The hillman, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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– Oh whose oul heid is that oul heid where my oul heid should be?
– Well, you oul fool, you damned fool, you’re blind, don’t you see
That it’s a head of cabbage that my mother sent to me.
– Well, I hae travelled through this country this seven years and more
And hair upon a cabbage head I never saw before.


Probably the best known of early comic ballads, ‘Our goodman’ was adapted into Irish, used in a folktale as an ostensible lullaby, and rejuvenated in the Anglo-Irish day-by-day enumerative version of the ‘Seven drunken nights’ (BCHIOR). It is unlikely, however, that an older adaptation in a different spirit was traditional in Ireland: the Scots ‘Jacobite’ version in which the wife hides her cousin McIntosh ‘a Hielan rebel’ in the bed. Henry nevertheless published a text of it, which he seems to have taken from a Scots printed source, with an air obtained in Magilligan (D). Our North Derry texts are scantily preserved, but the diversity of airs used in the district indicates the ballad’s popularity there: a popularity certainly attributable to Scots influence.