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Whiskey You’re the Devil

[ Roud 21715 ; Ballad Index RcWYTD ; DT WHISKDEV ; Mudcat 105491 ; trad.]

Karl Dallas: The Cruel Wars

Liam Clancy sang Whisky You’re the Devil in 1956 on the Tradition anthology of folk songs and dances from the Irish countryside, The Lark in the Morning. The Clancy Brothers with Louis Killen sang Whiskey You’re the Devil in 1973 on their Vanguard album Greatest Hits.

Len Graham sang The Whiskey Song, accompanied by Fintan McManus, in 1984 on his Claddagh album Ye Lovers All. The chorus is from Whisky, You’re a Villain but the verses are different. He noted:

This is a rollicking song about our national beverage—it is another given to me by Fintan’s mother, Rose McManus.

Robin Laing sang Whisky You’re the Devil in 1997 on his Greentrax album The Angels’ Share. He noted quite snobbish:

The Irish have a wealth of songs about whisky, though many of them sing the praise of poteen—a dreadful raw spirit—not really whisky at all. The few single malts they produce are not bad, if you can’t get Scotch!

Bella Hardy sang Whisky You’re the Devil in 2013 on her CD Battleplan. It was also released on her single Three Pieces of My Heart, and was included in 2019 on her best-of anthology Postcards & Pocketbooks. It was also included on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014 anthology when she won the Folk Singer of the Year award. Bella noted on the first album:

I first came across this in a songbook called The Cruel Wars (Karl Dallas, 1972, Wolfe Publishing Ltd). It’s often credited to Jerry Barrington, who published the song in 1873 in New York, but it seems there’s a publication in 1868 of a very similar set of words for Whisky, You’re a Villyan, sung by Frank Drew of Philadelphia. It shares some lyrics with Love Farewell which I’ve heard sung by Eliza Carthy, lyrics which can also be found in the ballad John and Moll. I’ve re-written the tune and most of the verses, and unashamedly girlified it.

Fara sang Whisky You’re the Devil on their 2016 album Cross the Line. They noted:

Well, we had to get our national drink in here somewhere! This is a traditional song which has adopted various guises over the years. You can hear it being sung by an array of artists including The Pogues. Our version is a mix of the original, plus several verses with lyrics by Derbyshire folk singer, Bella Hardy.

Ella Munro sang Whiskey, You’re the Devil on her 2018 EP The Final Trawl.


The Clancy Brothers sing Whiskey You’re the Devil

Chorus (after each verse):
Whiskey you’re the divil, you’re leading me astray,
Over hills and mountains and to Amerikay.
You’re sweeter, stronger, decenter,
You’re spunkier nor tay.
Oh whiskey you’re me darlin’, drunk or sober.

Oh, now brave boys we’re on for marching off to Portugal and Spain,
Drums are beating, banners flying.
The divil a home we’ll have tonight,
Love fare thee well.
With me tiddery idle loodle lum a da,
Me tiddery idle loodle lum a da,
Me right fol torral addee o,
There’s whiskey in the jar.

Said the mother, “Do not wrong me,
Don’t take me daughter from me.
For if you do I will torment you
And after death me ghost will haunt you.”
Love fare thee well …

Now the French are fightin’ boldly,
Men are dying hot and coldly.
Give every man his flask of powder,
His firelock on his shoulder,
Love fare thee well …

Len Graham sings The Whiskey Song

Oh whiskey, oh whiskey you’ve led me astray,
Over hedges and ditches and briars far axvay.
If I rattled you I’d fall, but I own you won the day.
I ’ll meet you on some other early morning.

As John walked o’er the floor to his mother he did say,
“Oh mother dearest mother,” aye and this to her did say,
“Will you loan me a few shillings before I go away?
And I’ll pay you when I come back in the morning.”

“To loan you a few shillings it’s a thing I don’t intend,
I never used the means that I ought to have done in time,
And to loan you a few shillings, sure you know they are but few,
I need them for the grocer in the morning.”


“Throw your coat around your shoulders and come along with me.
We’lljoin for a pint and we’ll have ourselves a spree,
And when my money is all spent you’ll buy a pint for me,
And we’ll all be in good humour in the morning.”

On looking o’er my shoulder and to my great surprise,
The old lady with the pot-stick, at me she made a rise.
I jumped out of her road right manfully and this to her did say,
“It’s a fine excuse for stopping out til morning!”

Of all the good in whiskey that ever yet was known,
It makes the girls so frisky and good about their own,
The more that they drink of it sure the less they think of home.
I long to see my darling in the morning.


Bella Hardy sings Whisky You’re the Devil

Oh now brave boys, you’re marching off to foreign wars
Drums a’ beating, banners flying
The Devil, tonight my home you’ll see
Love fare thee well

Chorus (after each verse):
Oh, whisky you’re the devil, you’re leading me astray
Over hills and mountains and to Americay
You’re sweeter, stronger, decenter than any man my way
Whisky you’re my darling drunk or sober

If you’ve no taste for whisky, let wormwood steal your soul
If you’re looking for false hearted girls
The Devil, tonight my home you’ll see
Love fare thee well

The sea’s too full of witchcraft, you’ll sooner sink than swim
But if you reach the furthest shore
The Devil, tonight my home you’ll see
Love fare thee well

They say new friends are silver, and old friends they are gold
But when your friends have drunk you dry
The Devil, tonight my home you’ll see
Love fare thee well