Street Corner, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Street Corner, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853904.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3528.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 25/09/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

I think I told you before, this is the last song I heard my father singing. And he explained to me, that it was about two country girls who went to the city – the big city. It didn’t say the city, but I had a feeling it was London. And they separated, they didn’t see each other for a long time. And one night, one of them was going home to see her people in Ireland, and she saw this pal of hers, Madge, standing on a street-corner, soliciting. And, eh, she walked up, she said, ‘Is that you, Madge?’ And Madge, her… school-friend, turned away. And she said, ‘Don’t turn away, I’m st- I’m your friend,’ she said. ‘When you go home now, tell them that you saw me, but don’t say any more – they’ll know. They’ll know the rest. Tell them I’m well. And tell my mother, if you get the chance, that I love her as I did long ago.’

While walking down the street one eve, I was on all pleasure bent
I was after business worries of the day
I met a girl who ran from me; but her I recognized –
A schoolmate in a village far away.
‘Is that you, Madge?’ I said to her; she quickly turned away
‘Don’t turn away, my dear,’ said I, ‘for I am still your friend
This day I’m going to see the old folks, and I thought
Perhaps a message you would like to send.’

‘I would like to see them all again, but not just yet, you know;
It’s pride alone that’s keeping me away.
Whisper, if you get the chance, to Mother dear, and say
That I still love her as I did long ago.’

‘Your cheeks are pale, your eyes look dim – come, tell me, are you ill?
It’s not just asking too much, now, I hope?
Come home with me when I go, Madge, the change might do you good
For Mother wonders where you are tonight.’
‘Tell them that you saw me, and they will know the rest
Tell them I am looking well, you know
Tell my loving brother and sisters three also
That I still love them as I did long ago.’

‘I would like to see them all again, but not just yet, you know;
It’s pride alone that’s keeping me away.
Oh, whisper, if you get the chance, to Mother dear, and say
That I still love her as I did long ago.’.


Joe tells Lucy that his father gave him this song just before he died, asking him to write down the words before singing the song to him. Joe was about seventeen years old, home from the college in Dublin where he was studying at that time. He says he never heard anyone else singing it, and has no idea where his father learned it. This would have been in about 1936.

This song was composed by Paul Dresser (1857-1906), an important songwriter for Tin Pan Alley in New York during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. ‘Just Tell Them That You Saw Me’ was featured, along with other compositions of Dresser’s, in a popular minstrel show in 1894, and the sheet music was first published in the same year. Given the lack of stylistic and structural resemblance between this song and anything else in Joe’s repertoire – a phenomenon remarked upon by Lucy and Joe in their conversation – it is remarkable how close Joe’s rendition is to the original, especially as he apparently heard the air only the one time. It is possible that Pádraig Éinniú may have heard a recording of the song, either on the radio or on the gramophone at the neighbours’ house, while Joe was away in Dublin, and then made sure to give it to his son at the first opportunity.