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Nothing At All
Jamesie McCarthy
Mount Scott, Mullagh
Recorded in Conway’s Bar, Mullagh, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Jamesie McCarthy

Pay attention to me, both young and old.
I’m sure you’ll me pity when my tale I have told.
I’ve met with a sad and a woeful downfall,
And ‘twas all for the crime of doing nothing at all.

The people they eat till their bellies was filled to the moon.
At whiskey drinking they began very soon.
They eat, they drank, the big and the small.
And sure I was ashamed, I eat nothing at all.

When the supper was over and the people all fled,
My wife says to me, ‘‘Tis time to go to bed.’
She was not long there when to me she did call,
And sure I was ashamed I do nothing at all.

We were lying there together side by side,
For the shame and confusion sure I nearly died.
My wife was lying there between me and the wall,
And sure I was ashamed I do nothing at all.

‘Tis soon she got up sure, without no excuse,
She says to my mother that I was no use.
‘Yerra what’s that,’ says the mother, as she heard the words fall,
‘Oh boy this,’ says my wife, ‘He has nothing at all.’

‘If that be the way,’ says the mother-in-law,
‘Let you get the hatchet, and I’ll get the saw.’
When I heard that then how I did bawl,
Sure they’d murder my life for doing nothing at all

Young men and maidens beware of your wife and wife’s mother,
When you go to bed, shut up and do something or another.
Or faith if you don’t you will meet your downfall,
And ‘twill be all for the crime of doing nothing at all.


“This comic celebration of inadequacy sounds as if it might have originated in the nineteenth century music halls or on a broadside. The only song under this title comes from an early 19th century broadside; not the same, but with similarities:

In Derry Down Dale, when I wanted a mate,
I went to my daddy a-courting of Kate;
With my nosegay so fine, and my holiday clothes,
My hands in my pockets a -courting I goes.

The weather was cold and my bosom was shot,
My heart in a gallop, the mare in a trot;
Now, I was so bashful and loving withal,
My tongue stuck to my mouth - I said nothing at all.

When I got to the door I looked lumpish and glum,
The knocker I held 'twixt my finger and thumb;
Rap-tap went the rapper, and Kate show'd her chin,
She chuckled and ducked - I bowed and went in.

Now, I was a bashful as bashful could be,
And Kitty, poor soul, was as bashful as me;
So I bow'd and she grinned, and I let my hat fall,
And I smiled, scratched my head, and said nothing at all.

If bashful was I, no less bashful the maid,
She simpered and blushed - with her apron strings played,
Till the old folks, impatient to have the thing done,
Agreed little Kitty and I should be one.

In silence we young folks soon nodded consent;
Hand-in-hand to the church to be married we went,
Where we answered the parson in voices so small,
You scarce could have heard us say - nothing at all.

But mark, what a change in the course of a week,
Our Kate left off blushing - I boldly could speak;
Could toy with my Kitty, laugh loud at a jest;
And Kate she could talk too, as well as the best.

Ashamed of past follies, we often declared
To encourage young folks who at wedlock are scared;
If once to you aid some assurance you call,
You may kiss and get married, it's nothing at all.”
Jim Carroll

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