to the first part of the tune of St. Patrick's Day.

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Senior Member
Mother and Peter and Phyllis were standing in a row at the end of the table. The shutters were shut and there were twelve candles on the table, one for each of Roberta's years. The table was covered with a sort of pattern of flowers, and at Roberta's place was a thick wreath of forget-me-nots and several most interesting little packages. And Mother and Phyllis and Peter were singing—to the first part of the tune of St. Patrick's Day. Roberta knew that Mother had written the words on purpose for her birthday. It was a little way of Mother's on birthdays.

Nesbet's 'The Railway Children'. It is Roberta's birthday. They are singing to her. Does this phrase in bold mean that they are singing on the melody of a song that is used to be sung on St. Patrick's Day? Please, explain it!
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    There is such a tune; it is a rather nice Irish jig and was used for the setting of the hymn All praise to St. Patrick by Fr. Frederick W Faber (1814-1863). This is a Catholic hymn; I don't recall the Railway Children were Catholics, and I would not have thought it would be widely known to English Protestants (although the tune is older than the hymn; perhaps Mother just liked Irish jigs).

    The words the they were singing were words Mother had written, not the words of the hymn, but they used the same tune.
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