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Down by the Liffeyside

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Old Dublin: George street

Peadar Kearney (1883-1942), a famous Irish nationalist who wrote many popular songs, penned the lyrics of this irish street song “Down by the Liffeyside”, on the traditional tune “Down by the Tanyard Side”: he describes two sweethearts of the working class in the Dubin of 1920s, that are spending their Sunday to walk along the banks of the Liffey, the river that crosses the city of Dublin from West to East. The belle of the song is a street musician who entertains passers-by with patriotic songs with her melodeon.

Precisely for this reason, the reference to the struggle for united Ireland was a popular song in the folk circuit of the 60s and 70s.

Dominic Behan – from Down By The Liffeyside 1959
Dominic is the nephew of Peader Kearney and he learned the song directly from his uncle in the 40s.


Wolfe tones

Pecker Dunne

‘Twas down by Anna Liffey (1), my love and I did stray
Where in the good old slushy mud the sea gulls sport and play
We got the whiff of ray(2) and chips and Mary softly sighed,
“Oh John, come on for a wan and wan (3)
Down by the Liffeyside.”
Then down along by George’s street the loving pairs to view
While Mary swanked it like a queen in a skirt of royal blue (4);
Her hat was lately turned and her blouse was newly dyed,
Oh you could not match her round the block,
Down by the Liffeyside
And on her old melodeon how sweetly could she play.;
“Good-by-ee” and “Don’t sigh-ee” and “Rule Brittanni-ay”
But when she turned Sinn Feiner(5) me heart near burst with pride,
To hear her sing the “Soldier’s Song(6)”,
Down by the Liffeyside
On Sunday morning to Meath street (7) together we will go,
And it’s up to Father Murphy we both will make our vow
We’ll join our hands in wedlock bands (8) and we’ll be soon outside
For a whole afternoon, for our honeymoon (9),
Down by the Liffeyside

1)  The Liffey is also known as the Anna Liffey, possibly because of the Irish for “River Liffey” – Abhainn na Life which sounds like “Anna Liffey” in English, Anna Livia statue  (Floozie in the Jacuzzi)-the river  represented as a young woman sitting on a slope with water flowing past her- is  in the Croppies Memorial Park next to the Liffey, near Heuston station

2) today the fishis are cod, haddock (an Atlantic fish similar to cod) and plaice. Already known in the days of Dickens, who included it in his most famous work, “Oliver Twist” (1838), some argue that it was some Italian immigrants who introduced this fryed food into the eating habits of the British and Irish, according to others instead it was the Spaniards.
3) wan and wan= one and one, this phrase (meaning “one of this, one of the other”) entered the vernacular in Dublin as “one and one”, which is still a common way of referring to fish and chips in the city
4) Royal blue is both a bright shade and a dark shade of azure blue. Traditionally, dictionaries define royal blue as a deep to dark blue, often with a purple or faint reddish tinge
5)  Sinn Féin is a left-wing Irish republican political party active in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
6) Soldier’s Song  (Amhrán na bhFiann)  is the Irish national anthem
7) The Liberties is an area in central Dublin,  located in the southwest of the inner city, between the St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinnes Storehouse where the church of St. Catherine is located
8)The two promised exchanged vows to take as husband and wife, sealing them with a ring or a token of love. Handfasting was practiced in Ireland and Scotland in the past: the wrists of the couple were tied together with a long ribbon (wedlock’s band) see
9)  Phoenix Park , to consume their marriage between some bushes

Easy and Slow vs I Tuck’d Up My Sleeves


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