> Folk Music > Songs > Erin-Go-Bragh

Erin-Go-Bragh (Ireland Forever)

[ Roud 1627 ; Laws Q20 ; G/D 2:236 ; Ballad Index LQ20 ; Bodleian Roud 1627 ; Mudcat 79420 ; trad.]

John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang Erin Go Bragh at the 1951 Edinburgh People’s Festival Ceilidh and on the anthology Fair Fame and Foul (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 7; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

Dominic Behan sang Erin Go Brath in 1959 on his Topic album of songs of the IRA, Easter Week and After.

Enoch Kent sang Erin-Go-Bragh in 1962 on his Topic EP The Butcher Boy and Other Ballads. All tracks on this EP were also included in 1965 on the Topic LP Bonny Lass Come O’er the Burn.

Both Queen Caroline Hughes and William Hughes sang Erin Go Bragh in 1963 or 1966 to Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger and Charles Parker. These recordings were included in 2014 on Caroline Hughes’ Musical Traditions anthology Sheep-Crook and Black Dog. Rod Stradling noted:

Steve Roud writes: The first four lines are clearly Erin go Bragh but the rest I can’t account for. There are other songs with the same title, but they bear no relation to Caroline’s words. I’m reluctant to give this a new number, so will stick to the usual 1627, but preferably with a note explaining this.

So, this may be seen as a fragment of the fairly well-known Erin go Bragh (98 Roud entries, 25 sound recordings). Indeed, if it’s combined with husband William’s version (sung to the more usual tune) a more-or-less complete version of the story emerges. Duncan Campbell, a Highlander in Edinburgh, has an altercation with a Policeman on account of his accent—the Polis says he’s Irish—“Ye aa’ turn tae Scotsmen as soon’s ye get here”—an argument and then a fight ensues. Duncan prevails, but the populace turn on him and drive him away. So not an Irish song, as many seem to believe, but a commentary on the cultural gulf between the Highlands (and Islands) and the ‘saft’ southern half of Scotland.

[These two tracks] appear to be the only CD recordings, and the only collections of the song in England.

John O’Hagan sang Erin Go Bragh in 1969 at the Folk Union One. This recording was published in the same year on the privately issued album Blue Bell Folk.

Jimmy McBeath sang Erin Go Bragh in July 1971 to Peter Hall. This recording was released in 1978 on McBeath’s Topic album Bound to Be a Row. Peter Hall noted:

As well as being about anti-Irish feeling this song emphasises the contrast between the east and the west of Scotland, when inhabitants of the latter can be mistaken for foreigners by natives of the capital, Edinburgh, here referred to as Aul’ Reekie.

Ian Manuel sang Erin Go Bragh in 1972 on his Topic album of bothy songs and ballads, The Frosty Ploughshare. A.L. Lloyd noted:

In the days of ‘No Irish Need Apply’, this song must have seemed like a clarion call against prejudice. Robert Ford remarks that “natives of the West Highlands of Scotland have a good deal in common—in accent and otherwise—with the people of the North of Ireland”. Hence the Argyll man might well be taken for an Irishman in Edinburgh, and likewise would “ne’er take it ill when called Erin go Bragh”. However, the song may not have set out as a Scots piece. The earliest trace I’ve seen is a version recorded by P.W. Joyce in 1854 from a 13 year old girl in Co. Limerick. The little girl’s song sets the scene in London, and there is no mistaken identity, just a lively dust-up between Irish and the police. The tune, a grand Dorian, has also been used for that interminable piece called The Blaeberry Courtship.

Dick Gaughan sang Erin-Go-Bragh, in 1989 on his Topic album Handful of Earth. This track was also included in 1995 on the anthology Troubadours of British Folk Vol. 3, in 2000 on The Acoustic Folk Box, and in 2009 on Topic’s 70th anniversary anthology Three Score and Ten. He noted on his album:

I can’t remember where I learned this—I’ve heard so many people sing it, notably Enoch Kent. Auld Reekie is an insulting, slightly affectionate name for Edinburgh. Being brought up with Irish grandparents and a Highland Scots mother, I find the irony of the song the best antidote to racism.

and on his now defunct website:

I always credit this to Davie Stewart (‘The Galoot’) but the truth is I’m not absolutely 100% certain if he’s who I learned it from. It is likely that it was a combination of him and a few others. It deals with the anti-Irish and anti-Highlander prejudices found in Lowland Scotland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The tune is one of the most common Irish tunes and is used for many songs, including Master McGrath. The guitar was tuned DADGAD, capo at the 5th fret.

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton sang Erin-Go-Bragh on their 1998 album The Bee-Loud Glade.

Jimmy Hutchison sang Erin Go Bragh at the Fife Traditional Singing Festival, Collessie, Fife in May 2009. This recording was released a year later on the festival anthology There’s Bound to Be a Row (Old Songs & Bothy Ballads Volume 6). The album’s notes commented:

A Highlander is mistaken for an Irish immigrant and mistreated by an Edinburgh policeman of the mid 1800s. One of Jimmy’s favourites that he learned in the early 60s from Scots singer Enoch Kent when both were regulars at the Singer’s Club in London run by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.

Jim Malcolm sang Erin Go Bragh on his 2013 album Still. He noted:

Robert Tannahill, a contemporary of Robert Burns, wrote this gem, which is set after the Irish Rebellion of the Napoleonic Wars. The song was popularised by Dick Gaughan.

Hannah Rarity learned Erin Go Bragh from the singing of Dick Gaughan and sang it on her 2016 EP Beginnings and on her 2018 CD Neath the Gloaming Star.

Dougie Mackenzie sang Erin Go Bragh on his 2019 Greentrax album Along the Way. He noted:

Learnt from Jimmy Hutchinson; a racist confrontation between a man from Argyll and an Edinburgh policeman who mistakes him as Irish.


Caroline Hughes sings Erin Go Bragh

Oh, they all flockèd around me
Like flocks of wild bees,
I said, “Where is the villain
That struckèd the police
And if I catch him, I’ll grab him,
I’ll give him the law,
For I’ll make him remember
Young Erin go Bragh.”

Oh, I pities the poor police now
As he’s laying ill,
I pities the poor police now
As he’s laying dead.
If it wasn’t for the clothes-o
And the boots-o he wears
But I would not forget pattern of
The clothes that he wears.

William Hughes sings Erin Go Bragh

Oh, as I was a-walking up fair Wackford Street
A saucy young villain I chancèd to meet.
He looked in my face and he tipped me some jaw
Saying, “What brought you over from Erin go Bragh?”

Here’s a lump of black tarmac I hold in my wrist,
In around his great napper I made it to twist.
Here is blood from his napper I quicklye did draw,
And I made him remember bold Erin go Bragh.

Here’s the neat little pack that I’ve got to my back
I’ll pack up my clothing and soon I’ll be off.
For wealth I’ve got one friend, I’m sure he got six
And I won’t forget Pat, nor the weight of his stick.

I have travelled through old England a good many miles
Through France and through Scotland,
through France and through Spain
And I’ll never forget Pat, nor the weight of his gain.

Dick Gaughan sings Erin-Go-Bragh

Ma name’s Duncan Campbell fae the shire o Argyll,
A’ve traivellt this country for mony’s the mile;
A’ve traivellt thro Irelan, Scotlan an aa,
An the name A go under’s bauld Erin-go-Bragh.

Ae nicht in Auld Reekie A walked doun the street,
Whan a saucy big polis A chanced for tae meet;
He glowert in ma face an he gied me some jaw,
Sayin, “Whan cam ye owre, bauld Erin-go-Bragh?”

“Well, A am not a Pat tho in Irelan A’ve been,
Nor am A a Paddy tho Irelan A’ve seen;
But were A a Paddy, that’s nothin at aa,
For thair’s mony’s a bauld hero in Erin-go-Bragh.”

“Well A know ye’re a Pat by the cut o yer hair,
Bit ye aa turn tae Scotsmen as sune as ye’re here;
Ye left yer ain countrie for brakin the law,
An we’re seizin aa stragglers fae Erin-go-Bragh.”

“An were A a Pat an ye knew it wis true,
Or wis A the devil, then whit’s that tae you?
Were it no for the stick that ye haud in yer paw,
A’d show ye a game played in Erin-go-Bragh.”

An a lump o blackthorn that A held in ma fist
Aroun his big bodie A made it tae twist;
An the blude fae his napper A quickly did draw,
An paid him stock-an-interest for Erin-go-Bragh.

Bit the people cam roun like a flock o wild geese,
Sayin, “Catch that daft rascal he’s killt the police!”
An for every freen A had A’m shair he had twa,
It wis terrible hard times for Erin-go-Bragh.

Bit A cam tae a wee boat that sails in the Forth,
An A packed up ma gear an A steered for the North;
“Fareweill tae Auld Reekie, yer polis an aa,
An the devil gang wi ye,” says Erin-go-Bragh.

Sae come aa ye young people, whairever ye’re from,
A don’t give a damn tae whit place ye belang;
A come fae Argyll in the Heilans sae braw,
Bit A ne’er took it ill bein caad Erin-go-Bragh.

Jimmy Hutchison sings Erin go Bragh

Oh ma name’s Duncan Campbell fae the shire o Argyll,
I’ve travelled this country for mony’s the mile;
I’ve travelled through England through Ireland an aa,
And the name that I go by is Erin go Bragh.

Ae nicht in Auld Reekie I chancit tae meet,
A saucy policeman patrollin his beat;
He’s glowered in ma face and he gied me sic jaw,
Sayin, “When cam ye over, bold Erin go Bragh?”

“Oh I’m no a Paddy though Ireland I’ve been,
And I’m no a Paddy though Ireland I’ve seen;
But if I was a Paddy sure it’s naethin ava,
For there’s many’s the bold hero fae Erin go Bragh.”

“Ach, I know ye’re a Pat by the cut of your hair,
Ye’ve aa turned tae Scotsmen as soon as ye’re here;
Ye’ve left your ain country for brakin the law,
And ye’re seasoned auld stragglers frae Erin go Bragh.”

“Ach, if I were a Paddy and you knew it was true,
If I was the Devil, pray what’s it tae you?
If it wisnae for the baton ye hold in your paw,
Sure I’d show ye a game played in Erin go Bragh.”

So a switch o blackthorn I held in my fist,
Around his big body I made it tae twist;
And the blood frae his napper I quickly did draw,
And I paid him stock and interest for Erin go Bragh.

But the people cam aroond like a flock o wild geese,
Saying, “Stop, stop that rascal, he’ll kill our police.”
For every friend I had I’m sure he had twa,
They were very hard times for bold Erin go Bragh.”

So I made for a boatie that sailed on the Forth,
I’ve rowed up my bundle and steered for the North;
“Farweel tae Auld Reekie, policemen and aa,
And the Devil gang wi ye,” says Erin go Bragh.

So come aa ye young fellows who listen tae ma sang,
Noo I don’t give a farthing tae where ye come from;
For I’m fae Argyll in the Hielands sae braw,
But I’ll ne’er tak it ill when cried Erin go Bragh.