The singer, goes to work in (John Whipple's) mill and finds himself in a race. He vows to "keep up if I did myself kill." After work, he goes out, fills his pipe, and relaxes. (Probably there is more of a story here, but it has been lost)
John Whipple's Mill Partial text(s) *** A *** Shannelly's Mill From Edith Fowke, Lumbering Songs from the Northern Woods, #50, p.176. Collected from P. Taillon of Cornwall, Ontario, August 1961. To you my kind friends and to you I'll relate, I'll tell you what happened to me in York state. When I got to Genore I got into a fight, And to skip a policeman I forced out the light. My pockets are empty, and the truth I will tell, And I'll sing you a song about Shannelly's Mill. REFRAIN Derry down, down, down derry day. (3 additional stanzas)
Roud equates this song with item dC54, "Shanel's Mill," in Laws's Appendix II. But he does not cite the one reference in Laws (NYFQ 11); I cannot verify the connection. Fowke, however, accepts the equation, so here we lump them. - RBW.