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Dinny the Piper

[ Roud 8147 ; Henry H29 ; Ballad Index PBB091 ; Mudcat 978 ; trad.]

Sam Henry’s Songs of the People

Andy M. Stewart sang Dinny the Piper in 1987 on his and Manus Lunny’s Green Linnet album Dublin Lady. He noted:

Dinny the Piper presents the listener with a wonderful farce of a story. Set in Ireland in the year 1798 against the background of martial law strictly enforced by the Hessians (mercenary soldiers), Dinny finds himself in breach of the curfew one night, with nowhere to sleep and a pair of dead man’s boots under his arm…

I learned this song from the singing of my good friend Bill Watkins, whose family comes from Limerick. It is followed by a solo on the uilleann pipes from Seán Óg Potts, as he plays a jig from Cúl Aodha, West Cork.


Andy M. Stewart sings Dinny the Piper

In the year ninety eight when our troubles were great
It was treason to be a milesian,
And the black whiskers said that we’d never forget
And our history shows there were Hessians.
In these troubled times, oh it was a great crime
And murder it never was riper,
Near the town of Glen Sheed not an acre from Meath
lived bold Dinny Byrkes the piper.

Neither wedding nor wake would be worth a shake
If Dinny was not first invited
For at squeezin’ the bags or emptyin’ the kegs
He astonished as well as delighted
But in these times Dinny could not earn a penny
Martial law had him stung like a viper
And it kept him within till the bones of his skin
Grinned through the rags of the piper.

Well one day it did dawn as Dinny crept home
Back from a fair at Lafangen
When what should he see from the branch of a tree
But the corpse of a Hessian there hangin’
Says Dinny, “These rougues have got boots—I’ve no brogues,”
He took hold of the boots with a gryper,
And the boots were so tight and he pulled with such might
Legs, boots and all came away with the piper.

Ah then Dinny did run for fear of bein’ hung
Till he came to Tim Halley’s cabin.
Says Tim from within, “I can’t let you in.
You’ll be shot if you’re caught out there rappin’.”
So he went to the shed where the cow was in bed,
He began with a wisp for to wipe her.
And they lay down together in seven foot of heather
And the cow took to huggin’ the piper.

Well the day it did dawn and Dinny did yawn
Then he stripped off the boots from the Hessian.
And the legs, by the law, he’s just left in the straw,
Then he slipped home with his new posessions.
Now breakfast bein’ done, Tim sent his young son
To get Dinny up like a lamplighter.
When the legs there he saw, he flew up like a jackdaw
And said, “Daddy, the cow’s ate the piper!”

“Ah bad luck to that baste, she’d no musical taste,
To eat such a jolly ould chanter.
A phadraig a mhic, take a lump of a stick,
Drive her off down the road and we’ll cant her.”
Well the neighbours were called, Mrs. Kennedy bawled,
She began for to humbug and gyper
And in sorrow they met and their whistles they whet
And like divvils lamented the piper.

Then the cow she was drove, a mile or two off
Till they came to a fair at Killaly,
And there she was sold for four guineas in gold
To the clerk of the parish, Sean Daly.
Then they went to the tent where the pennies were spent
(Tim bein’ a jolly ould swiper),
And who should be there playin’ “The Rakes of Kildare”,
Just your bold Dinny Byrnes, the piper.

Ah then Tim gave a jolt like a half-drunken colt
And he stares at the piper like a gamuck.
“I thought, by The Powers, for the last eight hours
You were playin’ in the ould cow’s stomach.”
Well when Dinny observed that the Hessians bein’ served
Began just to humbug and gyper
Oh in grandeur they met and their whistles they whet
And like divvils they danced ’round the piper.