Kerry Recruit, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Kerry Recruit, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853904.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 520.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): J8.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/07/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This song is another Crimean War song, it’s about a Kerry man who never in his life before saw a sailing boat, or a gun, or anything, but he got fed up of working at home so he said he’d be better off in the army. At that time you had to ask the sergeant or the police for a shilling – that means, you are willing to join the army. Or if you were in a pub drinking, one of the police or the army men put a shilling in your glass; if you drank out of that glass you were automatically in the army. This is how it goes:

And twelve years ago I was digging the land,
With me brogues on me feet and a spade in me hand
Says I to myself, ‘What a pity to see
Such a fine strapping lad footing turf in Tralee’
To me too-ra-na-nya, to me too-ra-na-nya,
To me too-ra-na noo-ra-na noo-ra-na-nya.

So I buttered me brogues and shook hands with me spade,
And away to the fair like a dashing young blade
I met with a sergeant who asked me to ‘list,
‘Musha, sergeant a ghrá, stick the bob in me fist!

And the first thing they gave me they called it a gun,
with powder and shot and a place for me thumb
At first she spat fire and then she spat smoke,
And she gave me poor shoulder one helluva stroke.

And the next thing they gave me it was a red coat,
with a strap of fine leather to tie round me throat
They gave me a quare thing – I asked what was that,
They told me it was a cockade for me hat.

And then they marched us all down to the sea,
And aboard of a warship bound for the Crimea
With three sticks in the middle all covered with sheets,
And she walked on the water without any feet.

And at Balaclava we landed quite sound,
And cold, wet and hungry we lay on the ground
Next morning for action the bugle did call,
And we had a hot breakfast – powder and ball

And we fought at the Alma, likewise Inkermann,
But the Russians they whaled us at the Redan
In scaling the walls sure meself lost an eye,
And a big Russian bullet ran away with me thigh.

And they sent for the doctor who soon staunched me blood,
And they gave me an elegant leg made of wood
They gave me a medal and ten pence a day,
Contented with Sheelagh, I’d live on half pay.

And it’s often I thought of me mother at home,
And while I was with her I was maith go leor;
When the bullets did fly, lads, I did let them pass
I lay down in the ditch, awful feared to be shot.


Like ‘The Glen of Aherlow,’ ‘Mrs Mc Grath’ and others, this is an anti-recruitment song, meant to discourage young men from falling for the blandishments of the recruiting sergeants and other officials tasked with enlisting recruits for Britain’s foreign wars.

In this case, the Crimean War (1853–56), occurring as it did in the aftermath of the Irish Famine, attracted many impoverished young men whose only hope of earning a living was to take the King’s shilling.