Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

by

nell-flahertys-drake.jpg

Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers sang a version of this. I’d post the song here, except that I lent the CD to a man named Martois a coupla years ago and never got it back. (Hunt him down, my friends, and make him cough it up.)

If you can’t read it proper, here’s the transcription, with Irish slang help from THE Eoin Shalloo, after the break. (Thanks Mr. S.)

Nell Flaherty’s Drake[1]

As transcribed from Published Version (ca 1803?) by Bunk Strutts 2006

My name it is Nell,[2] quite candid I tell,

And I live near C’oethill I will never deny;[3]

I had a large drake, the truth for to speak,

That my grandmother left me and she going to die.

He was wholesome and sound, he’d weigh twenty pound,

And the universe round I’d rove for his sake.

Bad wind to the robber, be him drunk or sober,

That murdered Nell Flaherty’s beautiful Drake.

His neck it was green[4], most rare to be seen,

He was fit for a Queen of the highest degree;

His body was white, it would you delight,

He was plump, fat, and heavy and brisk as a bee.

My dear little fellow, his legs they were yellow,

He’d fly like a swallow or swim like a hake;

Till some wicked savage to grease his white cabbage,

Has murdered Nell Flaherty’s Beautiful Drake.

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,

That a ghost may him haunt in the dead of the night,

May his hen never lay, may his ass never bray,

May his goat[5] fly away like an old paper kite.

That the flies and the fleas the wretch ever tease,

May the piercing north-breeze make him tremble and shake;

May a four-year old bug build a nest in his lug,[6]

Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s Drake.


May his cock never crow—may his bellows ne’er blow,

And for bed, pot and poe may he never have none;[7]

May his cradle not rock[8], may his box have no lock,

May his wife have no smock to shade her back-bone,

May his duck never quack, may his goose turn black,

And pull down his turf with his long yellow beak,[9]

May the scurvy and itch never part from the breech,[10]

Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s Drake.

May his pipe never smoke, may his tea-pot be broke,

And add to the joke, may his tea-kettle ne’er boil,

May he pooley[11] the bed til the hour he is dead,

May he always be fed on lobsconse[12] and fish oil.

May he swell with the gout, may his grinders[13] fall out,

May he roar, bawl and shout with the horrid tooth-ache,

May his temples wear horns, and all his toes corns,

The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s Drake.

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,

May each nit in his wig be as large as a snail,

May his door have no latch, may his house have no thatch,

May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.

May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary,

Dip him smug and airy in some pond or lake,

Where the eel and the trout dine on his snout

Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s Drake.

May his dog yelp and growl with both hunger and cold,

May his wife always scold till his brains go astray,

May the curse of each hag that e’er carried a bag,

May light on the vag[14] till his head turns grey.

May monkies[15] still bite him, mad dogs affright him,

And everyone slight him, asleep or awake,

May the wasps[16] still gnaw him and jack-daws[17] claw him,

The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s Drake.


The only good news I have diffuse[18],

That Peter Hughes and Feter McCabe,

And big nose Bob Hanson, and buck tooth Norhamoen[19]

Each man has a grandson of my beautiful Drake.

My bird he has dozens of both nephews and cousins,[20]

And due[21] I must get or my heart it will break;

To set my mind easy, or else I’ll run crazy -

This ends the whole story of Nell Flaherty’s Drake.



[Alternate Version]

Nell Flaherty’s Drake

Lesley Nelson-Burns

This Irish ballad was written in the nineteenth century. The words are said to be secret code for Robert Emmet (1778-1803).

Robert Emmet helped plan and lead an uprising in Dublin in 1803. Forced to act early because of an explosion at one of the arms depots, the uprising disintegrated into chaos. Wearing a green and white uniform Emmet and a small troop marched on Dublin Castle, killing the Lord Chief Justice on the way. He fled, hoping to escape to America with his fiance Sarah Curran. He was captured and hung.

Thomas Moore’s songs She is Far From the Land and Oh, Breathe Not His Name were also inspired by Emmet.

At his trial Emmet requested that no epitaph be written for him until Ireland took her place among the nations of the earth.

Oh my name it is Nell, and the truth for to tell,

I come from Cootehill which I’ll never deny;

I had a fine drake, and I’d die for his sake,

That my grandmother left me, and she going to die.

The dear little fellow, his legs they were yellow;

He could fly like a swallow or swim like a hake

‘Til some dirty savage, to grease his white cabbage,

Most wantonly murdered my beautiful drake.

Now, his neck it was green oh, most fit to be seen,

He was fit for a queen of the highest degree.

His body was white, and it would you delight;

He was plump, fat, and heavy, and brisk as a bee.

He was wholesome and sound, he would weight twenty pound,

And the universe ’round I would roam for his sake.

Bad luck to the robber, be he drunk or sober,

That murdered Nell Flaherty’s beautiful drake.

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,

May each hair in his wig be well thrashed with a flail;

May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.

May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary

Dip him smug and airy in river or lake,

That the eel and the trout, they may dine on the snout

Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,

May a ghost ever haunt him at dead of the night;

May his hens never lay, may his horse never neigh,

May his goat fly away like an old paper kite.

That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease,

May the piercing March breeze make him shiver an shake;

May a lump of a stick raise the bumps fast and thick

Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty’s drake.

Now the only good news that I have to infuse

Is that old Paddy Hughs and young Anthony Blake,

Also Johnny Dwyer and Corney Maguire,

They each have a grandson of my darling drake.

My treasure had dozens of nephews and cousins,

And one I must et or my heart it will break;

To set my mind aisy or else I’ll run crazy -

So ends the whole song of Nell Flaherty’s drake.


[1] “This Irish ballad was written in the nineteenth century.The words are said to be secret code for Robert Emmet (1778-1803).Robert Emmet helped plan and lead an uprising in Dublin in 1803.Forced to act early because of an explosion at one of the arms depots, the uprising disintegrated into chaos.Wearing a green and white uniform , Emmet and a small troop marched on Dublin Castle, killing the Lord Chief Justice on the way.He fled, hoping to escape to America with his fiancé Sarah Curran.He was captured and hung.At his trial, Emmet requested that no epitaph be written for him until Ireland took her place among the nations of the earth.”–Lesley Nelson-Burns

The assumption is that this was written and published shortly after Emmet was hung, to let other rebels know that they weren’t alone and the fight was still on.

Obscure word definitions were obtained from Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, copyright 1996 by Gramercy Books, a division of Random House Value Publishing, Inc., New York.

[2] Nell would be Robert Emmet’s fiancé in this song, Sarah Curran.Emmet would be her Drake.(Note the capitalization.)

[3]Some versions refer to “Coothill.”Published version may actually be C’osthill, from OE word, “oast,” a kiln for drying hops or malt, essential for brewers.That she won’t deny that she’s from there suggests that the locals had a reputation.

“‘Coet’hill’ could be Cootehill in County Cavan, but as far as I know Sarah Curran was from Dubln.”–Eoin Shalloo, Curator, Rare Book Collections, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.

[4] Reference to Ireland’s flag at rest:”Head” green;”Body” white; “Feet”, yellow.

[5] “Coat” in other transcriptions.

[6] A lug is a sail.A bug refers to a ghost, or a daemon.That it’s a four-year old one begs the question:What Irish rebel died in 1799?

“‘Lug” is also a word for ear.A number of Irish rebels were executed after the 1798 rebellion – this may be a reference to one of them.”–Eoin Shalloo, Curator, Rare Book Collections, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.

[7] Indoor plumbing was rare.The pot (pisspot) was a container for urine.The “poe” or po was a chamber pot for night soil.If one had neither, one would have to venture outside at night in the cold.Not pleasant.

[8] May he have no children.

[9] British slang:be kicked out of office.Yellow: craven, corrupt.Beak:Judge, Magistrate.

[10] Breech in this case is his posterior.

[11] Pooley:one can only guess the true meaning, and it’s probably not nice.

[12] This may be a pun on “lobscouse”, a sailor’s stew of meat, potatoes, onions and hardtack.Lob was a dullard, sconse was a skull.

[13] Molars.

[14] Or wag,short for vagabond. Both words have common origins in OE and latin.

[15] Mockers, from moneke, to mock.

[16] Wasps in OE and ME were “persons who are snappy or petulant.”

[17] Relatives of crows, known to nest in towers and ruins.

[18] [sic]Implies a veiled imperative to others to spread the message.

[19] Other versions refer to Peter Hughes, blind Peter McFree, big nose Bob Manson, and buck-toothed Ned Hanson; or Johnny Dwyer and Corney Maguire.

[20] There are more rebels who have taken up Emmet’s cause.

[21] Due, as in due justice, a payback, revenge.”Nell” does not want her fiancé’s death to be in vain.Some transcriptions use “one”, but it makes no sense in this context.

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2 Responses to “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”

  1. ONE YEAR! ONE MEASELLY FREAKIN’ YEAR! « Tacky Raccoons Says:

    [...] Thanks also to Eoin Shaloo for helping me with my irrational and compulsive research for this post. [...]

  2. Happy St. Patrick’s Day « Tacky Raccoons Says:

    [...] [Related post with words here.] [...]

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