Posted by Dan on April 08, 2002
I am looking for the origin of this phrase beyond its citation in the OED2 from 1825. I have done some research through some other sites and this is what I have found so far.
Fiddler's Green refers to both the sailor's and cavalry's paradise. The OED2 has a citation from 1825 as the sailor's paradise. Common usage also seems to hold this view (John Connally [Ireland] song from circa 1960, Stereophonics [Welsh Band] song from late 1990's). I know this reference is not American, but I am also not sure if it originates from Ireland, Scotland, or England.
The cavalry paradise reference seems to come from an anonymous poem published in the Cavalry Journal in 1923 and associated with the 7th U.S. Cavalry from the post-Civil War era and the Indian Wars period (circa 1860-1870). Fiddler's Green is listed sometimes as a poem and other times as a cavalry prayer. Now, there is a link between the 7th U.S. Cavalry and Ireland. Many troopers of the 7th Cavalry were of Irish origin, and the 7th Cavalry's own insignia has the phrase "Garry Owen" on it. "Garry Owen" is a derivative of the Irish Gaelic Garraí Eóin which means Owen's Garden. Owen's Garden was a commons in Limerick that gave rise to a drinking ballad of the same name. The 5th Royal Irish Lances, an Irish cavalry unit, used that drinking ballad. I have no evidence that the Irish Lancers appropriated the paradise and incorporated it into a poem that emigrated to the U.S. with its members, or whether the paradise and poem are of U.S. origin. I am also assuming (but it seems a sound assumption) that the reference for Fiddler's Green as a sailor's paradise is the original, although I have no direct evidence of that either.
I am looking for further history of either reference, or information on other sources to look for information.