Lanigan's Ball

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"Lanigan's Ball" (sometimes "Lannigan's Ball") is a popular traditional or folk Irish song which has been played throughout the world since at least the 1860s[1] and possibly much longer. Typically performed in a minor key, it generally is played in an upbeat style reminiscent of the party atmosphere in which the story that the lyrics portray unfolds.

In Alfred Perceval Graves book, Songs of Irish Wit and Humour, published in 1884, Lanigan's Ball is attributed to anon. In Folk Songs of the Catskills, edited by Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Studer, there is a reference to John Diprose's songster of 1865 attributing Lanigan's Ball to D. K. Gavan with music by John Candy. It also mentions that the tune was previously known as Hurry the Jug.

Meaning[edit]

The lyrics are about a party thrown by a hard working young man, Jeremy Lanigan, who has inherited a "farm and ten acres of ground" on the death of his father. The events occur in Athy, Co. Kildare, Ireland. Jeremy decides to have the party for friends and relations who supported and helped him out when he didn't have any resources: "friends and relations Who didn't forget him when come to the wall".

The lyrics of the song describe the people who attended the party and the food and drink that was available. In the chorus of the song, the narrator describes his time spent at "Brooks Academy" in Dublin learning to dance in preparation for the ball:

Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin,
Three long weeks to learn nothing at all,
Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin,
Learning new steps for Lanigan's Ball.

and

She stepped out and I stepped in again,
I stepped out and she stepped in again,
She stepped out and I stepped in again,
Learning new steps for Lanigan's Ball.

Later on in the evening, in one version "Miss Kerrigan" fainted and her "sweetheart Ned Morgan" got upset and started a fight. In another popular version, "young Terence McCarthy, He put his right leg through Miss Finerty's hoops" and that started the fight. The narrator says that he "got a lick from big Phelim McHugh". This fight, described in the song as "ructions", "put an end to Lanigan's Ball".

Lyrics[edit]

As with many traditional songs, the lyrics vary depending on the performer. This version is from here

In the town of Athy one Jeremy Lanigan
Battered away till he hadn't a pound
And his father he died and made him a man again,
Left him a farm and ten acres of ground
He gave a grand party to friends and relations
Who did not forget him when come to the wall
If you'd only listen, I'll make your eyes glisten
At the rows and ructions of Lanigan's Ball
Myself to be sure got free invitations
For all the nice girls and boys I might ask
In less than a minute both friends and relations
We're dancing as merry as bees round a cask
Lashing of punch and wine for the ladies
Potatoes, cakes, there was bacon and tea
There were the Nolans, Dolans, O'Gradys
Courting the girls and dancing away
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Six long months doing nothing at all
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
They were doing all kinds of nonsensical polkas
Round the room in a whirly gig
But Julia and I soon banished their nonsense
And tipped them a twist of a real Irish jig
Oh how the girl she really got mad and we
Danced that you'd think that the ceiling would fall
For I spent three weeks at Brooks Academy
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Six long months doing nothing at all
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
And I stepped out – and I stepped in again
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
The boys were as merry, the girls all hearty
Dancing around in couples and groups
Till an accident happened, young Terence McCarthy
He put his right leg through Miss Finerty's hoops
The creature she fainted and cried "Meelia Murther"
And called for her brothers and gathered them all
Carmody swore that he'd go no further,
Till he had satisfaction at Lanigan's ball
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Six long months doing nothing at all
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
Boys, oh boys, tis there was ructions
Myself got a kick from big Phelim McHugh
And I soon replied to his kind introduction
And kicked him a terrible hullabaloo
Casey the piper was nearly being strangled
They squeezed up his pipes, bellows, chanters and all
And the girls in their ribbons they all got entangled
And that put an end to Lanigan's ball
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Six long months doing nothing at all
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball
And I stepped out – and I stepped in again
Learning to dance for Lanigan's ball

Recordings and Cover Versions[edit]

This song has been covered by many artists. The Bards had a huge hit with it in Ireland in 1980. Christy Moore recorded it on his LP The Time Has Come in 1983, re-released on CD in 2007.

A version of this song was recorded by the American celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys on their sixth studio album, The Meanest of Times. The title was changed to "(F)lannigan's Ball", and the lyrics have been significantly altered, although the subject matter of the song remains the same. Jump, Little Children performs another popular version of this song with most of the lyrics retained. The Celtic fusion band Enter the Haggis also recorded this song on their album Aerials with its traditional lyrics. New York rock band the Jim C Experience did a version of the song entitled "Glennigan's Ball". The German band Fiddler's Green recorded it in 1995 for the Album "King Shepherd". LeperKhanz recorded a version of the song on the album "Tiocfaidh Ar La". David Kincaid, on his album "The Irish American's Song", the second volume of his Irish-American Civil War songs, does a version called "The President's Ball". Without Question, from Rochester, NY, covered the song on their EP "Without Question".

A parody version by Frank Kelly called "Charlie Stepped In" lampooned the Arms Trial and the political instability of 1970's and early 1980's Ireland.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Parr, L.L. (1864). Lanigan's ball. New York: D. S. Holmes. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  2. ^ http://rockroots.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/frank-kelly-charlie-stepped-in/

Bibliography[edit]

  • Alfred Perceval Graves: Songs of Irish wit and humour. Chatto & Windus, 1884.
  • Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht, Norman Studer (eds.): Folk Songs of the Catskills. SUNY Press, 1982, p. 601.

External links[edit]