Big Strong Man

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"Big Strong Man"
Language English
Genre Irish folk
Songwriter(s) Traditional

"Big Strong Man" or "My Brother Sylveste" is an English-language folk song, commonly associated with Ireland and performed by Irish bands. It's not known when the song was originally written, but the date might be reflected in the references to the "Jeffries-Johnson fight" of 1910, American boxer Jack Dempsey, who started boxing in 1914, and to the RMS Lusitania which was in service from 1907 to 1915. It's also not known who wrote it, or even if it came from Ireland or another country, but having "lived in a caravan" might indicate the main character is from the Irish Traveller community – a community renowned for its boxers, both bare knuckle and professional. The song was popular with Canadian soldiers in World War II.[1]

The song is about the singer's brother Sylveste, hyperbolically described as a man of legendary strength capable of extraordinary feats, such as swimming from New York to Italy,[1] drinking all the water in the sea, playing every instrument in a brass band, and averting the sinking of the Lusitania.[2]


Artists and groups who have recorded the song include:


  1. ^ a b Hopkins, Anthony (1979). Songs from the front and rear: Canadian servicemen's songs of the Second World War. Edmonton: Hurtig. ISBN 0888301723. OCLC 15905196. 
  2. ^ "Big Strong Man (My Brother Sylveste)". Brobdingnagian Bards. Retrieved 13 February 2013.