Thursday, 25 December 2014

Miss Hooligan's Christmas Cake

Here's a late 19th century broadside, printed in Dundee, from the National Library of Scotland's collection, published on their wonderful Word on the Street website.

The song, like 'Finnegan's Wake', is one of the great Irish-themed comic ballads. According to an article by Stanley Ransom in Voices, it was originally called 'Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake', and was written in 1883 by an American, Charles Frank Horn.

It was a song that Joyce knew from childhood. In June 1888, aged almost six and a half, he sang it at a fundraising concert for the Bray Boat Club at Breslin's Hotel on Bray Esplanade.

As a Christmas treat, have a listen to it sung by The Irish Rovers or by Mick Bolger (a regular contributer to the online Wake group) of Colcannon.

It was also recorded, as 'Mrs Hooligan's Christmas Cake', in 1958 by Dominic Behan, on a Wake themed EP. On the liner notes (below), he  wrote 'This must have been one of the first songs I ever heard my mother sing. So far as I know, no-one else in Dublin sings it, though I have it on the authority of 'Finnegans Wake' that it was written by somebody.'

The song tells the story of a monstrous and indigestible Christmas cake:

There was plums and prunes and cherries,
And citron and raisins and cinnamon too,
There was nutmeg, cloves, and berries,
And the crust it was nailed on with glue.
There was carraway seeds in abundance,    

Sure 'twould build up a fine stomachache,
'Twould kill a man twice after 'ating a slice
Of Miss Hooligan's Christmas cake,

Joyce loved this song, and he plays with its lyrics three times in the Wake:

'Sobs they sighdid at Fillagain’s chrissormiss wake, all the hoolivans of the nation, prostrated in their consternation and their duodisimally profusive plethora of ululation. There was plumbs and grumes and cheriffs and citherers and raiders and cinemen too. And the all gianed in with the shoutmost shoviality.' 6.12-18

'O! Have a ring and sing wohl! Chin, chin! Chin, chin! And of course all chimed din width the eatmost boviality. Swiping rums and beaunes and sherries and ciders and negus and citronnades too.' 58.13

'They were plumped and plumed and jerried and citizens and racers, and cinnamonhued.' 388.F5

There's also an echo here of another Irish song, Percy Frenchs 'Phil the Fluter's Ball', which has the line 'Then all joined in wid the greatest joviality'.

This cake so stuffed with multiple ingredients that it defeats any attempt to digest it sounds like Finnegans Wake. The guests trying various tools to break into it remind me of Wake readers:

Miss Mulligan wanted to taste it,

But really there wasn't no use,
They worked at it over an hour,
And they couldn't get none' of it loose.
Till Hooligan went for the hatchet,
And Killy came in with a saw,
That cake was enough, by the powers,
To paralyze any man's jaw. 

Mrs Hooligan, proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away,
Till she fell over Flanigan's brogans,
And spilled a whole brewing of tay.
" Oh, Gilhooly," she cried, " you're not 'ating,
Try a little bit more for my sake,"
" No, Mrs Hooligan," sez I,
" But I'd like the resate of that cake."

Maloney was took with the colic,
M'Nulty complained of his head,
M'Fadden lay down on the sofa,
And swore that he wished he was dead.
Miss Dally fell down in hysterics,
And there she did wriggle and shake,
While every man swore he was poisoned,
Through 'ating Miss Hooligan's cake.


Merry Christmas everybody, and steer clear of Miss Hooligan's or Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake!

'And to rise in the world, he carried a hod'. 'Finnegans Wake'