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Donnelly
(Roud 863)
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded in singer’s home, July 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Martin Howley

I spied a jolly woman and she coming from the ball;
Sure, th’ould jolly tinker met her and he soldering against the wall.
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

I spied a jolly woman and she nutting in the wood,
But when th’ould tinker saw her, sure, all his budget stood.
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

As I went to the bar for to have a glass of gin,
Th’ould tinker followed after me and he said, “We’ll have it again.”
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

“And if you were an honest Irish lad as I took you for to be,
You’d have a pint all in your hand and a kid belonging to me.”
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

“And if you were an honest Irish woman, as I took you for to be,
You should have a pint all in your hand and you come to the road with me.”
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

As I went up the stairs for to dress the feather bed,
Th’ould tinker followed after me and he said, “We should be wed.”
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

As I came down the stairs for to bolt and bar the door,
Th’ould tinker followed after me and he tripped me on the floor.
Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

I put a whistle to my mouth and blew both loud and keen,
There was four and twenty tinkers and they bounding in for speed.

Wisha, good old Donnelly, brave oh sir, says she,
Wisha, good old Donnelly, you are the lad for me.

"This has been around since at least 1616 when a fourteen verse version was entered in The Stationers Register. Since then it has been slimmed down somewhat, while still retaining its celebration of bawdry. Martin’s version is more subtle than many, such as those to be found in collections of rugby songs, and is similar to the one we recorded from Travelling woman Mary Delaney, though Mary’s version begins:

“There was a Jolly nacker* and he had a jolly ass,
And he stuffed his box of pepper up the little ass’s arse.”

* nacker: Originally a horse for slaughter but also used for tinsmith (often now a general and often abusive word for Traveller).

This is one of the many songs in the tradition telling how the underdog turns the tables on his/her supposed superiors by using their sexual prowess. An early version of this appeared in 1616 in a collection entitled 'Merry Drollery, as Roome for a Jovial Tinker’ or ‘Old Brass to Mend'; it was later included in John Farmer's ‘Merry Songs and Ballads’. The 'box of pepper' in Mary's first verse refers to a practice once carried out by unscrupulous horse dealers of livening up a docile horse for sale by applying pepper or mustard to the appropriate part of the unfortunate animal's anatomy."

Reference:
Merry Songs and Ballads, John S Farmer, 1897, Privately printed.
Jim Carroll


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