Fiddler's Green

Posted by Masakim on April 08, 2002

In Reply to: Fiddler's Green posted by ESC 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.

: : : Thanks,
: : : Dan

: : I found "Fiddler's Green" in a couple of my reference books. But there was just a paragraph or two. I can post those if you think it will help.

: : A long while back I saw a book at Barnes and Noble that contained the various views of heaven in religion and literature. I think this is it. It might have details about Fiddler's Green. The book costs around $30. Maybe your local library would have a copy.

: : The Book of Heaven: An Anthology of Writings from Ancient to Modern Times
: : Carol Zaleski (Editor) Philip Zaleski (Editor)
: : Format: Hardcover, 448pp.
: : ISBN: 0195119339
: : Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
: : Pub. Date: May 2000

: : From the Publisher
: : In every culture, in every epoch, human beings have yearned for heaven - the kingdom of God, abode of the elect, fount of enlightenment, mirror of hopes and desires. Now, in The Book of Heaven, Carol and Philip Zaleski provide the first wide-ranging anthology of writings about heaven, drawing from scriptures, myths, epics, poems, prayers, sermons, novels, hymns and spells, to illuminate a vast spectrum of beliefs about the world beyond.

: : What People Are Saying
: : The passages contained here-from the pious to the satirical-are rich enough to help us rethink what has to be the most significant question every human being faces: the point of it all.
: : -Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul -Thomas Moore

: FIDDLER'S GREEN - "The happy land imagined by sailors where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing for dancers who never tire, plenty of grog and unlimited tobacco." From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition). "Since the 19th century, British sailors have called the traditional heaven of mariners Fiddler's Green, 'a place of unlimited rum and tobacco.' " From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

Fiddler's Green. The traditional heaven of sailors, esp. of those who die ashore: from ca. 1820: nautical coll. [Captain Frederic] Marryat, in _Snarley-Yoe_ [1837]:
'At Fiddler's Green, where seamen true,
When here they've done their duty,
The bowl of grog shall still renew,
And pledge to love and beauty.'
Fiffler's Green ... occurs in W.N. Glascock, _Sketch-Book_ (II, 169), 1826, and prob. goes back to ca. 1800 or even 1970. (Moe.)
From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge.