Reading My Way Around the World

Sunday 2 November 2014

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: Teddy O'Neill

All the guitar books that I've come across, for folk or particularly for Irish songs, annotate the songs in keys that are suitable for men.   Women who are starting to play guitar and who haven't mastered the art of transposing yet ( a subject for another post) try to play the songs and give up really quickly because either the song is way too low or way too high.  
Several of my female students ask me for the chords of songs so I thought it'd be good to start a series here with particular focus on Irish songs, both traditional and contemporary.  These keys are the keys in which I play and sing the songs.   I play this one with the capo on the 3rd fret.   To move it higher, move the capo up another fret or two, or to sing it lower move it back a couple of frets.

Teddy O'Neill is one of my all time favourite songs - I'm sure it was written in America in the 1930s, maybe earlier; the words are really corny, but the sentiment and the melody are just perfect.   I first heard it sung by the wonderful Dolores Keane.   (Sometimes it is sung with Verse 2 sung first).

Teddy O’Neill

Capo Fret 3


      G                   Em                Am               D
I dreamt but last night, ah bad cess to my dreaming
        G          Em                  Am                D
I’d die if I thought it would e'er come to pass
        G                    Em                  Am                         D
I dreamt while the tears down my pale cheeks were streaming
            G             Em         Am      D    G
That Teddy was courting another fair lass
        D                                     C                  G
Ah didn’t I wake with such weeping and wailing
         Em                                          Am            D
The thought of that dream was too much to endure
          G                    Em            Am                 D
My mother cried, ‘Nora child, what has you ailing?’
       G               Em                Am  D    G
But all I could answer was Teddy O’Neill

I’ve seen the mud cabin he danced his wild jigs in
As neat a mud cabin as ever was seen
Considering ‘twas used to keep poultry and pigs in
I’m sure you’d allow ‘twas both tidy and clean
But now all around seems so sad and so weary
So sad and so silent, no piper, no reel,
Not even the sun through the casement shines cheerly
Since I lost my own darling boy, Teddy O’Neill

Shall I ever forget when the big ship was ready
And the moment had come for my love to depart
I cried like a spalpeen, ‘Goodbye to you Teddy’
With a tear in my eyes and a stone in my heart
He says ‘tis to better his fortune he’s leaving
But what would be gold to the joy I would feel
To see him come back to me, honest and loving

Still poor, but my own darling Teddy O’Neill.

This blog is Day 22 of Sarah Allen's 30 day blog challenge


  1. Sometimes those old songs, corny or not, can tug at your heartstrings. I hope women who can use your advice will read this.

  2. My second verse is different:
    I've seen the old cabin beyond the wee bóirín (a lane or little road)
    I've seen the old crossroads where we used to dance
    I rambled the lane where he called me his stóirín (beloved)
    And my girlish heart felt the thrill of romance.

    Also in 1st verse the tears 'down my pillow were rolling'

    1. Hi Mary I love those words .. never heard them before ... I stuck with the version I had learned as a child which was pretty much the same as what Delia Murphy and Bridie Gallagher sang. Whereabouts are you? I'd say there are different versions of lots of these songs depending on where you grew up.

  3. Hi Fil, just to let you know that this is MUCH older! It was written at some point in the early nineteenth century. By 1865 it's already in a catalogue of popular songs being sung in England. Don't know if it was written there or in Ireland, but it was very popular in the nineteenth century.

    1. Hi Una - that's great to know, thank you ... sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you - life took over there for a while


Do drop me a line ... I love to read your comments :)