USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Limerick’
Folk speech
Humor

Irish Limerick

My informant, an Irish-American male, grew up immersed in Irish culture. He was excited to share his Limericks with me — especially because sharing stories and poems is an important part of Irish social culture. I collected this Limerick (which he learned from his father) from him while we sat on his couch:

 

Killian: “There once was a man Paul,

Who went to a fancy dress ball;

He thought he would risk it,

and went as a biscuit .

And was eaten by a dog in the hall.”

 

Me: “Why did you share this particular Limerick?”

 

Killian: “I like this one because it’s funny — it’s just so stupid! [He chuckles] It’s my comedy!”

 

Me: “Any other reasons or significance?”

 

Killian: “I say it a lot sometimes. Oh! My dad’s name is Paul, so whenever we shared this, it would be, like, a little funnier.”

 

I asked my informant for more context of the piece, and he told me that sharing Limericks and stories is a component of Irish parties. The parties are called ‘singsongs.’ People get together and share stories, limericks, songs, and play traditional Irish instruments. Usually, everyone knows how to play every instrument and knows every song, so they usually happen spur of the moment — “and drunk. But that goes without saying.”

Analysis:

My informant has told me on many occasions that he is good at coming up with Limericks. He often jokes that it’s ‘in his blood’ because of his Irish heritage. He especially likes to share them when he is having fun with this friends, which replicates the tradition of Irish singsongs. My favorite part of collecting this piece, though, was seeing his passion as he performed the poem.

 

Folk speech
general
Legends

Irish Poem

Informant:

Terry is a second generation Irish american who grew up in los Angeles in the ‘60s and 70’s. He is now a dentist working and living in the Bay area.

Piece:

Informant: “There is this poem that my uncle told me back in 1970 when I was 10 years old. My parents sent me to Ireland to live with my cousins for the whole summer. I had never met any of these people before, but knew them through the stories my dad told me about all of them. But one night my uncle Paddy drove me to the Bridge at King John’s Castle in limerick… you know the one we’ve been to before. And he told me that this bridge was where the Banshee would come out late at night if you were walking alone. And then out of nowhere he started rattling off this old irish poem about the banshee called “Drunken Thady and the Bishop’s Lady” and it was a long long poem that took about twenty minutes to say. I was amazed that he had remembered all of it and then we got back in the care and drove back to the house in Janesboro. Then the rest of the summer I tried to memorize the poem just by hearing it over and over so I could tell my dad when I got back home to Los Angeles, but I was never able to remember the entire thing.

Collector: Do you remember any of the poem?

Informant: ughhh oh boy lets see

Before the famed year Ninety-eight,

In blood stamped Ireland’s wayward fate;

When laws of death and transportation

Were served, like banquets, throughout the nation

But let it pass the tale I dwell on

Has not to do with red rebellion.

 

Uhhhhh and then there is another part at some point that goes

 

There lived and died in Limerick City,

a dame of fame oh what a pity

that dames of fame should live and die

and never learn for what, or why!

That’s all I can remember.

 

 

Collector’s thoughts:

I find it amazing that the informant could remember even the slightest bit of this poem despite having half learned it more than 40 years ago. Being sent at such a young age to stay with Irish relatives reveals how, despite living in the US, his parents and family still valued their Irish heritage and culture. For a full version of the poem see:

http://www.limerickcity.ie/media/drunken%20thady.pdf

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