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The Old Triangle

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 22222 ; Dick Shannon]

Dick Shannon wrote The Old Triangle, a song about life in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. Dick’s friend Brendan Brehan first performed it publicly in 1952 on the RTE radio programme ‘The Ballad Maker’s Saturday Night’, produced by Mícheál Ó hAodha. Behan made it famous when he included it in 1954 in his first play, The Quare Fellow. Brendan’s brother Dominic Brehan sang The Old Triangle on his Topic LP Irish Songs (1958) and EP Peelers and Prisoners (1963). Enoch Kent noted on the EP:

“Have you ever been in love me boys or do you know the pain.” Dominic’s love and pain in this record is not for Ireland but for the Irish and the only qualification you require to appreciate the songs is that you must be a human being! When Dominic sings The Old Triangle it is not with the music hall giggle that many have applied to this song. The song originated in Dublin’s infamous Mountjoy Prison. It is honest convict poetry and feeling, in other words human, and that is exactly how he sings it.

The Dubliners sang The Old Triangle on their 1967 album More of the Hard Stuff. This video shows them in the German TV show Liedercircus in 1976:

The Pogues sang The Auld Triangle in 1984 on their album Red Roses for Me.

Swan Arcade sang The Old Triangle in 1990 on their Sygnet Records CD Full Circle.

Bert Jansch sang The Old Triangle on his 2006 album The Black Swan.

Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley sang The Auld Triangle in 2009 on their Noe album Lucy Wan. They noted:

Taken from Brendan Behan’s stage play The Quare Fellow and dedicated to the late, great, Ronnie Drew who we had the pleasure of hanging out with during a USA tour where we wouldn’t have dared sing it!

Jon Boden sang The Auld Triangle as the 29 April 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.


Jon Boden sings The Auld Triangle

Oh! a hungry feeling, it came o’er me stealing
And the mice they were squealing in my prison cell—

Chorus (after each verse):
And the auld triangle, It went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

Now the screw was peeping while the lag was sleeping
And he was dreaming of his gal, Sal,

And to begin the morning, the warders bawling
“Ah, get up you bowsey and clean out your cell!”

Now in the female prison there are seventeen women
And it’s among those women I would like to dwell;

Now the wind was rising and the sun declining
While I lay there pining in my prison cell.