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Jean Murray: Music

Irish Washerwoman and Irishman's Shanty

(Fiddle, Susie Hallinan; guitar, Scott Darter; mandolin and harmonica, Charlie Hunt.)
Composer of "Washerwoman" unknown. Henry Tucker claimed authorship of "Irishman's Shanty."
Two tunes are artfully combined to show similarities and to remind us that tunes often have a history. Josiah Spurr, recalling a dance, recited words to "Irish Washerwoman" in his 1900 book, Through the Yukon Gold Diggings. Current published versions of the tune have no words. The search, however, led to "Irishman's Shanty" with words more nearly like those given by Spurr. "Irish Washerwoman," a Scotch-Irish tune was documented in 1792 and is traditionally played in a major key. The two minor key interludes in this performance are from, "Irishman's Shanty," a song published in 1859. The two are obviously related.