This song is based on the same story/joke referenced in the "Barrel of Bricks" speech by Gerard Hoffnung given at the Oxford Union (December 4th, 1958?)
The Urban Legends site take on this story.
Barrel of Bricks
Mr. Cooksey's website has the official lyrics, the history, and (under releases) an MP3 of him singing his own song!
A Mudcat thread from the author
Posted By: GUEST,Pat Cooksey.
11-May-02 - 08:16 AM
Thread Name: the sick note/ murphy and the bricks.
Subject: Origins: the sick note/ murphy and the bricks.
Over a long number of years there has been much speculation concerning this song. I wrote this song under it's original title Paddy and the Barrell in 1969, and first performed it in The Dyers Arms in Coventry at this time, and in 1972 Sean Cannon, later to become a member of the Dubliners began to perform it in the folk clubs under the title The Sick Note. The song was based on Gerard Hoffnung's wonderful address to the Oxford Union, but the story in a more simple form dates back to the English music halls in the 1920's and appeared in the Readers Digest in 1937. I personally gave the words of this song to Noel Murphy in a night club in Coventry in the early seventies and his only contribution to this song was to change the title to Murphy and the Bricks, and when this song was recorded Noel Murphy was obliged to remove his name from the writers credits, I still have a letter from Misty River Music to this effect. The song under more than 20 alternative titles has since been recorded more than 100 times worldwide, and in every version the words are identical. This song under all alternative titles has always been the exclusive copywright of myself, Pat Cooksey, and is registered with The Performing Rights Society in London. This includes Dear Boss by The Clancy brothers, The Bricklayers Song by The Corries and Ray Stevens, The Sick Note by The Dubliners, etc,etc, and also Murphy and the Bricks. No other artist had any input into this song nor is any claim for arrangement valid. Pat Cooksey, Nuremberg, Germany.
Another Mudcat thread
Subject: RE: Paddy's Excuse Note; who when wh???
From: Abby Sale
Date: 27-Nov-99 - 11:15 AM
Some notes by Sam Hinton, posted Dec 1997.
By the time Gerard Hoffnung read his incomparably funny "sick letter", [to The Oxford Union Society on 4th Dec 1958 - ajs] the story was well-established as a sort of urban legend. It was generally cited as an actual letter that had been received by some government agency, and I remember reading it somewhere around 1937. In 1940 it appeared in READER'S DIGEST as an actual letter supposed to have been received by a naval officer from an enlisted man who was explaining why he had overstayed his leave;. this story had the victim working on a silo on his parents' farm. Some of the versions have the victim asking for compensation for 6 accidents--1. Striking the barrel as it descended and the bricklayer ascended; 2. Hitting the pulley wheel; 3. Hitting the barrel again on the way down; 4. Falling onto the broken bricks; 5. Hit by bricks falling from the barrel when its bottom burst against the pulley wheel; and 6. Hit by the free-falling barrel. In any event, the story itself originated with neither Gerard Hoffnung nor Pat Cooksey, but both deserve a tremendous amount of credit for putting it into succinct form. The Cooksey version, by the way, is sung to a traditional Irish tune, "In the Garden Where the Praties Grow". Hoffnung's delivery, pretending that this was a letter received by the national health service, is a magnificent example of perfect timing, and I practically roll on the floor every time I play my tape of it. In my own concerts, the Cooksey version is one of my most-requested numbers. Sam Hinton La Jolla, CA
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