This song has gone through the folk process with roots in Maine. This version is situated on the Erie Canal in New York State and comes to me from Bonnie Milner who got it from John Mayberry of the Toronto Morris Men.
Shove around the grog, boys,
The chorus around the room,
For we’re the boys that fear no noise
Although we’re far from home!
Well, I courted a girl in Albany,
One in Montreal,
One in Philadelphy,
But the best in Lewiston Falls.
When you get to Albany
Give the girls a call.
There’s not a tart to be compared,
With the ones from Lewiston Falls.
When I came on from Ireland
I was just a lad.
But working these canal boats
Is the only life I’ve had.
A dollar in a tavern
Is very easy spent.
If I had it in Ireland,
I’d have to pay down rent.
Amsterdam or Liverpool,
Rome or Syracuse,
If you’ve ever been to Lewiston Falls,
It’s the only place you’d choose.
A drunkard in the tavern,
A fish is in the sea!
The cork is in the bottle,
But the whiskey is in me!
I’ve been doing some research on the song “Lewiston Falls” after hearing it sung several times (by a Morris dancer) at our local sea chantey sings. I’m intrigued by your comment that “This song has gone through the folk process with roots in Maine.” Can you point me to any sources for this song (or its ancestors) in Maine?
I have found “The Raftsman’s Song” (from the upper Delaware river) with a similar chorus and meter, but sung to a different tune. [Folkways FA 2354, Songs of a New York Lumberjack]
Thanks for any help you can provide!
Cliff has me handle his website and although he does contribute to it, he asked me to handle this for him.
Cliff picked this up, as it says on his page, from Bonnie Milner of the group Johnson Girls, and she in turn told him she had collected it from John Mayberry of the Toronto Morris Men. Personally I find it interesting that the song made its way into the Morris dance circuit as it is not something I would associate with that genre.
That said, I can give you a little more information on the song. You have already found “The Raftsman’s Song”… There was a local group who attended the Sea Music Festival in Mystic a couple of years ago who sang those lyrics but to the tune of “Shove Around The Jugs (Lewiston Falls)”, and it worked quite well. That aside, I understand that Frank Warner recorded a version of the song on his 1958 album “Our Singing Heritage”… I have not heard it but I was informed that it is the same melody as what Cliff sings and a variation of the lyrics. It supposedly is very similar to an older song entitled “The Shanty Song” and is found in that form in the now out of print “Maine Woods Songster” by Philips Barry, published in 1939 by Powell Printing.
I’m afraid that’s all I have. I had not yet managed a copy of Barry’s book into my library so I cannot say for certain how “The Shanty Song” appears in it… This is simply what I have collected via other sources. I hope it proves a helpful lead!
I heard this song for the first time this weekend at the Old Songs Festival. Looking for the lyrics here, and I believe I have the Frank Warner record. If I can find it, I’ll play it and report back. I noticed at the songfest that parts of it sounded very familiar.
If you’re still working on this:
John Mayberry first learned the song from me at pinewoods camp in either the summer of ’90 or ’91. The three original verses are “I courted a girl in Albany”, “A dollar in a tavern”, and “When you get to Albany”. I believe that all of the other verses were written by John and were crafted in keeping with the canal theme implied by the place names in the original.
I learned this at a very young age and do not recall learning it. It was one of those “always there” things. After puzzling about this for a decade, I got a chance to ask Jeff Warner about it. He confirmed that he taught it to me at Family Week at Pinewoods. I would guess that a bunch of us learned it. Regardless it stuck with me.
I believe you can find the original words and original source in the Frank and Anne Warner collection.
Very good information and useful, thank you!
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I’ve been reading my great great grandfathers notes. In the 1890s he sailed from Toronto to Buffalo putting in at Lewiston. Turns out Lewiston is Buffalo’s seaport by the roar of Niagara Falls. Lewiston girls work the docks in at mouth of the Niagara River, not in Lewiston Auburn (LA) Maine. Talk to people in LA on the Kennebec River in Maine and they’ve never heard of the song. They are excited about Red October and the Russian sub coming up the Kennebec with Sean Connery.
The source for our info came from the notes collected by the Warners and their wonderful work. The song as it currently stands bears little resemblance to the apparent Maine origins, but this is often the case… A song popular during the 18th century gets a heavy workover in the 19th so that to most peoples’ ear there’s no connection until the musicologists get on it and drudge up a sequence of versions to show an origin. But in the version we sing, we’re fully aware that it is in Lewiston, NY the song is set. Thanks, though!