> Folk Music > Songs > Erin-Go-Bragh
Erin-Go-Bragh (Ireland Forever)
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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 commented in the album’s booklet:
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 commented in the album’s liner notes:
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.
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.
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.
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.