The Irish Washerwoman

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The Irish Washerwoman is a traditional Irish jig whose melody is familiar to many people in the British Isles and North America.[1] It repeats its refrain several times, sometimes by gradually increasing in tempo until being played very fast before coming to a sudden stop. The tune has lyrics, but is typically rendered as an instrumental. It is one of the melodies played when Scottish highland dancers dance a Scottish dance to the tune of an Irish Jig.

The song was arranged for the Boston Pops Orchestra by the American composer Leroy Anderson in 1947 and has featured in the repertoire of the Dutch violinist and composer André Rieu, conductor of the Johann Strauss Orchestra.

The title of the 2014 Irish feature-length film The Old Irish Washerwoman is a reference to the jig.[citation needed]

Adaptations and parodies[edit]

The melody was the basis for Larry Williams' R&B song "You Bug Me Baby", written by Sonny Bono and released as the B-side to the single "Bony Moronie".

A simplified version of the melody appears in John Playford's 1651 instructional book The Dancing Master as the dance tune "The Dargason," which Gustav Holst used as a theme in his Second Suite in F for Military Band and in the fourth and final movement of his St. Paul's Suite.

A folk-style parody called "The Chemist's Drinking Song" is set to this tune with lyrics by John A. Carroll, who took inspiration from a fictional scenario narrated by Isaac Asimov.

"A Prairie Home Companion" guitarist Pat Donohue wrote a parody set to this tune, titled "The Irish Blues," and featured on his 2011 album Nobody's Fault. His lyrics reveal the morning-after consequences of spending the night before in concerted Irish celebration.


  1. ^ Cairns, Archie. 1995. Book 1 Pipe Music – The Irish Washerwoman's Jig.

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