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Érin go Brágh
(Laws Q20; Roud 1627)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

My name is Old Paddy from the town of Athy,
I have traveled this country for many a mile.
I have traveled through England, through Scotland and all
And the name that I go by is Érin go Brágh.

One night as Old Paddy went out for a walk,
He chanced for to meet with a saucy police.
He clouted his face and he gave him some jaw,
Saying, 'When come you over from Érin go Brágh?'

‘I know you’re a Paddy by the cut of your hair,
And I know you’re a Paddy by the clothes that you wear;
And you have come over for breaking the law.
Oh we’re taking bold heroes from Érin go Brágh.’

‘Well if I was a Paddy and that to be true,
And if I was the Devil, well – what’s that to you?
And but for that baton you hold in your claw
I would show you a game played in Érin go Brágh!’

With a stick of blackthorn I held in my fist
And around his old napper I made it well twist.
The blood from his temples I quickly did draw
With a sprig of shillelagh from Érin go Brágh.

They all gathered around me like a flock of wild geese,
Saying, ‘Take that bold rascal that has hit our police.’
The only friend I have, he’s gone far awa’,
And Paddy got six months from Érin go Brágh.

“Ballad anthologist Robert Ford wrote of this in 1899:

‘Not an Irish song this, as the title would make the novice infer. But natives of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland have a good deal in common —in accent and otherwise—with the people of the North of Ireland, and the verses describe only how ‘Duncan Campbell, from the Shire of Argyle,’ suffered in Edinburgh in the ‘No Irish need apply’ days by being mistaken for a son of Saint Patrick. Many will recognise the song as an old and common favourite in Scotland.’

The song was certainly popular in Scotland and was found widely sung by Travellers there. In Ireland, P.W. Joyce noted a version in 1850s Limerick and published an ‘improved’ text of it in his ‘Ancient Music of Ireland’. James N. Healy include it in volume one of ‘Old Irish Street Ballads’ indicating that it was a broadside. In theme, it reflects the same sentiment as another song of Scots origin concerning the Irish, ‘Hot Asphalt’, where a policeman accusing a crowd of navvies of being ‘Tipperary scamps’ is thrown into a barrel of melted tar. When his assailants fail in their efforts to clean him up, he ends up:

'….in the Kelvin Grove Museum, a-hanging by his belt,
As a monument to the Irish stirring hot asphalt.'"

Reference:
Vagabond Songs and Ballads of Scotland, Vol. 1, Robert Ford, Edinburgh, 1899.
Jim Carroll

See also
Érin go Brágh sung by Martin Howley


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