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"No Irish Need Apply"

The Irish often faced discrimination when seeking jobs upon their arrival in the United States. Although historians have been hard-pressed to identify an actual sign bearing the notorious legend "No Irish Need Apply," contemporary newspaper advertisements and employment pages from the mid-nineteenth century expressed such sentiments. This 1862 song, composed by John F. Poole and performed by Tony Pastor, a vaudeville and variety-show performer whom the song-sheet credits as "the great Comic-Vocalist of the age," takes the "No Irish Need Apply" slogan and transforms it into a challenge for its nameless immigrant hero. The song, rendered in what passed for an approximation of Irish patois, was likely performed in the vaudeville houses and variety-show theatres that proliferated in immigrant entertainment districts like New York's Bowery, where an appreciative audience responded enthusiastically to such portrayals of themselves and their neighbors. The song ends with a patriotic appeal that betrays the composition's Civil War-era roots, with references to Irish-American brigades in the Union Army that were then battling the "Rebel ranks."

I'm a dacint boy, just landed from the town of Ballyfad;
I want a situation: yis, I want it mighty bad.
I saw a place advertised. It's the thing for me, says I;
But the dirty spalpeen ended with: No Irish need apply.
Whoo! Says I; but that's an insult—though to get the place I'll try.
So, I wint to see the blagger with: No Irish need apply.

I started off to find the house, I got it mighty soon;
There I found the ould chap saited: he was reading the Tribune.
I tould him what I came for, whin he in a rage did fly:
No! says he, you are a Paddy, and no Irish need apply!
Thin I felt my dandher rising, and I'd like to black his eye—
To tell an Irish Gintleman: No Irish need apply!

I couldn't stand it longer: so, a hoult of him I took,
And I gave him such a welting as he'd get at Donnybrook.
He hollered: Millia murther! and to get away did try,
And swore he'd never write again: No Irish need apply.
He made a big apology, I bid him thin good-bye,
Saying: Whin next you want a bating, add: No Irish need apply!

Sure, I've heard that in America it always is the plan
That an Irishman is just as good as any other man;
A home and hospitality they never will deny
The stranger here, or ever say: No Irish need apply.
But some black sheep are in the flock: a dirty lot, say I;
A dacint man will never write: No Irish need apply!

Sure, Paddy's heart is in his hand, as all the world does know,
His praties and his whiskey he will share with friend or foe;
His door is always open to the stranger passing by;
He never thinks of saying: None but Irish may apply.
And, in Columbia's history, his name is ranking high;
Thin, the Divil take the knaves that write: No Irish need apply!

Ould Ireland on the battle-field a lasting fame has made;
We all have heard of Meagher's men, and Corcoran's brigade.
Though fools may flout and bigots rave, and fanatics may cry,
Yet when they want good fighting-men, the Irish may apply,
And when for freedom and the right they raise the battle-cry,
Then the Rebel ranks begin to think: No Irish need apply.

Source | John F. Poole, No Irish Need Apply (New York: H. De Marsan, 1862), from Library of Congress, America Singing: Nineteenth Century Song Sheets, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/amss:@field(DOCID+@lit(as109730)).
Creator | John F. Poole
Composer | John F. Poole
Lyricist | John F. Poole
Item Type | Music/Song
Cite This document | John F. Poole, “"No Irish Need Apply",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 5, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/842.

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