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Daniel O’Connell and the Tinker
(Roud 2313)
Vincie Boyle
Mount Scott, Mullagh
Recorded December 2003

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Vincie Boyle

Ye young lovers of merit ye’ll now pay attention
And listen to what I’m about to relate,
Concerning a couple I overheard talking
As I was returning late home from a wake.

As I roamed along sure I met an auld woman,
Who sat near a gap and she milking a cow.
She was jigging a tune, ‘Come Haste to the Wedding’,
Or some other ditty, I can’t tell you now.

And looking around me I spied an auld tinker
Who only by chance came strolling same way.
The weather being fine he sat down beside her,
‘What news on this, man?’ the old woman did say.

‘Tis no news at all, mam,’ replied the bold Tinker
‘But the people would wished that it never had been.
Tis that damnable rogue of a Daniel O’Connell,
He’s now making children in Dublin by steam.’

‘Yearra children aroo,’ replied the auld woman
A h-anam an diabhal, is he crazy at last?
Is it a sign of a war, or a sudden rebellion?
Or what is the reason he wants them so fast?’

‘Tis not that at all mam,’ replied the bold Tinker,
‘But the children of Ireland are getting too small,
Tis O’Connell’s petition to the new Lord Lieutenant
To not let him make them the old way at all.’

‘By this pipe in me mouth,’ replied this old woman
‘And that’s a great oath on my soul for to say,
And I’m only a woman and if I were near him,
I’d bet you my life that tis little he’d say.

For the people of Ireland tis very well known,
They gave him their earnings though needing them bad.
And now he is recompensing
And taking what little diversion they have.’

‘Long life to your courage,’ replied the bold Tinker,
‘Long may you reign with youth on your side.
And if all the young women in Dublin were like you,
O’Connell could throw his steam engine aside.

So all ye young women ye’ll now take a warning,
Ye can start making children as fast as ye can,
And if ever Her Majesty looks for an army,
Ye’ll be able to send her as many as Dan!’

“This is also known as ‘Daniel O’Connell Making Babies by Steam’, (a reference to the fact that he had eleven children, though only seven survived). The supposed deeds of Daniel O’Connell were popular subjects for both songs and stories in the oral tradition, particularly concerning his skill and fairness as a barrister. There are dozens of tales of his supporting the poor or hard-done-by; we recorded several from Travellers, including one from O’Connell’s home town of Caherciveen. A good example of the stories can be found on the album ‘Around the Hills of Clare’ from reciter Patrick Lynch (son of singer Nonie Lynch), where O’Connell enters into a battle of words with a well-known Dublin street trader. A note to a version of this song, recorded in Canada from Ontario singer O.J. Abbott confirms that his reputation and popularity was also a part of the oral tradition there. His and Antrim singer Joe Holmes’s versions are the only two included in the Roud index as having been recorded from source singers.

Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) was a famous figure in Irish history, but this particular phase of his career seems to have been overlooked by his biographers. A brilliant lawyer, he is best known as the founder of the powerful Catholic Association whose pressure led to the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. However, O'Connell was the kind of man who inspired legends, and many equally fantastic tales were told about him throughout the Irish villages. He was also the subject of innumerable broadsides: the Henry Bradshaw collection has no less than three dozen mentioning him in their titles, including ‘Drink a Health to O'Connell,’ ‘Famed O'Connell the Shamrock shall wear,’ ‘Land of Shillelagh and Brave O'Connell,’ ‘New Song on the O'Connell Monument,’ ‘O'Connell's Welcome to Parliament,’ and ‘O'Connell and the two Irish Tinkers.’ The reference to ‘Her Majesty’ in the last stanza indicates that this ballad must have been composed between 1837 when Queen Victoria came to the British throne and 1847 when O'Connell died—but it is hard to understand why an Irish patriot would have been so anxious to raise men for a British sovereign. Certainly the people of Ireland did give O'Connell their earnings ‘though needing it bad’: out of their poverty they contributed one penny a month to his Catholic Association, which brought in an income of fifty thousand pounds a year. And in the famine period of the 1840s the ‘children of Ireland’ were undoubtedly small and puny.”

Traditional Songs and Singers from Ontario, Edith Fowke (collector and ed.) Folklore Associates, 1965.
Joe Holmes: Here I Am Amongst You, Len Graham, Four Courts Press, 2010.
Jim Carroll

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