When I was in Ireland, song

Mary Harte, singing in English
© Item in copyright  (contact for information on re-use)
Downloads: PDF |  Metadata (Dublin Core)


When I was in Ireland and digging up land
With my brogues on my feet and my spade in my hand,
Oh, up came a sergeant, said he, – Would you list?
Arrah, gra machree, sergeant, give me a hold of your fist.

Singing taddy hi ho, taddy hi ho,
Wack fol de doodle, singing taddy hi ho.

He gave me five bob, he said he’d give me more,
– Call up to headquarters, I’ll pay off your score.
– Headquarters, headquarters, headquarters, says I,
If I’m gaan to be quartered, sir, I’ll bid you goodbye.

When I listed to sea I was sent
On board a big ship called the Bonny Dundee,
Three sticks in the middle all covered with a sheet
And she walked along the water without any feet.

And when I was listed to India I was sent,
With climbing up rocks my knees were all bent;
I listed for seven, thank God it’s not ten,
I’ll go hame to oul Ireland and I’ll dig turf again.


‘The Kerry recruit’ commemorated the stupidities of the Crimean war: battles of the winter of 1854–5 figure in fuller versions. The plentiful broadside texts are all undated; K entered the British Library before 8 October 1868. In 1889, among the earliest publications of Edith Somerville, was a version of this ‘old Irish song’ illustrated by herself. The theme of course is older and younger than the Crimean war. S mentions Vinegar Hill (1798): if, as it seems, S is a pre-Crimean composition, then ‘Crimean’ versions are fairly straightforward adaptations of an earlier song. On the other hand, Mrs Harte’s shortened version updates the text by omitting Crimean references and introducing a reference to the British Indian empire.