> Folk Music > Songs > Whiskey in the Jar / Gilgarrah Mountain / Captain Devin

Whiskey in the Jar / Gilgarrah Mountain / Captain Devin

[ Roud 533 ; Laws L13A ; Henry H792 ; Ballad Index LL13 ; Bodleian Roud 533 ; DT GILGARRY ; Mudcat 3116 ; trad.]

Gale Huntington: Sam Henry’s Songs of the People Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger: Travellers’ Songs From England and Scotland John Ord: Bothy Songs and Ballads Colm O Lochlainn: Irish Street Ballads

A ca 1870 version of There’s Whiskey in the Jar is printed in Colm O Lochlainn’s 1939 book Irish Street Ballads. He noted:

Learnt by my mother in Limerick about 1870 from Ml. Buckley, a native of Cork.

Lena Bourne Fish of East Jaffrey, New Hampshire, sang Gilgarrah Mountain in 1941 to Anne and Frank Warner. It was included in their 1984 book Traditional American Folk Songs From the Anne & Frank Warner Collection and in 2000 on volume 1 of the Appleseed anthology of songs from the Warner Collection, Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still. The Warners noted:

This song of Mrs. Fish’s about an Irish rogue and robber has long been a favourite of ours. A somewhat different version known as Darlin’ Sportin’ Jenny has had wide popularity in this country since the mid 1960s—first introduced, we believe, by performer Bob Gibson. ‘Gilgarrah’ is frequently pronounced as ‘Gilgarry’, and Mrs. Fish so pronounced it.

Law’s version ‘A’ (or variants of it) has been collected in Ireland (Joyce, p. 345), tune only, and O Lochlainn, printed in Journal of American Folklore 25, p. 152, in Nova Scotia (Creighton, Songs and Ballads From Nova Scotia, p. 192), and in West Virginia, where it is called Captain Kelly. It may be found also on a number of broadsides.

[…] All versions of the ballad indicate the perfidy of the robber’s lady, who usually is said to have loaded his pistols with water … surely a difficult thing to do. Only in the Fish version does Polly fire off the pistols and load them with pepper. That is a more plausible act, if just as disloyal.

Séamus Ennis sang Whiskey in the Jar on 21 September 1949 on the BBC sound recording 13770. This track was included in 1955 on the Columbia anthology The World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Ireland.

Ewan MacColl sang Whiskey in the Jar in 1957 on his Riverside album of British ballads of crime and criminals, Bad Lads and Hard Cases. He noted:

A favourite Irish street song, this ballad appears to have been introduced into Scotland by Irish sheep herders during the 19th century. It has been collected widely throughout the English-speaking world, several versions having been recorded in Canada, the United States, and Australia. I learned this version from Hughie Graham of Galloway.

James Brown of New Brunswick, Canada, sang The Jolly Tinker to Sandy Paton and Dr Edward Ives in August 1962. This recording was included in 2000 on the Folk-Legacy album of archive material, Ballads and Songs of Tradition.

Ray and Archie Fisher sang Whiskey in the Jar on the 1963 Decca album Edinburgh Folk Festival Vol. 1. The liner notes said:

Another traditional Irish song sung here by Archie Fisher and his sister Ray. It is given a very rhythmic treatment of a type becoming increasingly popular and there is no doubt that many folk fans and clubs thrive on it.

Sarah Ogan Gunning of Bell County, Kentucky, sang Captain Devin on her 1965 Folk-Legacy album Girl of Constant Sorrow. Another recording of Captain Devin, made by Mark Wilson in Medford, Massachusetts, on 9 May 1974, was included in 2007 on the Musical Tradition of folk song of the Upper South, Meeting’s a Pleasure Volume 2. Archie Green noted on the first album:

Whiskey in the Jar (Laws L13A) is popular today among ‘revival’ singers in Ireland, England, and the United States. The good texts generally stern directly from Irish broadsides. Sarah’s text is significant because this ballad has been infrequently found in the Southern Highlands. Laws notes only a single recovery from West Virginia in 1908. To my knowledge, Sarah’s LP is the first available record to include this item by a southern traditional singer, although Folk-Legacy has a version from the Ozarks [Sporting Molly on Ozark Folksongs and Ballads sung by Max Hunter of Springfield, Missouri]. Sarah learned Captain Devin from her mother and quite naturally believes King’s Mountain to be in Clay County, Kentucky.

A particularly good footnote on one of Devin’s many cousins, Lovel the Robber (Laws L13B), was written by Phillips Barry for The New Green Mountain Songster..

and Mark Wilson noted on the Musical Traditions anthology:

This song, which seems to be more popular in North American tradition than in Britain, commenced its career as a mid-nineteenth century broadside, The Sporting Hero or Whiskey in the Jar. Additional American versions can be found on [Ballads and Songs of Tradition].

Oddly enough, through a descent through Irish revival groups like the Dubliners, the piece seems to have recently become a staple for heavy metal rock bands! These versions all stem from the Lomax/Warner rearrangement of a version originally sung by New Hampshire’s Lena Bourne Fish, a snippet of which appears on [Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still]. Sarah’s version came from her mother and another rendition appears on her Folk-Legacy recording.

Noel Murphy sang Whiskey in the Jar on the 1970 compilation of early Fontana recordings, Folk Favourites.

Bob Davenport sang Whiskey in the Jar in 1975 on his Topic album Down the Long Road. He noted:

[…] Wealthy Squire and Whiskey in the Jar I learnt from Séamus Ennis, for me the finest Irish piper, though another great piper, Willy Clancy, could be heard in Camden Town at that time, so you can get an idea of the standard of the Irish music in that district of northwest London.

Woodbine Lizzie sang Whiskey in the Jar live at The Theatre in the Forest, Grizedale, Cumbria, on 17 July 1981. The concert’s recording was released in the same year on their Fellside album A Night Out With Woodbine Lizzie.

John Roberts this Kilgarry Mountain on his 1989 album Songs From the Pubs of Ireland.

Roger McGuinn sang Whiskey in the Jar in 2001 on his Appleseed album Treasures From the Folk Den.

Sherburn, Bartley & Scott’s Last Night’s Fun sang Whiskey in the Jar on their 2003 CD Tempered.

Logic sang Whiskey in the Jar on their 2004 album Carrickfergus.

The Haar sang Whiskey in the Jar on their 2022 album Where Old Ghosts Meet. They noted:

This famous Irish traditional song is a dark, dire and desperate tale of betrayal. The Haar’s version of Whiskey in the Jar comes from a version from a broadside ballad published in Glasgow in 1871.


There’s Whiskey in the Jar in Irish Street Ballads

As I was going over the far fam’d Kerry mountain
I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was counting.
I first produced my pistil and then produced my rapier,
Saying, “Stand and deliver for you are my bold deceiver, O.”

Chorus (twice after each verse):
Whack fol the diddle, O,
Whack fol the diddle, O,
There’s whiskey in the jar.

He counted out his money and it made a pretty penny,
I put it in my pocket and I gave it to my Jenny.
She sighed and she swore that she never would betray me
But the devil take the women for they never can be easy.

I went unto my chamber all for to take a slumber,
I dreamt of gold and jewels and for sure it was no wonder.
But Jenny drew my charges and she filled them up with water
An’ she sent for Captain Farrell, to be ready for the slaughter.

And ’twas early in the morning before I rose to travel,
Up comes a band of footmen and likewise Captain Farrell;
I then produced my pistol, for she stole away my rapier
But I couldn’t shoot the water so a prisoner I was taken.

And if any one can aid me ’tis my brother in the army,
If I could learn his station, in Cork or in Killarney.
And if he’d come and join me we’d go roving in Kilkenny;
I’ll engage he’d treat me fairer than my darling sporting Jenny.

Lena Bourne Fish sings Gilgarrah Mountain

As I was a-goin’ over Gilgarrah Mountain
I met Colonel Pepper and his money he was counting.
I rattled my pistols and drew forth by saber,
“Stand and deliver! For I am a bold deceiver.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Mush-a-ring-um du-rum-da, whack fol de daddy-o,
Whack fol de daddy-o, There’s whiskey in the jar.

The shining golden coins did sure look bright and jolly,
I took the money home and gave it to my Molly.
She promised and vowed she never would deceive me,
But the divil’s in the women, and they never can be easy.

I returned to my cave in the Gilgarrah Mountain,
And left my sweetheart Molly the money a-counting.
As I was soundly sleeping, the divil sure may take her,
She fired off my pistols, and she loaded them with pepper.

She told Colonel Pepper where I was a-hiding,
And led them to my cave in the right early morning.
O Molly, you’ve deceived me, although I loved you dearly,
But you never cared for me, I can see it bright and clearly.

When I awakened between six and seven,
Guards were around me in numbers odd and even.
I flew to my pistols, but alas I was mistaken,
For I fired off my pistols, and a prisoner was taken.

They put me in jail, without judge or writing
For robbing Colonel Pepper on Gilgarrah Mountain.
But they didn’t take my fists, so I knocked the sentry down,
And I bade a long farewell to the jail in Sligo town.

Some take delight in fishing and bowling,
Others take delight in the carriages a-rolling,
But I take delight in the juice of the barley,
Courting pretty girls in the morning so early.

Sarah Ogan Gunning sings Captain Devin

I am a young sportsman and never yet been taunted,
I’ve always had money and plenty when I want it.
Courting these fair ladies, I know it was my folly
In my life I would adventure for you, my dearest Molly.

Chorus (after each verse):
With your mush-a-ring-a-row, and right to my loddy,
Right to my loddy, for there’s whiskey in the jar.

As I was going across King’s Mountain
I met Captain Devin, and his money he was counting.
First I pulled my pistol and then I pulled my saber,
Saying, “Stand and deliver! For I am your bold deceiver.”

I picked up his gold, feeling gay and jolly,
I picked up his gold, took it home to Loddy.
Told her all about it, thought she never would deceive me,
But the devil’s in the women and they never can be easy.

I went to Molly’s chamber for to take a slumber,
I went to Molly’s chamber, cold, wet and hungry.
I Laid down to take a nap, not thinking any matter.
She discharged both my pistols and filled them full of water.

Next morning very early, between six and seven,
There I was surrounded for killing Captain Devin.
Reached for my pistol but found I was mistaken,
For my pistol was discharged and a prisoner I was taken.