"Poor Paddy Works on the Railway" is a popular Irish folk and American folk song. Historically, it was often sung as a sea chanty. The song portrays an Irish worker working on a railroad.
There are numerous titles of the song including, "Pat Works on the Railway" / "Paddy on the Railway" / "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay" / "Paddy Works on the Erie" and "Working on the Railway"
The song most likely originated around or even before the 1850's in England, when Irish navvies were working on the Liverpool and Manchester railways and emigrated to America, when the Irish navvies were recruited to participate in building American canals and railways.
So the "Irish" version of the song might be a decade or so older than the "American" version and also had a different melody (so NOT the "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" tune, which accompainied the American version, which only was published in 1863).
In 1879, on page 321 of "On Board the Rocket", Robert C. Adams published a version of the song, which suggests an English origin.
SEE: On board the "Rocket" : Adams, Robert Chamblet,
Liverpool shipowner Sir William B. Forwood, remembers hearing the song being sung in 1857 on the Liverpool Pierhead
SEE: Reminiscences of a Liverpool shipowner, 1850-1920
In "The American Songbag" (1927), the writer Carl Sandburg claims that "Pat Works on the Railway" has been published in sheet music since the early 1850s.
The American Songbag : Sandburg,Carl. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
In fact in the book "Folksongs of the Catskills" Peggy Seeger refers to a sheet-music copy of "Pat Works on the Railway" with a different tune. It was published in Boston about 1854-56 by Oliver Ditson. But just before that it was popularized by the Irish stage singer J.B. Geoghegan in 1854 (note: though he had Irish anchestors, Geoghegan was really born in England, with a mother from Manchester)
mudcat.org: Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, travelling singer, 1800s
So for a number of (mainly American) versions, the melody of the first lines of each stanza resembles the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" published in 1863.
When Johnny comes marching home | Library of Congress
Listen here: https://cdn.loc.gov/service/mbrs/berl/13177YY/13177YY.mp3
The Originals © by Arnold Rypens - WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME AGAIN
Scott-BoA, pp. 327-329, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1 text, 1 tune)
In addition, the American version adds a "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay" refrain
The "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" tune and the "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay" refrain, were most likely derived from John and Alan Lomax's influential book "American Ballads and Folk Songs" (1934), where the song was titled ""Paddy Works on the Erie".
American ballads & Folk Songs - Page 0120
American ballads & Folk Songs - Page 0121
American ballads & Folk Songs - Page 0122
But the Lomaxes might have borrowed the "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay" refrain from "Working on the Railway", a song contained in "Popular College Songs" compiled by Lockwood Honoré in 1891.
Popular college songs : a collection of the latest songs as sung ... - Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library | HathiTrust Digital Library
Here's a sample of a recent version:
And Norm Cohen notes the similarity of these several Lomax verses to the undated broadside "Mick Upon the Railroad."
MICK UPON THE RAILROAD | Library Company of Philadelphia Digital Collections
MORE INFO about Paddy on the next links:
Poor Paddy Works on the Railway - Wikipedia
Paddy Works on the Railway
Folk Music Index - P to Pam
mudcat.org: The Advent and Development of Chanties
COLLECTED AND RECORDED VERSIONS:
In April 21, 1914 Cecil Sharp collected a version in Somerset, England, sung by John Short.
Paddy Works On The Railway Capstan Chanty (Cecil Sharp Manuscript Collection (at Clare College, Cambridge) CJS2/10/2894)
In the 1920's several versions of this chanty were audio-recorded from the singing of veteran sailors by folklorists like R.W. Gordon, J.M. Carpenter, and William Main Doerflinger.
(o) Capt. Mark Page (1928-1929)
In 1928 and 1929 James Madison Carpenter, an American folklorist, went to England, Scotland and Wales, to collect folk songs.
Capt. Mark Page, whose sea experience spanned 1849-1879, sang it for James Madison Carpenter in 1928 or 1929, at the old mariners' almshouses at Trafalgar Square in Sunderland.
BBC - Wear - History - Ranzo, me boys
SEE ALSO: Paddy Works on the Railway [cylinder recording] Mark Page
On the bottom of the page on the next link you can listen to a soundfile of "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway"
Poor Paddy Works on the Railway (VWML Song Index SN25063)
(c) Edward Robinson (1928/1929)
At the same time and the same location, Carpenter recorded another sailor: Edward Robinson
SEE ALSO: Paddy Works on the Railway [disc recording] Edward Robinson
On the bottom of the page on the next link you can listen to a soundfile of "Paddy Works on the Railway"
Paddy Works on the Railway (VWML Song Index SN25029)
(c) George Simpson (1928/1929)
George Simpson, another sailor, was also recorded by Carpenter, singing "Paddy Works on the Railway".
Paddy Works on the Railway [cylinder recording] George Simpson
Listen here: Paddy Works on the Railway (VWML Song Index SN15345)
(c) William Gaul (1928) (as "Paddy Works on the Railway")
Paddy Works on the Railway (VWML Song Index SN25060)
(c) Barbara Bell (1938) (as "The Great American Railway")
In May, 19 1938 Alan Lomax recorded Barbara Bell, singing this version for the Library of Congress.
With a refrain that goes: "Eire-ouri-ouri-aye"
The great American railway | Library of Congress
(c) Ernest Bourne (1938) (as "A-working on the Railroad")
In May 24, 1938 Alan Lomax recorded Ernest Bourne, singing this version for the Library of Congress.
With a refrain that goes: "Patsy-eire-eire-O"
A-working on the railroad | Library of Congress
(c) American Ballad Singers (1941) (as "Pat Works on the Railway")
Recorded March 15, 1940 in New York
Released on Victor 26723 as part of the album "Two Centuries of American-Folksongs" (Victor album # P-41)
Victor matrix BS-047959. Deaf woman courtship ("Answer-back" song) / American Ballad Singers ; Elie Siegmeister - Discography of American Historical Recordings
Two Centuries of American Folk Songs : American Ballad Singers : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
The American Ballad Singers: Elie Siegmeister, director :: Traveling Culture - Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century
(c) Sam Eskin (1951)
Sea Shanties and Loggers' Songs | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Linernotes are here: FW02019.pdf
(c) Pete Seeger (1954) (as "Paddy Works on the Railroad")
Pete Seeger - Frontier Ballads (Vinyl, LP, 10") | Discogs
Frontier Ballads | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Linernotes are here: FW05003.pdf
(c) Weavers (1957) (as "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay")
The Weavers - On Tour (Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono) | Discogs
(c) Ewan MacColl (1957)
Ewan MacColl - Shuttle And Cage (Vinyl, 10", Album) | Discogs
(c) Cisco Houston (1958) (as "Pat Works on the Railway")
Cisco Houston - Cisco Sings (Vinyl, LP, Album) | Discogs
(c) Barbara Moncure (1963) (as "The Bluestone Quarries")
Folk Songs of the Catskills (New York) | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
(c) The Spinners (1964) (as "Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay")
45cat - The Spinners [UK] - Dirty Old Town / Fi-Li-Mi-Oo-Re-Ay - Fontana - UK - TF 494
(c) The Dubliners (1967) (as "Paddy on the Railway")
The Dubliners - A Drop Of The Hard Stuff (Vinyl, LP, Album, Mono) | Discogs
(c) Pogues (1984) (as "Poor Paddy")
The Pogues - Red Roses For Me (Vinyl, LP, Album) | Discogs