The tune is played in Ireland both as a polka (2/4) and as a reel (cut time) under a variety of titles, no one of them particularly dominant. The "Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt" comes from a ditty sung to it:
Have you washed your father's shirt?
Have you washed it clean?
Have you hung it on the line
Out on the village green?
The words (of unknown provenance), albeit to a different (hexatonic) tune and slightly altered, were popular among children across Britain in the mid-20th century. It was sung by the Beatles on the 1964 Christmas record:
Oh, can you wash your father’s shirt?
Oh, can you wash it clean?
Can you hang it on the line
By the village green.
A version of the tune, under the title "Ghile Beag lé m'Anam Thú" was collected as a vocal air by George Petrie (1790-1866), from F. Keane in July, 1858. Another version was printed in James Kerr's Merry Melodies vol. 1 (c. 1880) as the reel "Disappointed Coquette (The)," giving it an Irish provenance. In America, Boston music publisher Elias Howe included it in his 1000 Jigs and Reels (1867) as "Shins about the Fireside (3)", although that title is also associated with other, different, tunes in 6/8 time (including one collected by George Petrie). Howe's title, however, echoes the name given to the tune in P. Carew's 19th century mss., from which collector George Petrie obtained it; there, its called "Box about the Fireplace" with the note that is is "a Munster reel." If it originated in Munster, it became known throughout Ireland: in the north, County Donegal fiddler John Doherty recorded it as "Marry When You're Young" (which sounds like another set of words went to it, as well). Dublin fiddler and concertina player John Kelly recorded the tune for Topic records in 1975, calling it "West Cork Reel."
...more at: Did you wash your father's shirt? - full Score(s) and Annotations
X: 1 T:Did You Wash Your Father's Shirt? R:reel H:words provided by Trevor Jennings, who got them from a colleague, H:who learnt them from his grandmother. D:Paddy Moloney & Seán Potts: Tin Whistles Z:id:hn-reel-173 M:C| K:D g|:fde^c dcAg|fde^c d2de|fde^c dBAB|1 =cAGE D3g:|2 =cAGE D2AD|| |:(3EFG AB =cAG2|Add^c d3e|fde^c dBAB|1 =cAGE D2AD:|2 =cAGE D3|| W:Have you washed your father's shirt? W:Have you washed it clean? W:Have you hung it on the line W:Out on the village green? W:
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