

Two broadside versions give a different ending: Paddy, the brother whom the mother cuffs aside, tries to blackmail the singer by threatening to tell tales to Katie. The mother quickly puts an end to that.

In a third version, the singer proves to be less wealthy than expected; they mother turns on him in a final verse; in the last chorus, instead of telling the boy Paddy to give his chair to McGuire, she declares, “So stay where you are, and never you dare Let Mr. McGuire sit down.”

The song is not particularly well-known outside of broadsides; there seem to be only three traditional American versions: Dean’s, one found by E. C. Beck in Michigan, and one from Oklahoma. In Ireland, Margaret Barry knew a version, and there was a version found in Ulster. The typical title is something like “Let Mister McGuire Sit Down.”

Source: The text is Dean’s. The tune is based on a recording the famous Irish singer Margaret Barry made for Alan Lomax; her text is similar although not identical to Dean’s, and she has the same two verses.

The tune should perhaps be printed in 6/8 rather than 3/4 to emphasize its jig-ish nature.

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