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Tom Tadger
(Roud 3080)
Pakie Rusell
Doonagore, Doolin

Recorded c.1975
Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Pakie Russell

[First verse missing:
Of all the trades going 'tis begging I take great delight,
For m'rent is all paid as I lay my bags down for the night;
For my rent is all paid as I take a long stick in my hand —
And at night I will please the fair maidens as best as I can.]

I was walking all day till I came to a rich farmhouse;
And I leant on my stick like a poor man lately let out.
Without eating or drinking those twenty long hours or more,
‘Kind madam,’ I said, ‘Won’t you pray and remember the poor?’

‘Now, if it’s alms you want dear man, you’ll get ‘em,’ she said.
But before she gave any, she ran to her mammy upstairs.
Saying, ‘Mammy, dear Mammy there’s an old man in the house.
Keep close in your chamber, be japers but he’ll ravish us all.’

Now the mother she scoffed her and called her a silly old fool,
For taking such notions of e’er a poor man at the door.
With his britches all broken and torn behind and before,
And his doldrums hanging down for forty long inches or more.

‘Now Tom Tadger,’ she said, ‘Why don’t you go and earn your bread,
To some farmhouse where you’ll be decently clothed and fed?’
‘Well to plough or sew madam, I’ve but small skill,
But I could plough the small farm that lies at the foot of your hill!’

‘Tom Tadger,’ she said, ‘If you and me could agree.
And I’d make you a steward all over my men for to be.
We could eat at one table and sleep in a soft bed of down,
If I only could gain you, Tom Tadger from Killalla town.’


“While this is sung by several of the younger generation of singers in England and Ireland, there are very few examples of it having been found in the old oral traditions. A Broadside text dates it to some time in the 1790s. Pakie told us he believed the song to be connected to the 1798 uprising in Mayo, when the French sent a fleet to assist the struggle for independence; he thought it to be an allegorical reference to inviting strangers into your home, he never gave a reason for this but it’s an interesting thought. In 1955, the BBC recorded a version from Robert Cinnamond of Glenavy, County Antrim, with the title ‘The Beggarman of County Down’. Apart from this, there are no references to the song from a source singer either recorded or in print, though there are similarities to other songs of an amorous itinerant; see: ‘Donnelly’ (Roud 836), versions of which we recorded in Miltown Malbay, Fanore, and from Tipperary Travelling woman, Mary Delaney.

This is the version sung to Sean O’Boyle by Robert Cinnamond in 1955:

It was in Ballinderry the beggar man first gathered his meal,
Said the ma to the daughter 'did you see the Beggarman’s trail?'
I’ll go out on Monday morning and I’ll take a long staff in my hand,
And the world I’ll parade, so courageously I’ll go along.

To Antrim I’ll go where the jolly old farmer does dwell,
Beggars they won’t serve, and we all know that very well,
No beggars they’ll serve and very few strangers they’ll lodge,
I’ll take off by corbeen, I’ll show them where I keep my badge.

'Oh mistress, dear mistress, there stands a poor man in the hall,
Like a louse in your chamber, oh by Jove, he will ruin us all,
His long ragged britches are torn both behind and before,
Oh mistress, dear mistress, such a beggar man I’ve ne’er seen before.'

And the mistress came down and she did this poor man embrace,
Saying, 'Where are you from, come tell me your own native place?'
I answered, 'Dear madam, I came from the sweet County of Down,
And when I’m at home my dwelling place is in sweet Kilalea Town.'

'Oh, come down to the kitchen', this fair lady unto me did say,
'There’s ale, wine and brandy to tempt you as long as you stay.
You can eat at my table and lie in my soft bed of down,
If you’ll stay with me Tom Tadger of Kilalea Town.'”
Jim Carroll

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