My Son Ted is often referred to as Mrs McGrath; Ted is also known as Tim and John; and there are many variants of the lyrics and the tunes used. Whatever the case, it is a bitter song expressing a strong anti-war sentiment. It dates from the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) between the French Empire and various European states, including England
During that time thousands of young Irishmen were recruited to join the British army. For many, they were faced with the option of starving at home or becoming soldiers of fortune. The recruiting sergeant was a dreaded figure in those days, for if you accepted his shilling for a drink, you could be legally pressed into the army.
The song tells the story of a young Irishman who joined the British Army to fight in the Peninsular War (1804-1814) which was fought on the Iberian Peninsula pitting the forces of Spain, Portugal and Britain against the forces of Napoleon. Much to his mother’s dismay, the young man returns home having lost both his legs to a cannon ball.
This arrangement of My Son Ted is part of a larger collection of choral arrangements of 20 Australian folk song titles. The works were commissioned in 2022 by the Queensland Kodály Choir as a legacy project of Australian Choral Music and are collectively available in a two-part anthology titled On a Distant Shore.
The Queensland Kodály Choir has generously determined that these anthologies and all of their associated resources should be made freely available to anyone who would like to make use of them. To facilitate this, whilst each of the arrangements is copyright, the full set of project resources has been licensed under Creative Commons International Licence, meaning that they can be freely shared, copied and/or redistributed.
Conductors/choirs wishing to access the Anthology – Parts 1 & 2 – and/or the companion rehearsal tracks, can do so by following the link to the Cuskelly College of Music website. The complete individual titles (including cover title page, vocal score, piano accompaniment, extracted instrument parts, performance notes and glossary of terms) are available in the Anthology Catalogue on this website.
Perusal and download copies of this arrangement of My Son Ted are available below.
Featured Image: “A Sergeant and Privates of the 87th or Prince of Wales’s Own Irish Regiment on Service” at the Battle of Barrosa on 5 March 1811. Public domain courtesy National Army Museum.