"Well, if you've got a wing-o, Take me up to ring-o, Where the waxies sing-o, all the day." Various people in Dublin set out to accomplish some end or other, fail, and console themselves by asking, "Take me up to Monto."
I have never seen definitely-traditional version of this song. But Irish bands seem to sing it without any knowledge of its origin, and the two versions I've seen (Harte's and that in _Soodlum's Irish Ballad Book_) are somewhat different, with the differences being almost always clear errors of hearing, so it possibly belongs here.
The song is intensely political, but you have to know the code to realize what is going on. For starters, "Monto" is Montgomery street, Dublin's red light district. _Soodlum's_ says that 1600 prostitutes once worked there, before it was closed down in 1925.
"Buckshot" Forster ("Butcher Foster" in _Soodlum's_) is W. E. Forster, known as "Buckshot," a one-time British Chief Secretary for Ireland. According to Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being Volume II of _The Green Flag_ (Penguin, 1972, 1989), p. 86, Forster was given his name because, during his tenure, the police were sometimes given buckshot for ammunition, rather than the more dangerous ball cartridges. This was not his decision, however, and he came to have a bad reputation for violence. Forster resigned his post in the 1880s when Prime Minister Gladstone released Charles Steward Parnell from arrest (for this, see e.g. "The Blackbird of Avondale (The Arrest of Parnell)"; also "Home Rule for Ireland" and the songs cited under those two).
"Carey" and "Skin-the-Goat" were two of those involved in the deadly Phoenix Park murders of 1882 (for which see especially "The Phoenix Park Tragedy"; also "Murder of the Double-Dyed Informer James Carey" and "Skin the Goat's Curse on Carey").
These two mentions would seem to set the song in the mid-1880s. This fits with the mentions of Queen Victoria, who ruled 1837-1901 and who repeatedly visited Ireland (though I doubt she ever weighed eighteen stone even in her later years when she did become stout; she just wasn't tall enough). Countering this is the mention of sending the Dublin Fusiliers overseas, which sounds like a reference to the Boer War which began in 1899; more than 20,000 troops were eventually sent to South Africa. But maybe it's a reference to some other small colonial conflict. There were certainly plenty to choose from. - RBW
- DT, MONTO*
- ADDITIONAL: Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, pp. 60-61, "Monto" (1 text, 1 tune)
- BI, Hart060