Play recording: Whiskey-o-roudelum-row

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Whiskey-o-roudelum-row.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781505.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Esther Warkov: Is there a Gaelic version of something like this?1
Joe Heaney: Oh, indeed there is. Indeed there is.
EW: Can we hear it?
JH: Oh, indeed there is, but there’s no translation to it.
EW: Well, that’s alright. If you can just give us an idea of what the words are about.
JH: Well, the words are about this man, you see, that he was doing everything to do with women, you see. All he wanted was to get ahold of a woman. And he was trying to preserve the weapon he had against all comers. From the briars. When he was travelling he was trying to protect it more than anything else. And then he was wondering, if he could go down to the seashore and find what a woman had growing on one of the rocks, what would he do to it? And then he said to himself, ‘Well,’ he says, ‘what they have,’ he said, ‘and they try to protect is too deep inside them,’ he said, ‘for me to carry home with me, so I’ll have to carry the woman with me, too.’ And it goes something like this. (Oh, Jeez, maybe I shouldn’t do these things.)
EW: What’s the name of the song?
JH: ‘Whiskey-o-roudelum’… Whiskey – you see, he was always praising the whiskey, because the whiskey was the only thing that give him false courage to attack this particular way of living.
EW: Um-hmm. And what was the last part? Whiskey…
JH: ‘o-roudelum’. Well, ‘o-roudelum’ means ‘whiskey-go-round,’ you know. ‘Whiskey-go-round, be-addelum, whiskey-o-roudelum-row, bainne na ngabhar is é a theannadh leat.’ It’s better than goat’s milk anyway! Hmmmmm.

Whiskey ó roudelum-row
Whiskey ó roudelum cailleachaí
Whiskey ó roudelum-row
Bainne na ngabhar ‘s é a theannadh leat.

Bhí me lá ag imeacht san aer,
Is shíl mé go mbáfaí sa gcladach mé
Chuir me mo bhod i mo bhéal
Ar fhaitíos go gcaillfinn mo mhagairlí.

Chonaic mé sagart sa ngleann
‘S bhí a mhagairlí feannta ag na driseachaí
Bheirim mo mhallacht go deo
Don bhean nach bhfuil aird ar a chuid aige!

Whiskey ó roudeldum row
Whiskey ó roudeldum old women
Whiskey ó roudledum row
Goat’s milk and you squeezing it

One day I was flying through the air
I thought I would drown at the water’s edge
I put my cock in my mouth
For fear I would lose my testicles.

I saw a priest in the glen
And his balls were flayed by the brambles
My curses forever upon
The woman who wouldn’t look after him!

JH: Well, that verse means, he saw a priest in the glen, and his bollocks was all torn by the briars. And he was cursing the women, that they were so fond of what they had that they wouldn’t help the man out when he was getting cut by the briars.

EW: Um-hmm.

JH: That’s too much for that, now.

EW: No, that’s alright!

JH: Chuir mé mo bhean chun na trá,
Is shíl mé go mbáfaí sa gcladach í
D’éirigh mé suas ar an Ard
Is dhamhsaigh mé hornpipe jig uirthi.

Dhá bhfeicfeá Máire Cheann Mhóir
Bhí sí gan cóta gan muinchille
D’éireodh sí suas ar an Ard
Is chuirfeadh sí spout go Liverpool!

I sent my wife down to the beach
I thought she’d be drowned in the water there
I went up on the height
And danced a hornpipe-jig on her!

If you could see Máire Kenmore
Without so much as a sleeve on her
She’d go up on the height
And piss all the way to Liverpool!

JH: Well, he reckoned the woman he fancied most was the woman who’d go out and lift her leg and piss all the way to Liverpool! [laughter] That’s enough of that, now. Now, don’t play that for anybody that knows Gaelic.

EW: Okay.

JH: Or they’ll shoot me!

EW: Why’s that?

JH: Or play it for them all if you want. I couldn’t care less. (laughter) I’m trying to make a record of that for years, and nobody’ll do it!

EW: Why don’t you give us the rest of it? Of the song?

JH: Eh?

EW: Why don’t you give us the whole song?

JH: Hmmm.

Nach daingean atá an phis insna mná
‘Sé mo léan cráite nach dtiteann sí
Dá bhfaighinnse í i locháinín trá
Bhuailfinn mo sháith ‘s tuilleadh dhi.

Bhí mé lá thoir i mBaile Áth an Rí
Chuaigh cailín an tí ar leaba liom
D’fhuail sí síos thrí mo thaobh
Nach dochar don tsaol a bheith magadh fúm.

A woman’s cunt is so fortress-like
A pity it doesn’t fall out of her
If I could only find one in a tide-pool
I’d have my fill of it, and then some.

One day I was in Athenry
The girl of the house went to bed with me
She pissed all the way down my side
Bad luck to the ones who make fun of me!

JH: Well, now, that verse is about the night he was sleeping in a certain lodging-house in Athenry, which is in Galway, and the maid went to bed with him, and when he tried to turn towards her, she pissed on him! (laughter) Well, that’s enough now. No more!

EW: There must be more verses.

JH: Hmmm, no, I can’t think of any more.

EW: You’re saying that with a smile!

JH: No, I’m not! I’m not, I’m not. Come on now, what’s the next question?


1. The interviewer is referring to a pair of songs in English which Joe had earlier sung for her. One of these, which we are calling ‘The Jolly Tinker,’ is included in this collection. The other song, of which Joe sang only the following verse, relies considerably less on metaphor and more on the power of calling a spade a spade:
There was a jolly lady coming from a jolly ball
She met a jolly tinker slashing piss against the wall
With his big kidney-viper and bollocks hangin’ free
And yards and yards of foreskin hangin’ down below his knee.

In his comprehensive review of the double-CD The Road from Conamara, the late Tom Munnelly has the following to say about this song:

In many years collecting in the Irish field I have been able to disprove the belief that there is a large body of bawdy song in English which has been missed, ignored or avoided by collectors. The actual body of such song is pretty small. The same belief holds for song in Irish, but there does seem to be some evidence for a tolerance for bawdy verse greater than that found among English singers of the last generation or so. Still, the documentation is sparse enough. Rare indeed are such pieces as Whiskey Ó Roudeldum-Row; a piece of, no prisoners taken, in your face, bawdry. It is a series of ribald (rather than erotic) surrealistic images; Hieronymus Bosch meets Larry Flint.

This song was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.