Leather Britches (Kenneth Peacock)

See also: The Old Leather Breeches
(Donagh MacDonagh)

At the sign of the mill on the road to Clonmel,
Patty Ackerty kept many sheep in;
Sold pig's meat and bread, kept a nice lodging bed
They liked 'round the country he lived in.

Oh him and his wife both struggled through life,
In the week Patty mended the ditches;
And on Sunday he dressed in a coat of his best,
But his pride was his old leather britches.

For twenty-one years it so do appears,
Those britches his father had runned in;
On the day that he died he to his bedside,
Called Patty his dutiful son in.

And advice then he gave ere he went to his grave,
He bid him take care of his riches;
He said, "It's no use to step into my shoes,
But I wish you'd pop into my britches."

Last winter the snow lay provisions so low,
When Patty was eat out completely;
The snow coming down, he could not go to town,
But the hunger so bothered him greatly.

One night as he lay a-dreaming away,
At the prill-dogs, their frills, and the witches;
He heard an uproar just outside the door,
And he crept to steal on his old britches.

Says Barry McGurke with a voice like a Turk
"Come Patty, come get us some eating."
Says big Andy More, "We'll burst open the door,
For this is no night to be waiting!"

Oh scarce had he spoke when in the door broke,
They gathered 'round Patty like leeches.
"By the good martial grog, if you don't give us prog,
We'll eat you clean out of your britches".

Oh Patty went red, he slipped into the bed,
That held Judy, his darling wife in;
'Twas there he agreed to get them a feed,
He slipped out and brought a big knife in.

He took up the waist of his britches with haste,
He cut out the buttons and stitches;
And he cut them in stripes, right away they were tripes,
And he boiled them his old leather britches.

And when they were stewed, on a dish they were threwed,
The boys they cried out, "Lord be thankèd!"
And Ackerty's wife was afraid of her life,
She thought it high time for to shank it.

Oh how they smiled when they thought Pat had boiled
Some beef and some mutton of the richest;
But little they knew it was leather burgoo
Was made out of Patty's old britches!

They walloped the stuff, says Andy, "It's tough!"
Says Patty, "You're no judge of mutton."
When Barry McGurke on the point of his fork,
He lift up a big ivory button.

Says Derby, "What's that? - sure, I thought it was fat."
Barry leaps to his feet and he screeches:
"By the good martial grog I was trying to shove
My teeth through the flap of his britches!"

'Twas well then for Pat he had gone out at that,
He fled when he found them all risin';
Says Barry, "Make haste, and go for the priest,
By the holy Saint Jackstone, I'm poisoned!"

For Patty's big joke they got up and broke
The table, the bowls and the dishes;
And from that very night they'd knock out your daylight,
If they caught you in old leather britches.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Paddy Hagerty's Leather Breeches published by W S Fortey (London) sometime between 1858 and 1885, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 11(2915) ....####

This variant was collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from Gordon Willis [1911-2001] of St John's, NL, and published as Leather Britches in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 1, pp.71-72, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Another variant was collected as The Old Leather Breeches by Donagh MacDonagh [1916-1968] for his program, Ireland Is Singing on Radio Eireann c.1940-1950.

Kenneth Peacock noted that this is one of the most amusing Irish comic ballads found in Newfoundland. Many locally-composed ditties have used this type of humour to good effect too. He also noted that a version of this ballad appears in Manus O'Conor's Irish Com-All-Ye's, NY, 1901

From Clonmel Tourism: Clonmel (Cluain Meala meaning Honey Meadow) - county town of Tipperary county, lies near the Irish south coast on the north bank of the River Suir. To the south of the town are the Comeragh Mountains. The town is a market town, with some industry (principally cider production), and is the center of a horse breeding and dog breeding area. Laurence Sterne, author of Tristram Shandy, was born in Clonmel in 1713. In 1815, the first regular passenger transport service between two Irish towns was established in Clonmel. An Italian immigrant named Charles Bianconi, a picture framer by trade, who had risen to prosperity and become mayor of the town, started a service of horse-drawn vehicles (Bianconi cars) between Clonmel and Cahir which later extended over the whole of southern Ireland.


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