The Irish Alternative National Anthem

March 18, 2010

Today my good friend Malachy O’Neill sent this clip my way of Tom Lenihan of Milton Malbay, Co. Clare (1905-1990) singing what Malachy calls the ‘alternative’ national anthem of Ireland. While a student Malachy dug up a 1978 Topic LP from the local library of Lenihan and it quickly became a family favorite.
I felt this song, about poteen (Irish moonshine), to be an appropriate post-St. Patrick’s!

The lyrics are brilliant (more verses are to be had on the actual youtube page of the video):

“Let your quacks and newspapers be cuttin’ their capers
And curing the vapors the scratch and the gout
With their medical [magical] potions, their pills [serums] and their lotions
Upholding their notions, they’re mighty put out.

Who [You] can tell the true physic of all things prophetic [pathetic]
And pitch to the divil, cramp, colic and spleen
You’ll know it I think if you take a big drink
With your mouth to the brink of a jug of poteen

So stick to the cratur’ the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh what moderation gives hope to a nation
Or brings consolation like poteen me boys.
[Oh what botheration, no dose in the nation
Can give consolation like poteen me boys. ]

Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipes and fiddle
What’s hotter than mustard and milder [wilder] than cream
What best wets your whistle, what’s clearer than crystal
What’s sweeter than honey and stronger than steam

What’ll make the lame walk, what will make the dumb talk,
The elixir of life and philosopher’s stone
And what helped Mr. Brunel to dig the Thames Tunnel
Wasn’t it poteen from ould Inishowen

So stick to the cratur’ the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh lord, it’s no wonder, if lightning and thunder
Weren’t made from the plunder of poteen me boys.”

March 19th Addition:
I don’t normally post my own stuff on this blog but Lenihan’s beautiful diddy inspired me this morning to come up with this short little guitar instrumental:

Poteen – Cory Seznec

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3 Responses to “The Irish Alternative National Anthem”

  1. Malachy Says:

    Thanks Cory! A well-deserved nod to the much unsung Mr Lenihan.

    Incidentally, ‘cratur’ is a rural irish dialect version of ‘creature’, used indiscriminately and often to refer to people and things. It was popular a generation or two back, particularly with my great aunt Bridie in Tipperary. On a visit to her house as kids my sisters and I counted 80-something instances in about 5 minutes of conversation.

    Incidental to the incidentals, there’s also Edmund Lenihan (no relation I think). He was a storyteller (shanachie or seanchai in Irish), popular on kids tv in the 70s and 80s…

  2. Turlough Says:

    Thanks for this – I have a copy of said record – it is a gem. The record was put together by Tom Munnelly – a great Dublin Folklorist & collector of songs.

    Incidentally, the other Lenehin is still telling great stories – he visited my school when I was a child – another great teller. http://www.clarechampion.ie/images/stories/News/030510/poetry-reading.jpg

    Small spell check: it is Miltown Malbay

  3. cocoringo Says:

    Thanks Turlough!


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