The Ballad ‘Salonika’

Story

This was a jaunty Cork street ballad that reflected the views of a separa, a woman who was paid separation money when her husband went to fight with the Army during the Great War, in this case Salonika, and the wife of a slacker. Men in Cork who avoided joining the army, for whatever reason, gained the pejorative slacker. The use of the word may also reflect Cork’s strong links with the USA as Americans used the term slacker to describe civilians dodging either the war effort or enlisting - later described as a draft dodger.

The characters in the ballad mock each other and there are references to Cork locations such as the Coliseum cinema in the then King Street and characters including Dicky Glue, a well-known Cork pawnbroker. The listener will likely discern which verse reflects each protagonist’s point of view, although that might differ from listener to listener. The last verse may have been added during or following Ireland’s ‘War of Independence’.

The importance of the ballad, in the absence of contemporary social accounts of the poor and working class, provides a glimpse into the life of the wives in Cork that the husbands left behind.

Me husband’s in Salonika
I wonder if he’s dead
I wonder if he knows he has
A kid with a foxy head

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

When the war is over
What will the slackers do
They’ll be all around the soldiers
For the loan of a bob or two

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

And when the war is over
What will the soldiers do
They’ll be walking around with a leg and a half
And the slackers they’ll have two

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

They taxed the pound of butter
They taxed the ha’penny bun
But still with all their taxes
They can’t bate the bloody Hun

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

They taxed the Colosseum
They taxed St Mary’s Hall
Why don’t they tax the Bobbies
With their backs against the wall

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

And When the war is over
What will the slackers do
For every kid in America
In Cork there will be two

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

They takes us out to Blarney
They lays us on the grass
They puts us in the family way
And they leaves us on our ass

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

There’s lino in the parlour
And in the kitchen too
And a lovely glass back chiffonier
We got from Dickie Glue

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

Ah, never marry a soldier
A sailor or a marine
But keep your eye on the Sinn Féin boy
With his yellow, white and green

So right away, so right away
So right away Salonika
Right away me soldier boy

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