Tuesday, 10 April 2018

When McCarthy took the Flure in Enniscorthy

I bought this (initialled by the composer!) from the Sheet MusicWarehouse

You may travel all through Europe, and then round by Chesapake; 
You may meet with many warriors, but don't make a mistake, 
For the pride of balls and parties, and the glory of a wake, 
Was Demetrius O'Flannigan McCarthy. 
'Twas late he went to breakfast, and 'twas late he went to bed; 
If you took up a thermometer, at lasteways so 'twas said, 
The quicksilver started bubblin' when they placed it near his head, 
And the steam was like a rainbow round McCarthy. 

Thermometers are not safe around McCarthy
Miss Dunne said they did crowd her thin, 
Miss Murphy took to powther thin, 
For fear the boys might say that she was swarthy; 
And the sticks they all went whacking, 
And the skulls, faith, they were cracking, 
When McCarthy took the flure in Enniscorthy. 

Dan Murphy gave a party, well and all the boys were there; 
McCarthy, full of whiskey hot, at once there did repair, 
When a dog came and ran away with Miss Muldooney's hair;
'Twas that that roused the dander of McCarthy. 
He was dancing the mazurka, that's what all the ladies said; 
The fright shook all the false teeth out of poor ould Murphy's head, 
And he danced with Miss Mullarkey till they stretched her out for dead, 
Faith, she couldn't hould a candle to McCarthy. 

When they'd gargled all the whiskey, faith, a desp'rate row arose; 
McCarthy, sure, he levelled them; he fought them to a close, 
Till he walked upon the masther of the ceremonies' nose; 
'Twas that that played the mischief with McCarthy. 
The master of the workhouse, well, he knocked a peeler down, 
Who fell upon an alderman who came from County Down, 
And Presbyterian minister and the clerk now of the Crown, 
Were dancing like the divii on McCarthy.

Oh! boys, there was the element, of that you may be sure; 
Some were carried home on shutters, yes, and some upon a door, 
And the eyes and ears and noses were like marbles on the floor, 
with the fragments of the man they call McCarthy. 
Says Dan Murphy, Thanks to Providence, the ball at last is done, 
If you want to smash your furniture and have no end of fun, 
Or if you want your two eyes to be knocked straight into one, 
You need only give a ball and ax McCarthy. 

Here's a largely forgotten song by Robert Jasper Martin.  On soundcloud, I've posted a recording of it made at the Clothworkers Concert Hall, University of Leeds on 15 July 1987, by Charles Peake and Company. This was from a show called 'Song in Finnegans Wake'. Tim Finnegan has put the same recording on youtube with lyrics.

Martin composed the song in 1888 for the burlesque 'Faust up to Date', at the Gaiety Theatre London. It was sung by the English actor and comedian, Edwin Jesse Lonnen, who was playing Mephistopheles, on this very stage.

The Gaiety Theatre on the Strand (from wikipedia)
The critic of 'The Theatre' wrote, 'An excellent Mephistopheles is found in Mr. E. J. Lonnen, who plays with immense spirit, and gains a nightly encore for his songs, "I shall have 'em by-and-by", and "Enniscorthy" (written for him by R. Martin)'.

The composer, Robert Jasper Martin (1846-1905) was the brother of Violet Florence Martin (the Ross half of Somerville and Ross of the Irish RM), who wrote about him in her 1917 book, Irish Memories. He was the Anglo-Irish landowner of Ross Castle, Oughterard, which you can read about here. After going bankrupt, Martin became a journalist and songwriter in London. His speciality was stage Irish comic songs, usually sung by Lonnen in Gaiety Theatre burlesques.

Ross was a Tory who believed that the Irish were unfit for home rule. His songs often involve massive punch-ups by drunken Irishmen. In 'Ballyhooly' (above), the Temperance Brigade of Ballyhooly in Cork end up in the county jail for drunkenness ('When the temperance brigade do go out upon parade/ there's not a sober man in Ballyhooly'). The song featured in the 1886 Gaiety Burlesque, 'Monte Cristo Jnr'. 'Ballyhooley' proved so popular that Martin was nicknamed 'Ballyhooly Bob'.

James Joyce was very fond of 'Enniscorthy', which appears repeatedly in his writing. In Ulysses, Bloom remembers the song, in Lotus Eaters, when he's thinking about cricket:

Cricket weather. Sit around under sunshades. Over after over. Out. They can't play it here. Duck for six wickets. Still Captain Buller broke a window in the Kildare street club with a slog to square leg. Donnybrook fair more in their line. And the skulls we were acracking when M'Carthy took the floor.'

Donnybrook fair, which appears five times in the Wake, was so notorious for brawls that the name became slang for any kind of uproar.

'And what is more glorious, there's naught more uproarious
Hurrah for the humours of Donnybrook Fair' 



The song has eight appearances in Finnegans Wake.  The first is in the opening wake episode, when the mourners are telling Tim Finnegan, revived by the whiskey, to stay in his coffin. One of the mourners is Demetrius O'Flannigan McCarthy himself, who is told to stop drinking:

'Aisy now, you decent man, with your knees and lie quiet and repose your honour’s lordship! Hold him here, Ezekiel Irons, and may God strengthen you! It’s our warm spirits, boys, he’s spooring. Dimitrius O’Flagonan, cork that cure for the Clancartys! You swamped enough since Portobello to float the Pomeroy.' 27.25

Demetrius O'Flannigan becomes Dimitrius O'Flagonan, because he's had too much to drink already. Cork that bottle!

We next meet McCarthy in Book 1 Chapter 4:

'And, incidentalising that they might talk about Markarthy or they might walk to Baalastartey or they might join the nabour party and come on to Porterfeud' 91.13

Here Joyce is combining McCarthy with the chorus of another of Martin's comic songs, 'Killaloe', written in 1887. This appeared in another Gaiety burlesque, 'Miss Esmeralda', based on Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (It's impressive that, no matter the subject of the show, Martin could shoehorn a comic Irish song in somewhere! ) It was sung again by E.J.Lonnen, as Rollo the Monk, (below). 'Killaloe' lives on as the Regimantal Quick March of the British Royal Irish Regiment, which you can hear on youtube.

The song, which has a similar rhythm to 'Enniscorthy', describes what happens when a 'Frinch Mossoo' (Monsieur) makes the mistake of trying to teach the people of Killaloe in County Clare to speak his language.

Well I happened to get born at the time they cut the corn, 
Quite contagious to the town of Killaloe: 
Where to tache us they’d a schame, and a Frinch Mossoo he came 
To instruct us in the game of parlez vous. 
I’ve one father, that I swear, but he said I had a père, 
And he struck me when I said it wasn’t true,
And the Irish for a ‘jint,’ or the Frinch for ‘half a pint,’
Faith we larnt it in the school at Killaloe.

You may talk of Boneyparty, 
You may talk about Écarté,
Or any other party, and ‘comment vous portez vous!’ 
We larnt to sing it aisy, that song the Marsellasy,
Boolong, Toolong, the continong, we larnt at Killaloe … 
‘Mais oui,’ Mossoo would cry, ‘well, of course you can,’ says I, 
Non, no – ‘I know,’ says I with some surprise; 
When a boy straight up from Clare heard his mother called a mère, 
He gave Mossoo his fist between the eyes. 
Says Mossoo, with much alarm, ‘Go and call for Johnny Darm,’ 
‘There’s no such name,‘ said I, ‘about the place,’ 
‘Comment,’ he made reply, ‘Come on, yerself,’ says I, 
And I scattered all the features of his face.

Oh boys, there was the fun, you should see him when ’twas done, 
His eyeballs one by one did disappear, 
And a doctor from the south took some days to find his mouth 
Which had somehow got concealed behind his ear. 
Then he swore an awful oath, he’d have the law agin us both, 
And thin he’d lave both Limerick and Clare; 
For he found it wouldn’t do to tache Frinch in Killaloe, 
Unless he had a face or two to spare

On to the third appearance of 'Enniscorthy', in the Questions and Answers chapter, in the long list of acts attributed to HCE:

'made up to Miss MacCormack Ni Lacarthy who made off with Darly Dermod, swank and swarthy' 137.02

It's a description of the elopement of Dairmaid and Grania (daughter of Cormac MacArt), but it echoes the song with 'Lacarthy'; and 'swarthy'.

Next to the Shem chapter, in the list of children's games:

When his Steam was like a Raimbrandt round Mac Garvey. 176.18

That's an echo of 'the steam was like a rainbow round McCarthy'. The late Karl Reisman related this to Marcus Garvey. You can read his detailed interpretation here.

We get an echo of the rhythm in Joyce's major restatement of Wake themes in the opening of the Stories chapter:

'That the fright of his light in tribalbalbutience hides aback in the doom of the balk of the deaf but that the height of his life from a bride’s eye stammpunct is when a man that means a mountain barring his distance wades a lymph that plays the lazy winning she likes yet that pride that bogs the party begs the glory of a wake while the scheme is like your rumba round me garden' 309.06

Here we have a Viconian cycle (fear of thunder creating religion, marriage, death, ricorso or return). There are echoes of both 'the pride of balls and parties and the glory of a wake' and 'the steam was like a rainbow round McCarthy'. Try singing the last bit to the original tune!

Ten pages later, the Norwegian captain refers to the song:

'— I shot be shoddied, throttle me, fine me cowheel for ever, usquebauched the ersewild aleconner, for bringing briars to Bembracken and ringing rinbus round Demetrius'

The 'ringing rinbus round Demetrius' refers again to 'the steam was like a rainbow 'round McCarthy', which must have been Joyce's favourite line in the song.

The next appearance is during Jaun's sermon, where he is attacking Shem:

'the diasporation of all pirates and quinconcentrum of a fake like Basilius O'Cormacan MacArty?' 463.22

'For the pride of balls and parties, and the glory of a wake, was Demetrius O'Flannigan McCarthy' and King (Basileus) Cormac MacArt again.

Here's the eighth and final appearance, during the séance chapter, where another wild social gathering is being described:

'— All our stakes they were astumbling round the ranky roars assumbling when Big Arthur flugged the field at Annie’s courting.
— Suddenly some wellfired clay was cast out through the schappsteckers of hoy’s house?
— Schottenly there was a hellfire club kicked out through the wasistas of Thereswhere.
— Like Heavystost’s envil catacalamitumbling. Three days three times into the Vulcuum?
— Punch!'


Big Arthur is HCE and Annie is ALP. The 'wellfired clay' is the 'missfired brick'
(5.22) suggested as the cause of Tim Finnegans fall. 'Heavystost's envil catacalamitumbling' is HCE as Hephaestus/ Vulcan thrown out of heaven. Again, try singing that first line.

Martin's songs are little sung now, perhaps because of the stereotypical image of the drunken brawling Irish. Yet isn't 'Finnegans Wake' itself guilty of the same stereotype?:

Then the war did soon engage
T'was woman to woman and man to man
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And a row and a ruction soon began

It's a tradition also kept alive by the great Shane MacGowan, in songs like The Boat Train, The Sick Bed of Cuchullain and The Body of An American.

But fifteen minutes later
We had our first taste of whiskey
There was uncles giving lectures
On ancient Irish history
The men all started telling jokes
And the women they got frisky
By five o'clock in the evening
Every bastard there was pisskey

Is it time for a 'Ballyhooly Bob' Martin revival? 


  1. instead of "The master of the work-house, well, he knocked a peeler down,
    Who fell upon an alderman who came from County Down" i hear "then alderman mcflurry sure the mayor he was [floored?] who fell upon a member from a democratic ward"

    1. I've now added the published lyric from the sheetmusic, which says

      'The master of the workhouse, well, he knocked a peeler down,
      Who fell upon an alderman who came from County Down,
      And Presbyterian minister and the clerk now of the Crown,
      Were dancing like the divii on McCarthy.'

  2. Me too. It's clearly a different version. I've ordered the sheet music so will correct when I get it