See also [The Same Old Shillelagh]
The Irish Were Egyptians & Other Lullabies
I was blessed with a father who loved to sing to his children at bedtime. He told us stories too, but it's the singing and the songs he taught us that endure. I don't think he realized what a winning formula he had right off the bat formulas take time to perfect.
My mother figured out the power of the song first, once she figured out the power of the rocking chair to soothe her first, most cantankerous, and most sleep-resistant child. (That would be me.) She had a sunny, Doris Day voice and loved to sing turalura-lura that's an Irish lullaby. But the song all four of us kids loved most was Daisy.
(Singing didn't always work with me. Sometimes they gave up and took me for a car ride, which usually made me give up my stubborn grasp on the day.)
A little later, my father took on bedtime duty. He'd lie down next to me and my brother (adding sisters as they graduated from Daisy), after a long day's work selling Dutch Boy Paint to hardware stores.
I can't remember when he first sang The Irish Were Egyptians but I do remember standing up in front of my first-grade class and singing it to the throng of 60 kids. My grandmother came from Ireland and I assumed she brought these songs from the "old country" but later I realized they were Irish-American songs, learned by my father and his 4 siblings from old 78 RPM records that came packaged free with the Victorola (How's that for a source of family tradition?) 
Then there was the long lament of Nell Flaherty's Drake, a complex song with a chanting melody that only my father could get right. I never really knew all the words (probably because he could never remember all the verses either), but my uncle wrote them out for us. Someone murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful drake and the whole song consists of a list of curses toward the villain.
Another verse submitted by a reader on 11.2.02:
But our very favorite was Old Green River. Beyond the poetry, was the special sound effect that it required. My father would puff his cheeks with his thumb jammed into his mouth (sideways, in front of the teeth), then POP! it out the perfect reproduction of a cork snapping out of a bottle. (Watch the Quicktime movie above.)
My nieces and nephews know these songs now and they are sung at family gatherings when we get particularly nostalgic. My father's hands are pretty crippled but he still does the best POP! Out of my family circle, I will sing these songs when I am particularly drunk and not averse to making an ass of myself (my singing voice being wavery and weak).
We have a hilarious videotape of my wedding to Jim. Somehow no not somehow we were all rip-roaring drunk my father and I sang Old Green River to the camera. Not to be outdone, Jim and his father sang one of their favorite childhood songs: Oh, How I Hate My Father.
This seems to beg for some sort of sociological commentary, but I think I'll let it go unsaid.
 Irish Were Egyptions, by Chris Smith, 1920. Chris Smith was an African-American composer, who also wrote Ballin' the Jack. Sheet music. The Roches Singers performed the song on the Dick Cavet show in 1985 (QT movie). It was also sung in The Cardinal (1963), available on DVD.
 lug = ear