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Thursday, June 18, 2009

MARY DUFF: When You and I were Young Maggie



"When You and I Were Young, Maggie"
19th century son by Canadian George Washington Johnson first published in 1864,

When You and I Were Young, Maggie is a famous folk song, popular song and standard. Its lyrics were written as a poem by the Canadian school teacher George Washington Johnson. Margaret "Maggie" Clark was his pupil. They fell in love and during a period of illness, George walked to a nearby hill, overlooking a mill, and composed the poem. The general tone is perhaps one of melancholy and consolation over lost youth rather than mere sentimentality or a fear of ageing. It was published in 1864 in a collection of his poems entitled Maple Leaves. They were married in 1864 but Maggie's health deteriorated and she died on May 12, 1865. James Butterfield set the poem to music and it became popular all over the world. George Washington Johnson died in 1917.

This song has been adopted as an Irish song though at best it could be considered Irish or Scots Canadian. John McCormack made this song very famous and often sang it in his concerts. Since then it has been incorporated to many Irish performers such as James Galway, the Chieftains and Mary Duff. It is a great song and I used to play it on the piano with my mother and we would sing it together. She had an especial love of songs which were beloved by her father -of whom she had no memory for he was killed August 8, 1918- and she often said singing his favortie songs brought his spirt close to her. On Dec 31 2000 we heard Frank Paterson sing this song and she spoke of her father's record collection with me for the last time. The last songs we sang together were, in this order:
1) Maggie
and at Mass the following day


THE SUMMONS (Kelvin Grove)


She collapsed Jan 2 and was rushed to the hospital where she lingered for a coupled of days having just enought time to say goodbye to me and her grandchildren and daughter in law and her husband of 59 1/2 years.

This was the recording I heard as a boy (JOHN MCCORMACK)
McCormack's mother was a Scottish protestant by the way and his father was born in Scotland as well (of Irish parents).

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