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  • Writer's pictureSteve Crowther

The Irish Washerwoman performed by David Webb (harmonica)

The Irish Washerwoman, written around 1785, is a traditional jig known to have been played throughout Britain and Ireland and in North America. Although usually considered an Irish tune, some scholars claim that it is English in origin, derived from the seventeenth-century tune "Dargason". It has been recorded by The Dubliners, André Rieu with John Sheehan, and the Dutch group The Jumping Jewels It's the same tune as McBreen's heifer by Percy French.​

This jig was incorporated as the first movement of the Irish Suite, a collection of traditional tunes arranged for orchestra by American composer Leroy Anderson in 1946.

The song has been used in many movies, such as Christmas in Connecticut and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In the Little House on the Prairie Pa Ingalls plays the song on his fiddle, though not as well as this performance.

Also known as An Bhean Níocháin Éireannach, Corporal Casey, Do Virgins Taste Better? The Irish Woman, The Wash Woman and The Washing Woman

The Irish Washerwoman

When I was at home, I was merry and frisky,

My dad kept a pig and my mother sold whisky,

My uncle was rich, but never would by aisey

Till I was enlisted by Corporal Casey.

Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey,

My dear little Shelah, I thought would run crazy,

When I trudged away with tough Corporal Casey.

I marched from Kilkenny, and, as I was thinking.

On Shelah, my heart in my bosom was sinking,

But soon I was forced to look fresh as a daisy,

For fear of a drubbing from Corporal Casey.

Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey!

The devil go with him, I ne'er could be lazy,

He struck my shirts so, ould Corporal Casey.

We went into battle; I took the blows fairly.

That fell on my pate, but they bothered me rarely,

And who should the first be that dropped, why, and please ye,

It was my good friend, honest Corporal Casey.

Och! rub a dub, row de dow, Corporal Casey!

Thinks I you are quiet, and I shall be aisey,

So, eight years I fought without Corporal Casey.

And here it is recorded and performed by Dave Webb as part of his delightful Dave Folk Harmonica YouTube series: The Irish Washerwoman

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