Wife of the Bold Tenant Farmer, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Wife of the Bold Tenant Farmer, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841401.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 5164.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • 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): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

One evening of late into Bandon I strayed
Down Clonakilty when making me way
At Balliniscorthy some time I delayed
And I wet my old whistle with porter.

Then I spit on me fist and I raised up me stick
And down the coach road like a deer I did lip
I cared not for bailiffs, landlords or Old Nick
And I sang like the lark in the morning.

Diddely-eye, diddely-idle-dull idle-dull-day
Diddely-eye-dye, diddely-idle-dull idle-dull-day
Duddely-idle idle-dull eye-dye-dull day
Diddely-idle-dull didle-dull arum.

And I scarcely had travelled one mile of the road
When I heard a dispute in a farmer’s abode
The son of the landlord, an ill-looking toad
And the wife of the bold tenant farmer.

‘Oh, what in the devil’s come over you all?
When I call for the rent sure I get none at all –
At the next Sessions you’ll pay for it all,
Or you’ll take the high road to Dungarvan!’


‘Hurray for the bold tenant’s wife,’ she replied,
‘You’re as bad as your daddy on the other side!
Our National Land League will pull down your pride
For it’s able to bear every storm.’

‘Your husband was drinking in town last night,
Shouting and bawling for bold tenant’s rights
[But our Plan of Campaign1] will give him a fright
For he’ll never bear our old storms.’

‘If my husband was drinking, now what’s that to you?
I’d rather he’d drink it than give it to you!
You skinny old miser, you’re not worth a chew –
And your mossy old land is no bargain!’


So he shouted ‘hooray’ and she shouted ‘yoo hoo’
And through the green fields like Old Nick he then flew,
Saying ‘God help the landlords and old Ireland too!’
Agus fágaimid siúd mar atá sé.


1. Joe actually says ‘At the nampaign’ – presumably thinking for a split second of the third line in the fourth verse, which begins ‘At the next Sessions,’ before correcting himself. The correct words as he sang them on other occasions have been substituted for the nonsense. The Plan of Campaign, published in the United Irishman in 1886, laid out a process for forcing landlords to reduce rents at times when harvests were poor.

This song seems to have been a favourite of Joe’s, if the number of recordings he made of it can be taken as an indication.

The reference to the National Land League dates the song to the period of increasingly bitter protest against the system of land-ownership in Ireland, which had come to be seen as one of the ultimate causes of suffering during the famine. Spearheaded by Michael Davitt, the Land League was established in 1879 to encourage ‘a general resistance to eviction and a demand for a reduction of rents.’ By 1881, the agitation had ‘almost assumed the character of a civil war.

Mobs gathered upon every pretext, the troops were stoned, landlords were shot…’ When many of the organizers were arrested, things only got worse, with cycles of ‘agitation, repression and terrorism’ that only ended in 1903 with the passage of the Wyndham Act. A number of political songs were composed in connection with these events, most of them far less light-hearted than this one; see Georges Denis Zimmermann, Songs of Irish Rebellion (1966), 59-61.