My July post about the “Princess Pat” song and its controversial lyrics brought a flood of comments. They can be divided into two categories: people who insist that the song be sung with the correct lyrics (The Princess Pat, light infantry…) out of respect for this hallowed unit of the Canadian military, and people who favor the garbled camp version (The Princess Pat, lived in a tree….).
I also received many links to an Internet post saying that the Princess Pats had actually asked that people stop singing the Tree version. However, I never found anything to verify that request.
So, I decided to ask the soldiers themselves. While I couldn’t work in a trip to Canada, I did get in touch with Captain Alan M. Younghusband, the regimental adjutant. (Yes, Capt. Younghusband, isn’t that a great name!)
The regimental flag hand sewn by Princess Pat.
Although he was traveling (August 2014 was the unit’s centennial, and they were quite busy), he promised to investigate the origins of the song in their records.
I received his response a few weeks ago:
The origins of the “Princess Pat” song is one we call The Ric-A-Dam-Doo Song based on the founding of our regiment and the pride we hold in our original camp flag colour (or flag) that is affectionately known as The Ric-A-Dam-Doo which is Gaelic for “Cloth of thy mother”. Which refers to HRH Princess Patricia (later Lady Patricia Ramsay) working the flag by hand before presenting it to her regiment before they sailed off to the Great War. I’ve only ever heard one version of the song (the non-offensive one) and we still use segments of it during Regimental Salutes. While the colour was retired after surviving WWI , the song is still held within our Regimental Song Book.
Thus, the answer seems to be that there was no official request from the unit. Capt. Younghusband was apparently not even aware of the Tree Version, but he does indirectly refer to it as “offensive.” I suppose it is then up to each troop to decide which lyrics are respectful.
The regiment’s lyrics are:
Our Ric-a-dam-doo, pray what is that?
‘Twas made at home by the Princess Pat.
‘Tis Red and Gold and Royal blue.
That’s what we call our Ric-a-dam-doo.
The wives of the current regiment recorded a beautiful song written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance for the centennial. The video includes many photos of the regiment over the years. Proceeds from the song, which is available for purchase from iTunes, will go to Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry Foundation, supporting Canadian military service and former military personnel in need.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a documentary about the Princess Pats for their centennial, “A Battalion Apart.” The accompanying website has much more information about the regiment.
We’ve all heard of the Princess Pat, and most of us know that she didn’t really live in a tree. But who was she?
Princess Patricia of Connaught (London Illustrated News)
Born in 1886, Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth of Connaught was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her parents were Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia. After a lengthy career in the army, the duke served as Governor General of Canada from 1911 to 1916. Because her mother was in poor health (she passed away in 1917), Patricia served as her father’s official hostess in Canada. Patricia was very popular and highly respected for her work for the Red Cross. She was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the newly formed Canadian Light Infantry in 1918 and personally embroidered the regiment’s first official colors — their flag. Colonel-in-Chief is a ceremonial role, similar to a sponsor or patron.
The Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantrywas formed in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and will celebrate its centennial next month. Members are affectionately known as the “Princess Pats” or the “Patricias,” and their annual magazine is The Patrician. It is a highly decorated unit that served with distinction in both World Wars, Korea, Cyprus, the Balkans, and Afghanistan.
The popular “Princess Pat” camp song is said to be a variation on the regiment’s own marching song, with lyrics that have become increasingly garbled over time. Like a game of telephone, the phrase “light infantry” has transformed into “lived in a tree.” The word “rigabamboo” (or rickabamboo) refers to the red, gold, and purple regimental flag and is “Ric-A-Dam-D00” in the original.
Princess Patricia presents a wreath to the troops (www.birthofaregiment.com).
In addition to her needlework talent, Princess Pat was an accomplished painter whose work was widely exhibited. She married Alexander Ramsay, a Naval officer who worked for her father in Canada, in 1919. Now known as Lady Ramsay, Patricia traveled the world with her husband as he rose to the rank of admiral. They had one son. Lady Ramsay passed away in 1974, but Princess Pat lives on in hundreds of Girl Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Guide camps around the world.
Want to learn more about real princesses? Check out my new patch program, Real Princess.