WHISKEY IN THE JAR
“Whiskey In the Jar” is a famous Irish traditional song about a highwayman (usually in
the Cork and Kerry mountains), who is betrayed by his wife or lover. The song’s exact
origins are unknown. In the book “The Folk Songs of North America”, folk music
historian Alan Lomax suggests that the song originated in the 17th century, and (based on
plot similarities) that John Gay‘s 1728 “The Beggar’s Opera”and was inspired by Gay
hearing an Irish ballad-monger singing Whiskey in the Jar.
In regard to the history of the song, Lomax states, “The folk of seventeenth century
Britain liked and admired their local highwaymen; and in Ireland (or Scotland) where the
gentlemen of the roads robbed English landlords, they were regarded as national patriots.
Such feelings inspired this rollicking ballad. At some point, the song came to the United
States and was a favorite in Colonial America because of its irreverent attitude towards
British officials. The American versions are sometimes set in America and deal with
American characters. One such version, from Massachusetts, is about Alan McCollister,
an Irish-American soldier who is sentenced to death by hanging for robbing British
officials. The song has been recorded by folk groups such as The Dubliners, The Pogues,
Peter, Paul and Mary, The Seekers, The Highwaymen, Roger Whittaker, the Clancy
Brothers and Tommy Makem and The Irish Rovers.
As I was going over the far famed Kerry mountains
I met with captain Farrell and his money he was counting.
I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier.
Said stand and deliver, for I am a bold deceiver,
musha ring dumma do damma da
whack for the daddy ‘ol
whack for the daddy ‘ol
there’s whiskey in the jar
I counted out his money, and it made a pretty penny.
I put it in my pocket and I took it home to Jenny.
She said and she swore, that she never would deceive me,
but the devil take the women, for they never can be easy
I went into my chamber, all for to take a slumber,
I dreamt of gold and jewels and for sure it was no wonder.
But Jenny took my charges and she filled them up with water,
Then sent for captain Farrel to be ready for the slaughter.
It was early in the morning, as I rose up for travel,
The guards were all around me and likewise captain Farrel.
I first produced my pistol, for she stole away my rapier,
But I couldn’t shoot the water so a prisoner I was taken.