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Molly Brannigan
(Roud 13375)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, March 1988

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

Mam dear did you hear of pretty Molly Brannigan?
The truth she has left me and I’ll never be a man again.
Not a spot in my hide will another summer tan again,
Since Molly she has left me here alone for to die.

Mam dear did you remember when the milking time was past and gone?
We went into the meadow where she swore I was the only man
That ever she did love, yet oh, the base and cruel one!
After all that she has left me here alone for to die.

Mam dear, do you remember as we came home the rain began?
I covered her with my coat, oh the devil a waistcoat had I on.
My shirt was rather fine-drawn, yet oh, the base and cruel one!
After all that she has left me here alone for to die.

The left side of my carcass is as weak as water gruel mam.
The devil a bit upon my bones since Molly proved so cruel mam.
I wish I had a carbine I’d go and fight a duel mam
Far better sure to kill meself than stay here to die.

I went and told my tale to Father McDonald mam,
And then I went and asked advice of Counsellor O’Connell, mam.
They told me promise-breaches had been ever since the world began,
Now I’ve only one pair, Mam and they are corduroy!

What did they mean Mam or what would you advise me do?
Must my corduroys to Molly go? In truth I’m bothered what I’ll do.
I can’t afford to lose both my heart and my old britches too.
Sure the devil a hair I care when I’ve only to die.

I’m as hot and determined as a live salamander Mam.
Won’t you all come in my wake when I’ll go my long me[a]nder mam?
I thought I was as famous as the famous Alexander mam,
When I hear ye crying around me: ‘Yarrah why did he die?’

Conversation after song between Tom Lenihan, Pat Mackenzie and Jim Carroll:-
Tom: That’s Molly Brannigan
Jim: And that’s one of Bully’s?
Tom: One of Bully’s, one of his old ballads and there isn’t a sign of the poor man today and his old ballads is remembered, Lord yes
Jim: And isn’t it a grand way to be remembered Tom?
Tom: It is. ‘Tis: there wouldn’t be a word about Bully nor his songs only for you and Pat. No there is reminding the people of them that go down to the grave will never be heard. But that was Bully’s ballads, and that’s the way he had to make his living - tough living.

“Very popular with Irish singers, though hardly ever recorded from them, this appeared in John Hume’s MS. song book (1847) now housed at the National Museum of Ireland. It had a wide circulation in popular songbooks, both in Ireland and America. The only other reported version from a source singer was from Mrs Robert R. Cox of Steubenville, Ohio in the 1930s.

Tom Lenihan said:
‘I learned it from my old mother; that’s a hundred years old. It was very popular around the house dances, you might hear it a couple of times during the night.’

Poet Samuel Lover wrote of it:
‘This very clever song was written by an Irish lady; but as she permitted her merry muse to rove 'fancy free' into a phraseology rather outside the pale permitted to the gentler sex, she would never allow her name to be divulged in public, and the few who were in her secret were faithful to her desire for incognito.’

Added to the thoroughly Irish character of the verses, the song has an exquisite Irish melody as its vehicle of being imparted, and this has increased the popularity to which it is so well entitled on its own account. Lover gave a longer version than Tom’s with a couple of informative footnotes:

Purty Molly Brallaghan
Ah then, Mam dear, did you never hear of purty Molly Brallaghan?
Troth, dear, I've lost her, and I'll never be a man again,
Not a spot on my hide will another summer tan again,
Since Molly she has left me all alone for to die.
The place where my heart was, you might easy rowl a turnip in,
Its the size of all Dublin, and from Dublin to the Divil's Glin*,
If she chose to take another, sure she might have sent mine back agin,
And not to leave me here all alone for to die.

Mam, dear, I remember when the milking time was past and gone,
We went into the meadows where she swore I was the only man
That ever she could love—yet oh, the base, the cruel one,
After all that to leave me here alone for to die!
Mam, dear, I remember as we came home the rain began,
I rowled her in my frize coat, tho' the divil a waistcoat I had on,
And my shirt was rather fine-drawn ; yet oh, the base and cruel one,
After all that she's left me here alone for to die.

I went and towld my tale to Father M'Donnell, Mam,
And thin I went and ax'd advice of Counsellor O'Connell, Mam,
He towld me promise-breaches had been ever since the world began.
Now, I have only one pair, Mam, and they are corduroy!
Arrah, what could he mean, Mam? or what would you advise me to?
Must my corduroys to Molly go? in troth, I'm bother'd what to do.
I can't afford to lose both my heart and my breeches too,
Yet what need I care, when I've only to die!

Oh! the left side of my carcass is as weak as water gruel, Mam—
The divil a bit upon my bones, since Molly's proved so cruel, Mam,
I wish I had a carabine, I'd go and fight a duel, Mam,
Sure, it's better for to kill myself than stay here to die.
I'm hot and detarmined as a live Salamander, Mam!
Won't you come to my wake, when I go my long meander, Mam!
Oh! I'll feel myself as valiant as the famous Alexander, Mam,
When I hear yiz crying round me "Arrah, why did you die?"

* The Devil's Glen is a romantic valley in the county of Wicklow, where wood and water make one of those wildernesses of beauty for which that picturesque county is famous. It is about thirty miles from Dublin; so this line of the song gives a tolerably good notion of the size of an Irishman's heart.
** The ‘long meander’ means a funeral; and a very expressive term it is to any one who ever saw the thing in the west or the south of Ireland,—a long straggling line of people winding along a road, and uttering the wild wail for the departed, as described in the final line. This wail is called ‘ulican’ in Ireland, pronounced ‘ulicawn’, often falsely written and pronounced ‘hullagone’.”

Reference:
Poems of Ireland, Samuel Lover (1858).
Jim Carroll


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