Victorian/Edwardian Sheet Music 1880-1910 - Sheets 5

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
But How Can You Help It
- when Uncle Sam calls... ?

This fabulous and rare piece of sheet music from 1900, which shows a Canadian threatening to bayonet a hapless Boer, half way around the world, as Uncle Sam cheers, offers an erie presentiment of events a hundred years later... (The Boer War was the first time that Canadians ever sent troops to fight in an overseas war.)

In 2006, the Canadian Government eagerly answered Uncle Sam's longtime call, to make a major change in Canadian foreign policy, and to take part, as American allies, in Canada's first shooting war in over half a century. The Canadian military was promised it could fly the Canadian flag - at last - instead of that widely vilified UN flag. The change was to result in the most deaths to Canadian military personnel since the Korean War, when Canada fought under the United Nations flag.

For 50 years after that, the Canadian military had won plaudits around the globe for its even handed policing of trouble spots as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.

But after fifty years, there were those in the Canadian military who were bored with being mistaken as peace-keepers - glorified security guards who couldn't shoot anything. Admittedly it was hard, when visiting the mess of real soldiers, like the Americans, and hearing tales of real men, and real women, doing manly things with big hardware to anyone who might vaguely, sound un-American, look un-American, smell un-American, or frankly, any innocent by-stander who happened to be in the wrong place when %$*?& happens... The US military seemed so blessed; US big business never appeared to have any trouble finding deserving targets all over the place.

Why didn't Canada have a government with balls...? as the Toronto Star's understandably envious Rosie diManno would say.

Left a publisher has already mocked up a new cover which is soon slated for public release by our very own Poet Laurier. You can see it here first, with an updated cast of characters: George Bush, cheering on "Made in the USA" Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Hillier, with a mean look for Osama, who smiles benignly. He knows they'll never catch him and that he will be there long after they have both passed from the scene, leaving a big mess behind that others will have to clean up... And thousands - actually millions - of very angry Muslims... everywhere else...

Sheet Music, But How - Can You Help It, 1900
Orig. sheet music - Size - 26 x 35 cm, copyright 1900
Found - New Westminster, BC

But How - Can You Help It
- 1900

1. This fighting Boers is a terrible shame
But how - can you help it,
They don't like Britons, or Chamberlain,
But how - can you help it?

2. Our men are there with guns to spare
But how - can you help it
If they don't look out, they'll wipe them out
But how - can you help it?

3. Now all good people know we're right
But how - can you help it
And Britons are ready when they have to fight
But how - can you help it?

4. There are nations who say our hands they'd stay
But how - can you help it
For the Union Jack would not have that
But how - can you help it?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Sheet Music, Remember Our Soldier Boys, 1900
Orig. sheet music - Size - 26 x 35 cm, copyright 1900
Found - Ann Arbor, MI
A fabulous piece of Canadian sheet music written by a local boy from Baden, Ontario, HJ Weiler. He captioned it "Affectionately Dedicated to the Canadian Volunteers in the Transvaal." Canadian boys were eager to join the March against the Boers.

But no more than the scribes of our day, Harry couldn't quite get it right, on why Our Soldier Boys were fighting, though he makes it pretty clear, by repeating it, in the chorus, that it was fame. Oh, and as an afterthought, in the final verse, the Righteous cause of Liberty. Almost sounds like George Bush talking...

Whose liberty? It wasn't the liberty of the Boers who were to be stripped of their own republics, or the Blacks, who were to be socially segregated, deprived of the vote, and politically castrated in British South Africa for scores of years to come, all thanks to "Our Soldier Boys."

Canadians have been in Afghanistan since 2001, but only started their shooting war in early 2006. Terrorist attacks, which till then hadn't varied much, have since been on a spectacular increase all over the world right. Merely by coincidence... Right?

Remember Our Soldier Boys - 1900

1. Midst the rays of sunshine, in a far off, distant clime
In his tent a soldier sits alone
He recalls the scenes of bygone days
And loved ones left at home
His eyes are dimmed with tears
Hark!... Hark! the bugle call is sounding
To arms, to arms he hears the captain cry
Fall in line, shoulder Arms, Right a-bout turn,
Forward march and as they march. they all join in and sing
We’re Soldiers of the Queen.

  • A call to arms and duty,
    Great Britain to maintain
    Many a Father, a Brother, a Lover
    Have gone to fight for fame
    Many a heart is weary tonight
    Since they gave their last goodbyes
    When alone in your own peaceful home
    Remember Soldier Boys.

2. Now upon the battlefield our gallant boys are fighting
Fighting for the flag they love so well
Their swords are drawn in a Righteous cause,
The cause of Liberty,
God speed that they will win
The call to arms our brave Hero’s follow
One God, one Flag, one Country to Honor
Fall in line, shoulder Arms, Right a-bout turn,
Forward march and May they soon to us home return,
Our Soldiers of the Queen

When the only Culture was Agriculture...

Sheet music, and lithos, in Victorian Canada, are frequently labeled similarly to this one, which is "Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada in the year 1900 by JM Gould at the Department of Agriculture."

In 1900, Canada was still a frontier country - in fact the west was just then starting to open up for settlement in a big way - and government funding was tied to conquering the vast wilderness in the west and north. That left no extra cash for a Ministry devoted to promoting dance, song, books, poetry, or other frivolous activities... It wasn't until 1993 that the Department of Canadian Heritage was set up, from a hodgepodge of programs scattered here and there among other government ministries.

The Essential Military Song

American bards have been writing war songs about Iraq and Afghanistan, but as is to be expected, however humorous they are, they are still typically American jingoism run amok... Introspection is seemingly not to be found in the American lexicon...

Another way Canadians are different from Americans.

We commend the Canadian Poet Laurier for taking the time to harness his considerable poetical skills, to pen a most valuable, and decidedly Canadian, war song, which captures, so vividly, the viewpoint of the common Canadian soldier in Afghanistan.

We believe this work is a fine example of the best of the military song genre, as it has all the essential ingredients that have made the most successful examples long outlive their creators, and the times whereof they speak...

Localisms - Names, words, and places that reflect the times, local customs and situations

Bravado - Putting the best face on a scary business...

Fear - The constant preoccupation of military men - and women, as confessed publicly, by Jessica Lynch - who are forced to go out into harm's way, day after day, after day...

Over preoccupation with personal matters such as cleanliness, underwear, bowel movements... sometimes the only things you have got to look forward to...

Sexual allusions - Never far from the minds of many of these youngish boys whenever a babe wanders near...

Tourists at the Front - Snide asides about journalists and other tourists making safe quickie tours while they are left holding the bag for the long term...

Names of the high and mighty - Rarely seen on the front lines; they're never there when the shooting starts...

Growing and pervasive skepticism - Questioning authority, the judgment of their political and military superiors, when grunts find the realities they face, are not what they were led to believe were true, at all...

Doom and gloom - How the hell did I get into this mess and how the hell will I get out, alive?

Self-criticism - Does what we are doing really make sense, on any level?

Irreverence - Thinking and saying, out loud, the unthinkable, the politically incorrect...

Subversion - Doing stuff that flout the rules, any rules, like Lee Marvin's Dirty Dozen

Grudging respect for the abilities of their opponents - To help explain the obvious lack of success they see as things drag on and deteriorate, casualties grow, and victory seems increasingly elusive...

Momma - Every military song worth its salt mentions Mother; after all she was the first one to get him into this mess... and, if worse comes to worse, will be the only one still remembering him, long after others have moved on... like, to other husbands...

Humour - When #%@&*% happens, and booze, and weed, and all else fails...

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005

For the finest collection of Canadian recordings you can hear, in the world, visit the Canadian Archives at:

The Virtual Gramophone

Many of its finely re mastered originals can be found on our pages.

The Soldiers of the Queen - 1898

1. Britons once did loyally declaim
About the way we rule’d the waves
Every Briton's song was just the same
When singing of our soldier braves
All the world had heard it
Wonder’d why we sang
And some have learned the reason why
But we're forgetting it and we’re letting it
Fade away and gradually die (2)
So when we say that England's master
Remember who has made her so...

  • It's the Soldiers of the Queen, my lads
    Who've been, my lads, who've seen my lads
    In the fight for England's glory lads
    When we have to show them what we mean
    And when we say we've always won
    And when they ask us how it's done
    We'll proudly point to every one
    Of England's Soldiers of the Queen.

2. War clouds gather over ev’ry land
Our flag is threaten’d East and West
Nations that we’ve shaken by the hand
Our bold resources try to test
They thought they found us sleeping
Thought us unprepared
Because we have our party wars
But Englishmen unite
When they’re called to fight
The battle for Old England’s common cause (2)
So when we say that England's master
Remember who has made her so...

3. Now we’re roused, we’ve buckled on our swords
We’ve done with diplomatic lingo
We’ll do deeds to follow on our words
We’ll show we’re something more than “jingo”
And though Old England’s laws do not
Her sons compel
To military duties do
We’ll play them at their game
And show them all the same
An Englishman can be a soldier too (2)
So when we say that England's master
Remember who has made her so
So when we say that England's master
Remember who has made her so...









All - Canadian Boer War Era Sheet Music









































Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A rare photo indeed of the men about whom all the sheet music was being produced.

A great day in the history of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was Nov. 1, 1900, when the heroes of Canada's First Contingent returned from "the wars," aboard the SS Idaho. The men of Canada's first military contingent to ever serve in a foreign war, had stopped off in London to accept Queen Victoria's personal thanks on behalf Britain and the Empire.

On the clock it is 10:09 a:m. As the ship noses in to the dock, with her precious cargo of local, and Canadian "boys," the docks, the streets, and rooftops, balconies, and telephone poles, are crowded with cheering admirers. After all, these were the Heroes of Paardeberg, whose fabled exploits on the battlefield had helped give Britain the first major victory in the war.

On the left the train station totally destroyed in the Halifax Explosion in 1917.

Left the exact view of the same site today, with a war ship nosed into the same Pier #2 behind the Canadian Navy building where the Idaho docked. This entire shore along here is now the Atlantic base for the Canadian Navy.

Below, the Royal Canadian March composed in their honour.

Troopship SS Idaho docks at Halifax, Nov 1, 1900, bringing home the Royal Canadian Regiment
Orig. photo - Image Size - 15 x 20 cm
Found - Vancouver, BC

Written on the back, "The Boys."

Sadly, recordings of these Canadian songs are not known to exist. Here is one that does: Canadians Harry Macdonough and the Haydn Quartet, singing
A Soldier's Farewell recorded at the very moment, (Nov 1900), that Canada's First Contingent returned in triumph from South Africa.















Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulously rare piece of sheet music - the only one we've ever seen - is this copy of the Royal Canadian March - no words, just two pages of music - published by Whaley Royce - they also made bugles - with offices in Toronto, Ontario, and a western branch in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Hey, in 1900, there was no Canada, to speak of, west of Portage and Main. Sure British Columbia had been a province since 1871 but it was an awful long way away from Canada's Heartland, and in between was a lot of empty space occupied mostly by wild sorts (fine wild-eyed example - probably an Albertan, below)

Some of those "red-necked" plowboys - big time immigration to these vast empty prairie lands was just beginning - wanted a break from all the mundane chores around the sod hut, when they heard that there was some serious butt kicking to be done, overseas. And they signed up in droves - I mean But How Can You Help It... In fact thousands had to be turned down... Oh well, back to milking Bessie, on Rosebud Creek...

Sheet Music, Royal Canadian March - 1900
Orig. sheet music - Size - 26 x 35 cm, copyright 1900
Found - Barrie, ON














































Song of The Canadian Contingent
in Afghanistan

Dedicated to
Afghan War Cheerleaders Supreme
Rosie diManno & Christie Blatchford
for whatever cheer they spread
when they're embedded
with the grunts...

It is a tradition, when a nation's men are at war, that bards and scribes create poetry and songs that reflect the true feelings of the common soldiers about the patriotic work they do on behalf of everyman. In homage to this long tradition, our Poet Laurier offers this oeuvre in Honour of the Canadian Contingent in Afghanistan, where, we’re told, it is already being sung with gusto to the tune of The Banana Boat Song.

(mournfully & hopefully)
INT  Day oh, day oh, Taliban’s comin’ an’ I wanna go home
        Pray oh, Pray oh, pray Mr. Harper please let us come home

(allegro con brio)
1 We kill them Taliban by the score (lead voice)
       Tell my momma that I wanna go home... (choral group)
Now we only got kill a million more
       Please Mr Harper won’t you let us come home...

2 When darkness comes we all take fright, shhhh
            Whisper to my momma that I wanna go home
Cause the Taliban’s sneaking ‘round at night, shhhh
            Please Mr Harper won’t you let us come home

3 Is Bin Laden here? Is Bin Laden there?
            Tell my momma that I wanna go home
That damn Osama’s got us running scared
            Please Mr Harper won’t you let us come home

CH     Come Mr. Taliban, tell me where’s Osama?
          Where’s he hiding we just wanna know?
          There’s nothing here that’s left for us to bomb-ah
          Our work’s done and we wanna go home
          Day oh, day oh, Taliban’s comin' an’ I wanna go home
           Pray oh, Pray oh, pray Mr. Harper please let us come home

4 We searched all day and we searched all night, Tell...
That damn Osama’s got our bowels up tight, Please...

5 We’re ordered to check all beards on sight, Tell...
So we’re liftin burkas left and right, Please...

6 I recently checked my underwear, Tell...
Just to see if Osama was hiding there, Please...

    Come Mr. Taliban, tell me where’s Osama?
          Where’s he hiding we just wanna know?
          There’s nothing here that’s left for us to bomb-ah
          Our work’s done and we wanna go home
          Day oh, day oh, Taliban’s comin’ an’ I wanna go home
           Pray oh, Pray oh, pray Mr. Harper please let us come home

7 Our troops are here by Afghan desire, Tell...
Which is why we're behind these miles of wire, Please...

8 Believe me Afghanistan ain’t no fun, Tell...
It’s dust, and dirt, and all-day runs, Please...

9 Yesterday we got a change of underwear, Tell...
I changed with Bill, and Jane with Pierre, Please...


10 They sent us here to build a nation, Tell...
But all we build up is constipation, Please...

The politicians just come here for show, Tell...
Then they hightail it back to Ontario, Please...

12 Those journalist babes are easy all right, Tell...
When we tell 'em we may die tomorrow night, Please...


13 I wish I could write some notes of cheer, Tell...
But we’ve nothing left we can knock down here, Please...

14 We say reconstruction is why we’re here, Tell...
But its really destruction that gives us cheer, Please...

Sure we spent 10 million to build a town, Tell...
But we spent one billion to blow it down, Please...


16 Our general promised us a killing spree, Tell...
But we thought it was supposed to be them not me, Please... 

17 To our guns and tanks let’s raise our hat, Tell...
Cause they’ve pretty well knocked the country flat, Please...

18 General Hillier claims Osama's not ten feet high, Tell...
But our troops here know that that's a lie (follow quickly with)
And his is a legend that will never die, Please...
    Come Mr. Taliban, you can keep Osama
          Please stop your shootin' so we can go
          There’s nothing here that’s left for us to bomb-ah
          Our work’s done and we wanna go home
          Day oh, day oh, tell my momma that I wanna go home
           Pray oh, Pray oh! (SHOUTED) We beg you Mr. Harper
           Please let us come home...


Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Johnny Canuck's the Lad - 1900

Fabulously rare sheet music form 1900, reflecting the growing identity of Canadians as something separate from just being Brits, which almost all immigrants, for the past hundred years, had been.

1. The month was bright October, the year was ninety-nine
When John Canuck first left his home and joined the British line.
He knew that he was wanted, never asked the reason why
He took his gun, and on the run, he bid his friends good-bye

  • Oh, Johnny Canuck's the lad, the finest e'er was seen.
    He's like a flash; for nerve and dash
    His equal there ne'er has been.
    He does not boast or brag; in war he does not lag;
    But he strikes right out whenever a foe is seen.

2. 'Twas just a few weeks later, when Johnny trod the veldt,
And though there was not much of him, he made that "little" felt.
He knew just what was wanted, and resolved to do or die,
He took his gun and on the run, he made the Burghers fly

3. Our Johnny asked no favours, but tried to keep in front,
And ev'ry time the scrimmage came why? Johnny bore the brunt.
John Bull looked on in wonder, all amazed at Johnny's pluck,
Then raised his hat, and cried aloud, Gold Bless you John Canuck.

Johnny Bore the Brunt...

Some things never change. In Afghanistan, during 2007, the Canadians were dying at three times the rate of the Americans, the British, and the Dutch, who were also doing the real fighting in southern Afghanistan. And today it is the other NATO partners in the alliance who look on in amazement to see Canadians committing to battles to which they would not consider exposing their own military men and women...

There is another difference; Canadians are complaining, these days, that most of the others ten coalition partners are not pulling their weight, and Johnny Canuck has to bear the brunt - again - with a growing number of processions of hearses down village streets back home....

Sheet Music, Johnny Canuck's the Lad, 1900
Orig. sheet music - Size - 26 x 35 cm, copyright 1900
Found - New Westminster, BC
YOU DON'T SAY! - This non-coloured sheet music was a hand-out from a prosperous merchant.

And, in the days before radio, movies, and TV, the advertising it carried below was well on the way to paving the way for the modern TV hucksters who infest the airwaves night and day...





























































Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A Letter from the Front (1901)

1. A maiden fair with bright golden hair,
By a window sat silent one day
Watching the throng as it passed along
While her thoughts drifted far away. 
When a knock at the door brought the roses once more,
To her cheeks long so pale and so wan.
The old postman was there, with his old cheerful air,
He'd a message he left and was gone.

  • Twas just a letter that came from the front,
    but it told of deeds both brave and true,
    Of a hero who ne'er feared the battles' brunt
    And who fought for the Red, White and Blue,
    A lad who while off in a distant land,
    With grim war searing heaven' blue dome
    Wrote a fond letter, with loving hand  
    From the front to his sweetheart at home..

2. A woman grey, in grief stood one day,
By a packet of letters well worn.
Leafing them o'er till her heart grew sore,
And her soul with despair was torn.
When she came to one stained,
Where the teardrops had rained,
And with sobs she bowed low her tired head.
For as memory went back, all the world seemed so black,
'Twas a message of love from the dead...

Sheet Music, A Letter from the Front - 1901

This sheet music shows an interesting insight into the regionalization of the US economy in the days before transportation and communications improvements transformed everything at the dawn of the 20th century.

Here the US was split into East and West - of the Ohio River - with the base for servicing the western states, at Williamsport, Pennsylvania...!

Toronto, of course, was perfectly able to handle everything just fine for the rest of the country...

Orig. sheet music - Size - 30 x 40 cm, copyright 1901
Found - Potter, NE
What did the war accomplish? Letters mostly, to next of kin... 300 Canadians died, 500 Australians, 21,000 Brits. 4,000 Boer fighting men died, but also 26,000 of their women and children...





Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The Soldiers of the Queen - 1900 (Play it)

The famous song, written by Leslie Stuart, in the late 1890s,, was on everyone's lips and the staple for every band parade by 1900. This sheet was issued in Toronto in 1898, and sold for 50 cents.

In 1900 Canadian soldiers really were Soldiers of the Queen. Because Canada had no real standing army to speak of, many Canadians served in British units.

In fact when the war broke out in 1899, scores of Canadian officer graduates of the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, were serving in British units in South Africa, far, far more officers than were there in Canadian units.

In fact the first Canadians to die in South Africa were killed while serving in British units before any Canadian contingents were at the front, such as Lt. C Wood of Halifax, Nova Scotia, serving in the Lancashire Regiment, who was killed at Belmont, and Lt. JW Osborne of Brantford, Ontario, who was killed serving with the Scottish Rifles at Spion Kop.

Oh, What a Lovely War!

Boer War songs were always highly patriotic - and many of these were available, and sung in public halls, before the Boer War came along, according to a full page ad (above) inside this sheet music. But poets, like Pvt. PT Ross, in "A Yoeman's Letters," tended to be more humorous.

Go to Ballad of the Bayonet 1900

Songs that were saucy became widespread in World War I when the idiocies of combat were seen as so truly awful that you could only laugh about them. In World War II the "D-Day Dodgers" was one of many memorable songs that used a humorous approach.

Sadly, Canadians are not singing about Afghanistan; to fill the vacuum Canada's own Poet Laurier offers a modest contribution below.

Sheet Music, Soldiers of the Queen, 1898

Orig. sheet music - copyright 1898
Found - Brantford, ON

The song was originally written in 1894, for the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, then years later, had the words changed to how they are popularly known today.