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Local Songs

Seán a Flop’s Dance

Contributed by Peadar Barrett.

Songs describing local people attending dances in country houses were common throughout the country until fairly recent times. They were favoured by local poets as a good opportunity to take a swipe at anyone in the area they did not like or to compliment those they did. Clerical opposition to such dances and the notorious Dance Hall Act of 1936 brought about the demise of the country house dance to a great extent and the songs died away with them.

The saga of Seán a Flop and the strawboys comes from around 1935. It is a good example of a local poet scalding a character whom he obviously did not deem over-generous or welcoming. The subject of his venom was a Seán Queally of Deerpark West [Ennistymon] who lived from about 1875 to 1955.

Strawboys are more usually associated with weddings, but in this song they invade a party being held for some “returned Yanks” with disastrous consequences. The custom of people disguising themselves in straw costumes and going to weddings as uninvited (but usually welcome) guests waned considerably when wedding celebrations moved from the home of the bride to impersonal hotels. Thankfully in recent years the tradition has regained much of its popularity having changed the time of the mysterious visitation from the wedding reception itself to the return of the young couple from their honeymoon.

There was a dance at Seán a Flop’s,
One night at half past nine.
It was in remembrance of Healy’s Yanks,
For the sake of old Lang Syne.

The lads came in their dozens,
And flocked around the door.
But when they knocked the door was locked,
And Seán would not let in no more.

At eleven o’clock the hills did rock,
With a shout, a cheer, and a yell.
The strawboys came along to Seán’s
Like demons out of hell.

With hob-nailed shoes they marched in twos,
And dared anyone to stop:
They’re going to dance a set,
Or two at Seán a Flop’s.

Up to the door they boldly went,
All armed to the teeth.
But Seán stood there his arms bare,
The strongest man to meet.

The merry boys said in disguise,
May we dance a set in cheer?
But Sean did say without delay
“We want no strawboys here!”

The gallant strawboys rushed for the door,
But it was all in vain,
For Seán hit one a blow,
Which put him in great pain,

Then like a top, poor Seán a Flop,
Spun round and then fell low.
For without a pause one of the straws,
Gave Seán a deadly blow.

“Go for a cop,” said Seán a Flop!
“The blood is on my brow.”
Up sprang a Deerpark runner and says,
“I will fetch them here right now.”

He only went out to the door,
When he turned on his heel,
For if he went another sprint,
His doom they’d surely seal.

The dance did stop at Seán a Flop’s,
And Seán was carried to the room,
And out comes Gobbis Devitt bold,
And in his hand a broom.

“Now Gobbis Devitt, shut your mouth,
And keep it shut in peace.
For the St[r]awboys claw don’t give a hang for law,
Or your running days will cease.”

Pat Madigan says, “I must go home,
I cannot stand it more,
To hear the howling mob outside,
And Seán lying on the floor.”

So out he hops from Seán a Flop’s,
To go down home to bed.
“But you will have a job to pass the mob,”
The women they all said.

The sound of clogs ran through the bogs.
It was the Guards in single line.
But when they came along to Seán’s,
They only drank the porter and the wine.

I now conclude with this advice,
Remember me and don’t forget,
If every you chance to have a dance,
Let the strawboys in to dance a good old Irish set.

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