(see A Hidden Ulster pp. 211-4 for detailed references and information)
The song suggests that a younger man was caught straying on, what was regarded then as, another man’s ‘property’ and hauled down to Derry Gaol. The ‘húrú’ vocable at the end of every second line is reminiscent of Scottish waulking songs. There may be verses missing. There is another variant found in Munster, Suidh Anseo a Mhuirnín Láimh Liom.
Séamus Ó Catháin from Omeath, (AHU pp. 405-6), who was the source of mainly light-hearted songs, sang this on a phonograph recording for the collector Lorcán Ó Muirí. He was also the source of Margadh an Iúir in this collection.
It is surprising that this song was ever published as there were scarcely any bawdy songs published during the early part of the twentieth century, and many songs of a sexual nature were censored. There is ample evidence that Irish folksongs were censored by the collectors of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: George Petrie said that another variant of this song entitled Suidh Anseo a Mhuirnín Láimh Liom, was unﬁt for publication. It was not unusual to hear bawdy songs in the tradition but most of them were censored (AHU p. 213)
Pádraig Ó hUallacháin (AHU pp.373-5) a singer and collector who was acquainted with many of the older female singers in Rannafast from the 1920s to the 1940s, recalled that such songs were the norm there and when the singers, who were mainly women, got together, their hearty laughter during the singing of these songs was a delight. He himself was renowned for his comprehensive knowledge of the earthy vocabulary and idioms of Rannafast, which he had acquired mainly from the older women there, including Máire John, Neillí Mhór and Méabha Tharlaigh Mhóir.
The song was collected, both words and music, by Lorcán Ó Muirí (AHU pp.358-60) in the early part of the 20th century from a singer in Omeath County Louth, called Séamus Ó Catháin and published in his 1927 collection, Amhráin Chúige Uladh.
Traditional singer, Eithne Ní Uallacháin from County Louth, learned it from the Séamus Ó Catháin source and recorded it on Lá Lugh album in 1991. Feilimí O’Connor, who sings it on the above video here, learned it from his mother, Eithne.
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin learned it from the Omeath source and recorded on the double CD Ceoltaí Éireann – Songs of Oriel 2017
Bhí mise lá ag dul thríd Phort Láirge, ’gus minic sin, hú rú,
agus cé chas domh féin ach an chláirsigh gháireach, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
D’fhiafraigh sí domhsa an imreo(cha)inn clé imeartha, hú rú,
agus dúras féin gur rómhaith chuige mé, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
Tháinig fear a’ tí isteach as d’iarr sé caidé fáth na codarsnaí, hú rú,
’gus aicise féin a fuarthas an léithscéal sciobalta, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
Go raibh na cait mhóra ag ól as na cuinneogaí, hú rú,
is go raibh na cait óga ag éamh ’s ag cumasc leo, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
Scaoil sé corda caol cruaidh thart fá m’ioscada, hú rú,
’gus tharraing sé síos go príosún Dhoire mé, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
Gur ith na luchógaí francaigh dhá thrian de m’ioscada, hú rú,
is gur ghearr na míolaí gníomhaigh an fhéith atá i m’ascalla, fá dear mo mhuirnín fháinnigh.
I was going one day, as often I would, through Waterford, hú rú*,
and who did I meet but the broadfaced laughing woman, all for my beautiful darling.
She asked me if I would join in playful wrestling, hú rú,
and I said myself that I was well able for it, all for my beautiful darling.
The man of the house came in and asked the cause of the vulgarity, hú rú,
and she herself found the neat excuse, all for my beautiful darling.
That the fat cats were drinking from the churns, hú rú, a
nd that the young cats were groaning and copulating with them, all for my beautiful darling.
He tied narrow, ﬁrm ropes aroung my knees, hú rú,
and he dragged me down to Derry Gaol, all for by my beautiful darling.
Till the rats ate two thirds of my knees, hú rú,
and the busy lice severed the vein in my armpit, all for my beautiful darling.
Translation: P. Ní Uallacháin
The air was written down, in tonic solfa, from Séamus Ó Catháin by Fanny Kane (AHU pp. 367-8) from Dundalk, who was more skilled in writing down music than the collector Lorcán Ó Muirí. It was later re-edited in staff annotation by Dr Colm Ó Baoill and republished in Amhráin Chúige Uladh in 1977.
This song may have belonged to the genre of songs known as the carole, a category of light-hearted love songs. Its rhythmic dance tune and one long melodic phrase repeated would suggest that it is an older form of song. Its metrical form is 2A+C, two lines (with a cauda) and a refrain.