An Adirondack-Irish Drinking Song

You can’t get more Irish than Irishtown, a hamlet in the town of Minerva—which was, coincidentally, incorporated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1817. In the late-19th-century, the heart of that Kelly green community was Patrick Ratigan’s “stopping place,” a combination restaurant, hotel and pub favored by lumbermen. Ratigan’s was even immortalized in song, with a boisterous ballad called “The Irishtown Crew”:

On the first day of April, I’ll never forget,
The Irishtown fellows at Ratigans met.
They filled up their glasses and swore solemnly
That that very night they’d go out on a spree.

They were always good fellows as ever you’d see.
They were sons of old grandeur from over the sea,
From the land of shillelagh their forefathers came,
And if you will listen I’ll mention their names.

[chorus] Singing folderol laddy, folderol laddy, folderol laddy, the Irishtown Crew.

There was Holland and Isaac and Blutcher and Breen,
And one McInerny that drove the grey team.
There was Letty and William and Patty and Joe,
And one Mikey Connors who lived down below.

There was one Nelson Burteau a dear friend of mine,
That used to go courtin’ with Black Angeline.
And Tucker the mason who plastered the wall,
And one Petey Mitchell, the pride of them all. Chorus.

They filled themselves up on Ratigan’s beer,
Then to the Corners they quickly did steer.
Resolved before morning to finish their spree,
And spend a few hours with young Tommy Mea.

But arriving at Gibney’s they met more of the boys.
There was Early and Duffy and Jimmy McCoy,
With Yankee and Neilly and Cub and Tom Flynn,
Joe Burteau, Pete Linsey and young Danny Lynn. Chorus.

The money was plenty and the drinks they went round,
and glass after glass of the spirits went down.
Till in two hours’ time not one man was right,
but drunk as a fiddler and wanted to fight.

Old Tucker, to the kitchen, his way he did make
Where sat Wallace Plumley, all the way from Long Lake.
Says Gibney, “I’ll have you my house to respect,
For this gentleman’s here, my house to protect.” Chorus.

“I don’t care for your house, I’d have you to know,
Nor this Long Lake pup that you’ve got for a show.”
And Plumley, he quickly jumped up on the floor.
And Tucker, he knocked him right out of the door.

Plumley jumped up and he ran like a pup.
You could see not his coattails for the dust he kicked up,
Saying “I was in the right church, but in the wrong pew,
For the devil himself couldn’t match such a crew.” Chorus.

Gibney, he bolted and barred up his shop
And for love nor money, he’d sell not a drop,
Saying “You’re all drunk now and can’t have no more,”
When bang went the panels right out of the door.

Then Gibney walked out with revolver in hand
Saying “Who broke my door? Just show me the man,
For to hell or to heaven, I’ll send his soul.”
As a shower of rocks sent him back to his hole. Chorus.

Some built a bonfire to keep themselves warm
And some they crawled over to Butler’s barn.
Some under Sullivan’s shed went to sleep,
And more were so drunk they laid out in the street.

So to conclude and finish my song,
Here’s health to you Ratigan, may you live long.
But to hell with you Gibney, you’re blind and can’t see.
You never will thumb out more whiskey for me. Chorus.

Listen to a clip of the popular drinking ditty here, performed by folk musician and town of Minerva native Dan Berggren at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake. Berggren explains: “A note about Gibney ‘thumbing out’ whiskey: the story goes that the blind bartender placed his thumb inside each glass as he measured out the beverage.”

For a full pot of Adirondack folk music gold, see W is for the Woods, a musical treasure trove by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York.

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