I found this children's song in The Clancy Brothers
The Irish Songbook
and fell in love with it on its first reading and playing. I first performed it at my own ceilidh, probably in 1994, and it was an immediate success. Since then I've played many, many and indeed many, many more times. For me, this a wonderful song for audience participation. The song itself is of the wooing of a fair damsel by an equally fair lad. The lad however, is a more than a bit stingy, and is obliged to up the ante whenever he makes a proposal and his heart's desire just keeps on turning him down no matter what he offers her.
When I perform this song, I make a big story of it and get the males in the audience to sing the wooer's part and logically the ladies to sing the object of his desires. There is always great laughter because I sing the ladies part falsetto and is generally entirely unexpected.
Doing this song with small children is delightful. On one occasion in a Bremen Kindergarten in Germany, the little toddlers who had been paragons of obedience up to that point when I did this song, literally fell off chairs and upturned their sofa when I did the falsetto bit and were thereafter uncontrollable for some twenty minutes.
On another equally unforgetable occasion at my sister Mary's infants school in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1994, I myself was totally flabbergasted when on speaking to the lads (four and five years old dammit!) at one of the supposed infants reply to my question. I had explained to the lads that what we had just offered, the proverbial "Paper of pins", was insufficient and I asked for suggestions from the lads for a better gift whereby we might enjoy more success in the courtship of our intended. Imagine my reaction when some four-year old annonymous macho wisecrack yelled out, "Give her a banana!". Believe me, I was totally flabbered. That was not enough! I was totally impressed, as an honest supporter of women's rights, and the totally devastated, as a male, when the four-to-five-year old multi-racial future wifes and mothers yelled out a vehement and resounding "No!" at the same time vigourously shaking their heads, whenever I asked whether the offered gift was sufficient for a marriage.
It was also a great joy to sing this song along with Kerstin Knie. Whenever I sang "Paper of pins" with her, I would make up verses on the fly trying to surprise her. She on her part would look me deeply in the eyes, (she always tried to make me laugh) and devastate me with a vehement "No" that was so convincing that I was geuinely hurt for the duration of the song.
Well, well, well! After all these years since writing the above at the end of the 1990's, I have just found out (July 2016 in Sydney, Australia) that Paper of pins
had been written by the German-American Edward Mack
. As I've said many times, when an Irishman sings a song, that song becomes Irish!