The Lonesome Hours of Winter

by The Lost Forty

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We have a flash packet, she’s a packet of fame, She belongs to New York and the Dreadnought’s her name, And she’s bound for the ocean where the stormy winds blow, Bound away on the Dreadnought to the Westward we’ll go. The Dreadnought is lying at Liverpool dock, Where the boys and the girls on the pier-head do flock, And they give us three cheers as the tears down do flow, Bound away on the Dreadnought to the Westward we’ll go. And now we are howling on the wild Irish sea, Where the sailors and passengers together agree, For the sailors are perched on the yard arms, you know, Bound away on the Dreadnought to the Westward we’ll go. Now we are sailing on the ocean so wide, Where the great foaming billows dash against her black side, And the sailors off watch are sleeping below, Bound away on the Dreadnought to the Westward we’ll go. And now we are howling off the banks of Newfoundland, Where the waters are deep and the bottom is sand, And the fish of the ocean they swim to and fro, Bound away on the Dreadnought to the Westward we’ll go. Now we are safe in New York Harbor once more, I’ll go and see Nancy, she’s the girl I adore, To the parson I’ll take her, my bride for to be, And bid adieu to the Dreadnought and the deep stormy sea.
Come all you railroad section hands, I hope you lend an ear, Likewise pay attention to these few lines you’ll hear, Concerning one Larry Sullivan, alas he is no more, He sailed some forty years ago from the green old Irish shore. Now for four and thirty weary years he worked upon the track, And the truth they say from the very first day he never had a wreck, For he made it a point to keep up the lower joints with the force of the tamping bar, “Joint ahead and center back, Jerry go oil the car.” To see old Larry in the winter time when the hills were clad with snow, It was his pride on the handcar to ride as over the section he’d go, With his big soldier coat buttoned up to his throat, how he looked like an emperor, And while the boys were shimming up the ties, Jerry would be oiling the car. And when Sunday morning came around to the section hands he’d say, “I suppose you all know my wife is going to Sunday Mass today, Now I need every man to pump all he can, the distance it is very far. I want to get in ahead of number ten. Jerry go oil the car.” “Now that my friends are gathered ’round, there is one request I crave, When I am dead and at my rest, put the handcar on my grave, Let the spike maul rest upon my breast with the gauge and the old clawbar, And while the boys are lowering me down, leave Jerry to be oiling the car.” “And give my regards to the roadmaster,” poor Larry he did cry, “And raise me up so I may see the handcar before I die.” He was so weak he could hardly speak, in a moment he was dead, “Joint ahead and center back,” were the very last words he said.
Well the lonesome hours of winter provide both frost and snow, Clouds around us gather and stormy winds do blow, You’re the girl that I have chosen to be my only dear, But your scornful heart is frozen and fast locked up I fear. I went one night to see my love, she proved most scornfully, I asked her would she marry, to which she paid no heed, The night is nearly passed and gone and near the break of day, I’m waiting for your answer, my dear, what do you say? “Since you must have an answer, I choose a single life, It never was my intention to ever become your wife, Now take that for an answer, for myself I will provide, I’ve chosen another sweetheart and you do cast aside.” Since you are for changing the old love for the new, I will go a-ranging and roam this country through, In hopes to find some pretty fair maid more pleasing to my will, Well the world is wide and lonesome, dear, if you don’t another will. I know you have great riches and more you’d like to gain, You won my young affection which now you do disdain, Those riches will not last you long, they melt away like snow, When poverty does press you, dear, you’ll think on me I know. Well some folks do seek for pleasure, but I no pleasure find, The little birds sing sweetly along on every vine, The little birds sing sweetly, pleasing and divine, So would my joys be flowing tonight if Nancy were only mine.
O she on a little grey mare and he on a gelding also, He whispered one word in her ear and straightway to an inn they did go, They soon had their horses put out, they called for a supper with speed, They drank the full bumpers around, the glass it went merry indeed. This miss she arose the next morning, two hours before it was day, She called for the landlord with speed saying “Landlord what is there to pay?” “Ten guineas” the landlord replied, she gave him his money indeed, And then she gave him her next order, “Go saddle the gelding with speed.” She hoodwinked this young man indeed, she showed him a trick for his gold, Then mounting the gelding with speed, she left him the mare she had stole, It was all in Essex’s county, the truth of it there you will find, The people they showed him no pity, they said he was served in his kind.
Sad and dismal is the story I will tell to you, About the schooner Persia, her officers and crew, They sank beneath the waters deep, in life to rise no more, Where wind and desolation sweeps Lake Huron’s rock bound shore. They left Chicago on their lee, their songs they did resound, Their hearts were full of joy and glee, for they were homeward bound, They little thought the sword of death would meet them on their way, And they so full of joy and life would in Lake Huron lay. Well in mystery over their fate was sealed, they did collide some say, That is all will be revealed until the judgment day, When the angels take their stand and survey these waters blue, They’ll summon forth at Heaven’s command the Persian’s luckless crew. No mother dear was there to soothe the brow’s distracted pain, No gentle wife for to caress those pale lips once again, No sister nor a lover sweet, no little ones to moan, In the deep alone they sleep, far from friends and home. Well around Presque Isle the sea birds scream their mournful notes along, Chanting the sad requiem, the mournful funeral song, They skim along the waters blue and then aloft they soar, O’er the bodies of the Persian’s crew that lie along the shore.
Well a shanty man’s life is a wearisome one, though some think it free from care, It’s swinging of an axe from morning until night in the forest wild and drear, And sleeping in the shanty bleak and cold where the winter winds do blow, As soon as the morning star does appear to the wild woods we must go. Had we ale, wine or beer our spirits for to cheer while we’re in these woods so wild, Or a glass of whiskey shone while we’re out here all alone, it would pass away the long exile, Transported from the glass, separated from the lass, our lives seem long and drear, With no friend in sorrow high to check the rising sigh or to wipe away the briny tear. When the spring does come in, our hardship then begins for the waters are piercing cold, Dripping wet will be our clothes and our limbs they are half froze, the pike poles we scarce can hold, But rocks, shoals and sands give employment to our hands, so our well-banded raft we steer, And the rapids that we run, well, they seem to us but fun, we’re void of all slavish care.
In eighteen hundred and sixty one, The Yankee war had just begun, I put my corduroy breeches on, To work upon the railroad. In eighteen hundred and sixty two Those corduroy breeches they were new, I had my pick of a navvy crew, To work upon the railroad. In eighteen hundred and sixty three, We sailed away across the sea, We sailed away to Americay, To work upon the railroad. In eighteen hundred and sixty four, We landed on Columbia’s Shore, Bad luck to the ship that brought me o’er, To work upon the railroad. It’s “Pat do this” and “Pat do that,” Without a stocking or cravat, Nothing more than an old straw hat, When Pat works on the railroad. We left Ireland to come here, And spend our latter days in cheer, Our bosses they did drink strong beer, And Pat worked on the railroad.
Lovel 03:42
Lovel went a-walking, a-walking one morning, He met with two peddlers, two peddlers a-coming, He boldly stepped up to them and called them his honey, Saying “Stand and deliver boys, all I want’s your money.” Lol te de dum de dum, Lol te de a dum. “Well we are two peddlers, two peddlers are we, sir, You are Mr. Lovel we take you to be, sir, We are two peddlers that lately came from Dublin, All that we’ve got in our box is bedding and our clothing.” Then Lovel went a-walking up Kinsberry mountain, There he met rich misers their money they were counting, And then he drew his blunderbuss, then he drew his rapier, Saying “Stand and deliver boys, I’m a money taker!” “Lovel, O Lovel, my poor heart’s a-breaking, Little did I think my love you ever would be taken, And if I had known that the enemy was coming, I’d have fought like a hero, for I’m a loyal woman.” “Polly, O Polly my poor heart’s a-breaking, If it weren’t for you my love I would not have been taken, But while I was sleeping, not thinking of the matter, You discharged my pistols and loaded them with water.” And Lovel went a-walking up to the gallows ladder, He called to the sheriff for his Irish cap and feather, Saying “I have robbed many, I never harmed any, I think it hard that I should die just for taking money.”
Up from the poor man’s cottage, forth from the mansion door, Sweeping across the water and echoing along the shore, Caught by the morning breezes, borne on the evening gale, Came at the dawn of morning a sad and sorrowful wail. Lost on the Lady Elgin, sleeping to wake no more, Numbering in death five hundred, that failed to reach the shore. Sad were the wails of children, weeping for parents gone, Children that slept at evening, orphans awoke at dawn, Sisters for brothers weeping, husbands for missing wives, These were the ties that were severed by those five hundred lives. Staunch was the noble steamer, precious the freight she bore, Gaily they loosed their cables a few short hours before, Proudly she strode our harbor, joyfully rang the bell, Little they thought, ere morning, ’twould peal so sad a knell.
Well, you hunters brave and bold I pray attend, To this relation hear what I have seen, It’s of a hunter bold, ’Twill make your blood run cold, To hear the story told, How he suffered there. To hunt when he was young was his delight, And when to manhood grown, his favorite, To hunt the fallow deer, The roe buck and the bear, The turkey, coon and hare, With smaller game. The people gathered round on hill and dale, No venison could be found his hunting failed, He went in forty-nine, Towards the northern line, It was his whole design, To hunt that grove. Well now comes on the day that was his last, Old Boreas blew away an awful blast, It both rain, hailed and snowed, The stormy winds did blow, Well, it chilled his body so, Poor man was lost. All in the drifting snow laid himself down, No further could he go, there he was found, His powder so complete, Was strewed from head to feet, That the vermin might not eat, His body there. Well you wish to know his name and where he’s from, And of what stock he came and where he’s born, He’s of as noble a race, As any in the place, And his name was John Lomace, Born in Westfield.
Come, all you lads of pleasure and rambling boys beware, Whenever you go a-hunting with your hound, your gun and snare, Whenever you go a-hunting, those valleys at your command, Think of the tedious journey, boys, going to Van Diemen’s Land. There was Joe Brown from Nottingham, Jack Williams and Jack Jones, They’re three as jolly fellows, as well their country knows, They were taken one night by the bay, with their guns at hand, And for fourteen years transported unto Van Diemen’s Land. There was a girl from Nottingham, Sal Simons was her name, For seven years transported for carrying on the game, Our Captain bought her freedom and married her off hand, Well, she gave us very good treatment going to Van Diemen’s Land. The landing port we went to was on a foreign shore, The planters they surrounded us, full a score or more, They yoked us up like horses and sold us out off hand, Well they hitched us to the plows, me boys, to plow Van Diemen’s Land. And the lodging that that they built for us was made of sods and clay, The beds we had to sleep on were made of rotten hay, It’s rotten hay for beds, me boys, slumber if you can, Well, they gave us the very poor treatment while in Van Diemen’s Land, Last night I lay me down to sleep, I had a pleasant dream, I dreamt I was back in Ireland, down by a purling stream, My Irish girl beside me, walking hand in hand, But when I awoke my heart was broke, back in Van Diemen’s Land.
Now that the harvest is all through, To old Dakoty we will bid you adieu, Back to the jack pine we will go, To haul these saw logs in the snow. Fol-the-deedle-doe, fol-the-deedle-day, Hi-fol-the-doe, what a time on the way. Well you might say we felt big, We were in a silver-mounted rig, For Akeley town we set our sails, They all thought we were the Prince of Wales. Well Neddy he’s a splendid cook, And he always stops beside some brook, Scrambled eggs three times a day, Lots of bread and a big cuppa tay. Well we jogged along ’til we came through, It’s there we met with the rest of the crew, Handsome boys both young and stout, The pick of the town there is no doubt. Into the buggy we jerked our boots, You can bet our teamster fed long oats, To the camp we drove along, We joined up in a sing song. Well we stayed all winter ‘til we were through, Then started home with the same old crew, Now we’re home, we’ve got our pay, We think of the time that we had on the way.


These songs were all learned from Minnesota-based traditional singers whose songs were preserved by field recordings and/or manuscripts made in the 1920s.

Michael Cassius Dean (1858-1931) of Virginia, Minnesota sang tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11.
Reuben Waitstell Phillips (1850-1926) of Chamberlain, Minnesota sang tracks 4, 8 and 10.
Israel Lorentz Phillips (1883-1967) of Chamberlain, Minnesota (Reuben's son) sang track 12.

For more information on these singers see the full liner notes to "The Lonesome Hours of Winter" CD or visit (a free online archive of the field recordings) or (Brian's blog).


released November 23, 2018

Produced by The Lost Forty
Recorded at The Hideaway,
Engineer: Joe Mabbott
Mixing: Joe Mabbott and The Lost Forty
Mastering: Jared Miller at Microphonic Mastering

Cover Art: "Snow Day" by Zoe Badger,
Photo of Brian and Randy by Natalie Jennings,
Graphic Design by Brian Donahue at bedesign, inc.

Brian’s bouzouki and Randy’s mandola both made by Davy Stuart

The field recordings we learned these songs from are available online at and at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. All songs public domain. All song arrangements by The Lost Forty.

Thank You: The American Folklife Center (especially Ann Hoog and Todd Harvey), The Minnesota State Arts Board, Jim Leary, Gretchen Dykstra, Deirdre Ní Chonghaile, Dave Ruch, Buddy Ferrari, Alaina Lyseth, Judy Scholin, Marina Vork, Jerome Wenker, Phil Nusbaum, Sheila Leary, Wade’s Guitar Shop, Michele Beardsley at St. Paul Guitars, The Irish Music and Dance Association, Tom Schroeder at The Waldmann, The Center for Irish Music, The Celtic Junction Arts Center, Bua, Norah Rendell and all who supported the Lost Forty Project Kickstarter.


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The Lost Forty Saint Paul, Minnesota

Brian Miller and Randy Gosa (aka The Lost Forty) craft intricate arrangements of rare old songs entwined with the history of the Great Lakes region. Their sources and their approach celebrate two centuries of Irish musical influence on the under-explored folk song traditions of the north woods. ... more

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