What kind of music was played in 3rd class common room


Mette McCall

Many impromptu concerts were apparently held here. I know the room had a piano which was used quite a bit, I've also read that many other passengers had instruments such as violins and even bagpipes. But are there any specific recollections of songs being played? Folk songs, vaudeville, music hall?

Bob Godfrey

Not much. 2nd Class passenger Lawrence Beesley had this to say:

Looking down astern from the boat-deck or from B deck to the steerage quarters, I often noticed how the third-class passengers were enjoying every minute of the time: a most uproarious skipping game of the mixed-double type was the great favourite, while "in and out and roundabout" went a Scotchman with his bagpipes playing something that Gilbert says "faintly resembled an air."

Beesley was clearly not impressed! But his 'Scotchman' was quite possibly the Irish piper Eugene Daly, who by his own and other accounts kept his fellow passengers (the Irish contingent at least) entertained with 'native airs' like A Nation Once Again.
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Mette McCall

Thanks Bob! So there are no other recollections of passengers playing instruments other than Daly and his bagpipes?

Bob Godfrey

None that come to mind - apart from the piano which you've mentioned. Makeshift ensembles would likely include fiddles, squeezeboxes, harmonicas and penny whistles, along with tabletop drumming, spoon playing and maybe some brass instruments but we can only guess at what music was offered or requested. I would imagine that traditional songs and jigs would be popular along with the music hall hits of the time, but with so many different nationalities represented it could have been a very mixed bag!

Senan Molony

>>But are there any specific recollections of songs being played? Folk songs<<

There's a specific reference to songs being SUNG.

Margaret Devaney told the New York Herald that Honora Fleming had been 'entertaining us with Irish songs when the first word of trouble came.'

What Irish songs? Well, Fleming was from Mayo.

It is thus more than likely that one of the songs she could have sung was Thomas Davis' The West's Awake, written in 1843, and a great favourite west of the Shannon at that time.

These are its words (Monica, look away now) -

When all beside a vigil keep,
The West's asleep, the West's asleep -
Alas! and well may Erin weep
When Connacht lies in slumber deep.
There lake and plain smile fair and free,
'Mid rocks their guardian chivalry.
Sing, Oh ! let man learn liberty
From crashing wind and lashing sea.

That chainless wave and lovely land
Freedom and nationhood demand;
Be sure the great God never planned
For slumb'ring slaves a home so grand.
And long a brave and haughty race
Honoured and sentinelled the place.
Sing, Oh! not even their sons' disgrace
Can quite destroy their glory's trace.

For often, in O'Connor's van,
To triumph dashed each Connacht clan.
And fleet as deer the Normans ran
Thro' Corrsliabh Pass and Ardrahan;
And later times saw deeds as brave,
And glory guards Clanricard's grave,
Sing, Oh! they died their land to save
At Aughrim's slopes and Shannon's wave.

And if, when all a vigil keep,
The West's asleep! the West's asleep!
Alas! and well may Erin weep
That Connacht lies in s1umber deep.
But, hark! a voice like thunder spake,
The West's awake! the West's awake!
Sing, Oh! hurrah! let England quake,
We'll watch till death for Erin's sake.

But who knows?

Bob Godfrey

"Ah well now, that's enough o' that. Give us something livelier. Give us a jig now, Aloysius!"

Or something from the Halls. If I'd been there I'd have delivered my celebrated rendition of If it wasn't for the 'ouses in between:

If you saw my little backyard, "Wot a pretty spot!" you'd cry,
It's a picture on a sunny summer day.
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages wot peoples doesn't buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay.
The neighhours finks I grow 'em and you'd fancy you're in Kent,
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews.
It's a wonder as the landlord doesn't want to raise the rent,
Because we've got such nobby distant views.

Oh it really is a very pretty garden
And Chingford to the eastward could be seen;
Wiv a ladder and some glasses,
You could see to 'Ackney Marshes,
(All together now)
If it wasn't for the 'ouses in be-twee-een.
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Adam Went

I can't name any specific tunes but given what usually went on amongst groups of people such as the third class passengers, aside from native music for the foreigners amongst them, I would imagine that popular music hall and theatre ditty's of the day would have been very popular as well.

Much like we would getting around singing along to a popular song on the radio these days, they did the same in 1912, albeit it was theatre and folk songs....


Senan Molony

Percy French - The Emigrant's Letter

Dear Danny I'm taking the pen in my hand,
To tell you we're just out of sight of the land,
In a grand Ocean Liner I am sailing in style,
But I'm sailing away from the emerald isle,
And a long sort of sigh seemed to come from us all,
As the waves hit the last bit of auld Donegal,
Ah it's well to be you that is taking your tae,
Where they're cutting the corn around Creeslough today.

There's a woman on board who knows Katie by sight,
And we talked of old times 'till they put out the light,
I'm to meet the good woman tomorrow on deck,
And we'll talk about Katie from here to Quebec,
I know I'm no match for her, no not in the least,
With her house and two cows and her brother a priest,
But the woman declares Katie's heart's on the sae,
While mine's with the reapers in Creeslough today.

Ah, goodbye to you Danny there's no more to be said,
And I think the salt water got into my head,
For it drips from my eyes when I call to my mind,
The friends and the colleagues I am leaving behind,
But still she might wait when I bade her goodbye,
For there was just the least trace of a tear in her eye,
And a break in her voice when she said,
'You might stay,
But, please God you'll return to old Creeslough, some day.'

I spoke to the Captain and he won't turn her round,
And if I swam back I'd be apt to be drowned,
So here I must stay, ah I've no cause to fret,
The dinner was what you might call a banquet,
But though it was sumptuous,
I would swap the whole lot,
For the ould wooden spoon and the stir-about pot,
And Katie - sweet Katie! - a-wetting the tae
Where they're cutting the corn in Creeslough today.

If Katie is courted by Patsy or Mick,
Put in a word for me with a lump of a stick,
Don't kill Patsy outright, he's no sort of chance,
But Mickey's a rogue you might murder at wance,
For Katie might think the longer she waits,
A boy in the hand is worth two in the States,
And she'll promise to honour to love and obey,
Some rogue that is roaming round Creeslough today.

(And a beautiful melody, actually...)

Bob Godfrey

See? Marys were ten-a-penny, but it's the Katies that drew the crowds! :)