Chris Schwarz's Blog

For Fun: The Song of ‘Rooney O’Chisel’

This morning, I’m listening to the newest album from The Avett Brothers, “The Carpenter.” It’s a delightful acoustic and folky album, and as a bonus the CD cover looks like a traditional seal of a brotherhood of carpenters. (Listen to them perform the song here.)

I’ve always liked songs about the craft, like Guy Clark’s album “Workbench Songs.” (Clark is a woodworker, and Executive Editor Megan Fitzpatrick profiled him in the June 2007 issue — details here.)

So I was particularly pleased when Jeff Burks, my favorite information digger, sent me a link to the 1825 song called “Rooney O’Chisel.” It’s from a play “The Shepherd of Derwent Vale; Or, The Innocent Culprit: a Traditionary Drama, in Two Acts, Adapted (and Augmented) from the French by Joseph Lunn.” Read the entire play here.

O’Chisel is a supporting character in this tale of two brothers and treachery. He’s a joiner who was robbed of his business and then becomes a jailer (he’s shown in the image above).

The song itself is great fun – I wish we had the music so we could sing it at the next Woodworking in America.

I’m a joiner by trade, and O’Chisel’s my name;
From the sod, to make shavings and money I came:
But myself I was never consarning
‘Bout the lessons of schools;
For my own chest of tools
And my shop were a college for larning.
For by cutting, contriving,
And boring, and driving,
Each larned profession gains bread;
And they’re sure to succeed,
If they only take heed
To strike the right nail on the head.

Whack! whack! hubbaboo, gramachree;
All the dons in the nation are joiners like me.

The lawyers, like carpenters, work on a binch,
And their trade’s just the same as my own to an inch;
For clients, whenever they dive in it,
Soon find the cash fail;
For the law’s a big nail,
An’ the ‘torneys are hammers for driving it.
For by cutting, &c.

Then each Sunday, at church, by the parson we’re tould,
By line, square, and compass, our actions to mould;
And at joining himself the right sort is;
For he pins man and wife
Together for life,
Just as firm as a tenon and mortise.
For by cutting, &c.

And the heroes who sarve in our army and ships,
When they’re fighting our battles, are all brotherchips,
So entirely our trades are according;
For, with tools of sharp steel,
Soldiers cut a great deal,
And the tars are nate workmen at boarding.
For by cutting, &c.

Then our nobles and marchants, and stock-jobbing lads,
Like joiners, work best when they’ve plenty of brads.
Each projector’s a great undertaker;
And, to clinch up the whole,
Our good king, bless his soul!
Is an elegant cabinet-maker.
For by cutting, &c.

— Christopher Schwarz

17 thoughts on “For Fun: The Song of ‘Rooney O’Chisel’

  1. djolico

    So that cements my Christopher Schwarz man-crush. Check out their other albums, they’re great (lots of banjo), a shop-tunes staple for me. If you ever need shop space, beer or bbq advice in the KC area i’m your guy…is that creepy?

  2. christopher mitchell

    That was quite a treat. You have to admire their enthusiasm it was great!! That certainly does bring back old memories. Thirty years ago I thought thats where I would end up. Instead Im on the back end of a chisel.Thanks
    Christopher M.

  3. fox works

    Chris, long time reader, first time commenter.

    Good music to spawn creativity. Check out Scott Avett’s cover of One More Night by Dylan for a good song and a pertinent object on Scott’s desk. Perhaps inspiration is a two way street.

    Cheers.

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