The Inniskilling dragoon, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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Lyrics

There was a fair lady lived in Monaghan town,
A rich merchant’s daughter of fame and renown;
As she strayed by the barracks this beautiful maid
She watched from her carriage the dragoons on parade.

Fare you well, Enniskillen, fare you well for a while
And all around the borders of Erin’s green isle
And when the war is over we’ll return in full bloom
And we’ll all welcome home our Inniskilling dragoon.

2
The dragoons they were dressed up like gentlemen’s sons
With their bright shining swords and their carabine guns;
Their silver-mounted pistols she observed them full soon
All because that she loved her Inniskilling dragoon.

3
– Oh mother, dear mother, for me do not weep,
My mother’s kind advice I am going for to keep;
My parents brought me up from a boy unto a man
And I’m going in defence of my own native land.

Notes

Dragoons – mounted infantry that fought on foot – long enjoyed popularity in folk song. The Inniskillings were remembered for their part in the Williamite campaign, when a Huguenot diarist is reported as writing that he had seen them ‘run like masty dogs against bullets’ – UJA IV ser. 1 (1856) 80. An eighteenth-century biographer of William’s general Schomberg described them, with ‘thin little nags and the wretched dress of their riders, half-naked with sabre and pistols hanging from their belts’, as looking like a horde of Tartars’ – J.G. Simms Jacobite Ireland, 1685–91 London 1969, p. 127. Verse 2 paints a different picture: but it refers to a ceremonial occasion and a later date.

Irish and British broadside texts of the song are abundant. In a nineteenth-century ‘Answer’ the hero returns from the war in the role of an initially unrecognized lover – L: LR 271 a 2, IV 423. There are adaptations by George Sigerson and Tommy Makem. Popularity has given the song a high degree of melodic and textual stability, but Eddie’s conclusion is aberrant. A farewell of lovers divided by proud parents is replaced by a soldier’s farewell to his mother, taken from another song – see ‘The sunny South’ in Sharp1 II 263, Mackenzie p. 139.