Nell Flaherty's Drake

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NELL FLAHERTY'S DRAKE (Bardal Eiblin Ni Flaitbeartaig). AKA and see "My Name it is Nell," "Widow's Curse (The)." Irish, Double Jig. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. A humorous and much-anthologized song goes to the melody, dating from the mid-19th century. Collector Francis O'Neill heard "sung in the old homestead" as a boy in County Cork, in the mid-19th century. A period broadside version, found at the Word on the Street [1] site, has this commentary:

'Nell Flaherty's Drake' is an anonymous Irish ballad from the nineteenth century. The drake of the title is believed to be a coded reference to Robert Emmet (1778-1803), who helped to plan and led an uprising against British rule in Dublin in 1803. The uprising went wrong after an explosion at an arms depot, and Emmet was captured and hanged for his part in the uprising and the assassination of the Lord Chief Justice. Nell Flaherty represents Emmet's fiance, Sarah Curran, (1782-1808). The author curses those (i.e. the British authorities) who killed Nell Flaherty's drake and urges the readers to keep up the fight. Irish Home Rule was a volatile subject in Britain in the nineteenth as well as the twentieth century, hence the coding in this song.

The ballad [2] goes:

Nell Flaherty's Drake,

My song it is Nell, quite candid I tell,
And I live near Coothill I will never deny,
I had a large drake, the truth for to speak,
That my grandmother left me and she going to die.
He was wholesome and sound he'd weigh twenty pound,
The universe round I'd rove for his sake;
Bad wind to the robber, be him drunk or sober,
That murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful Drake.
His neck it was green, most rare to be seen,
He was fit for a Queen of the highest degree;
His body was white, it would you delight,
He was plump, fat and heavy and brisk as a bee.
My dear little fellow, his legs they were yellow,
He'd fly like a swallow or swim like a hake;
[ ] some wicked savage to grease his white cabbage,
has murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful Drake.
May his pig never grant , may his cat never hunt,
That a ghost may him haunt in the dark of the night,
May his hen never lay may his ass never bray,
May his goat fly away like an old paper kite:
That the []ree and the fle s the wretch ever tease,
May the piercing north-brease make him tremble and shake:
May a four-year old bug build a nest in his lug,
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's Drake.
May his cock never crow? may his bellows ne'er blow,
And for bed ,pot and poe may be never have none;
May his cradle not rock,may his box have no lock,
May his wife have no [ ]ock to shade her back-bone,
May his cock never quack, may his goose turn black,
And pull down his turf with his long yellow beak,
May the scurvy and [ ] never part from the breech,
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaharty's Drake.
May his pipe never smoke may his tea-pot be broke,
and add to the joke may his tea-ketle ne'er boil,
May be poo'ey the bed the hour he is dead,
May he always be fed on lobaconse and fish oil.
May he swell with the gout, may his grindars fall out.
May he roar, bawl and shout with the horrid tooth-ache,'
May his temples wear horns, and all his toes sorns,
The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty a Drake.
May his spade never dig may his sow never pig,
May each nit in his wig be as large as a snail,
May his door have no latch may his house have so thatch.
May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.
May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary.
Dip his song and airy in some pond or lake,
Where the eel and the trout dine on his snout.
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's Drake.
May his dog yel and growl with both hunger and cold,
May the wife always scold till his brains go astray,
May the curse of each hag that e'er carried a bag,
May light on the vag till his head turn grey.
May monkies still bite him, mad dogs affright him,
And every one slight him, asleep or awake,
May the waess ]still gnaw him, and jack-daws shaw him,
The monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's Drake.
The only good news I have diffuse,
That Peter Hughes and Feter M'Cabe,
And big nose Bob Hanson, and buck tooth Norhammon,
Each man has a grandson of my beautiful Drake.
My bird he has dozens of both nephews and cousins,
And one I must get or my heart it will break,
To Keep my mind easy, or else I'll run crazy,
This ends the whole story of Nell Flaherty's Drake.

O'Neill [Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby, 1910, p. 99] found a still-older song set to the air that begins:

My name is Poll Doodle, I work with my needle,
And if I had money 'tis apples I'd buy;
I'd go down in the garden and stay there till morning,
And whistle for Johnny, the gooseberry boy.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: O'Neill (Krassen), 1976; p. 74. O'Neill (Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies), 1903; No. 763, p. 142. O'Neill (Dance Music of Ireland: 1001 Gems), 1907; No. 44, p. 24. Roche (Collection of Traditional Irish Music, vol. 3), 1927; No. 105, p. 32.

Recorded sources: Edison Bell Winner 5219 (78 RPM), Liam Walsh (1930).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]
Hear the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's song version on [4]
Hear Liam Walsh's uilleann pipe version, recorded in 1930, at the Internet Archive [5] (last tune in medley, preceded by "Will You Come Home with Me?" and "Rambling Pitchfork (The)").
See annotation at the Ballad Index site [6]
See the tune in the Dunn Family manuscript collection [7]

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