But perhaps the thing that the Irish are best known for, is their capacity to drink limitless quantities of whisky and other types of hard liquor. And probably the best known Irishmen world-wide are Johnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Michael Collins and Mr. Jameson.
While we're on the subject, the word "whiky" comes from the Irish Gaelic "uisce beatha", which means "the water of life". Now that shows us just how much the Irish cherish this amazing potion. Anyway, at the end of the 19th century, there was a fairly popular street ballad in Dublin.
It's about a builder's laborer from the same city by the name of Tim Finnegan, who was very fond of this same water of life. And one Monday, after a wonderful week-end, he felt awful. He had a mother and father of a hangover. But, being a builder's laborer, he still had to climb up that ladder with a stack full of bricks in his hands. So, to give himself courage, the poor man, he took a drop of the hard stuff. But when he got to the top of the ladder, he got a dizzy spell. He fell off, broke his skull. They say it's the drop that killed him...
So, they took him home and they had a wake for him. Now, mind this: that's not your everyday funeral parlour we're talking about. No, this was a traditional Irish wake. And let me tell you, that is a rare institution... An Irish wake is the most peculiar thing in the whole world. It starts off very respectably: little old ladies talking very quietly, all dressed up nicely... Talking about the corpse! How well he looked... They never saw him looking better... Which was probably true! They all seat down quetly drinking tea.
And later the men arrive and the heavy stuff comes in. Then things begin to degenerate and a thing like a wake turns into a party with lots of "uisce beatha", water of life. And also with lots fighting, drinking, dancing and everything. And by nightfall you have yourself a fantastic hoolie going. Now, James Joyce, the Irish writer I mentioned earlier, was familiar with this ballad and wrote a long, intrigueing, complicated book on the subject. For one thing, he was fascinated with the idea of having the water of life at a wake and also with the incident in the end with the whisky accidentally spilling on the corpse with hilarious results.
Now, if this description made you interested in any way, you can listen to this ballad by clicking right here: Finnegans Wake . However, if you're having a hard time following the lyrics, they are provided right here:
Tim Finnegan lived in Walkin' Street
A gentleman, Irishman, mighty odd;
Had a beautiful brogue both rich and sweet
To rise in the world he carried a hod.
Ye see, he had a sort of a tipplin' way
With a love for the liquor poor Tim was born
To help him on with his work each day
He'd a "drop of the cray-thur" every morn'.
Whack fol the darn oh, dance to your partner
Whirl the floor, your trotters shake;
Wasn't it the truth they told you
Lots of fun at Finnegan's wake!
One mornin' Tim got rather full
His head felt heavy, which made him shake;
He fell from the ladder and he broke his skull
And they carried him home his corpse to wake.
Rolled him up in a nice clean sheet
And laid him out upon the bed,
A gallon o' whiskey at his feet
And a barrel o' porter at his head.
His friends assembled at the wake
And Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch;
First she brought in tay and cake
Then pipes, tobacco and whiskey punch.
Biddy O'Brien began to cry:
"Such a nice clean corpse, did you ever see?"
"O Tim, mavourneen, why did you die?"
Arragh, hold your gob said Paddy McGhee!
Then Maggie O'Connor took up the job
"O Biddy," says she, "You're wrong, I'm sure"
Biddy she gave her a belt in the gob
And left her sprawlin' on the floor.
Then the war did soon engage
Woman to woman and man to man,
Shillelagh law was all the rage
And a row and a ruction soon began.
Then Mickey Maloney raised his head
When a noggin' o' whiskey flew at him,
It missed, and falling on the bed
The liquor scattered over Tim!
Tim revives! See how he raises!
Timothy risin' from the bed,
Says,"Whirl yer whiskey around like blazes
Thanum an Dhul! Do yee think I'm dead?"
I hope you liked this ballad and that you found it as funny as I did. If you want more, you can click the next ones and listen to two more suggestively named Irish songs on the same topic: Irish Drinking Song and Fuck You, I'm Drunk!