While the Irish have a song or two about whiskey, some tend to crop up even more than the others. My Australian aunt, has told me about her Irish uncles who use to sing quite bawdy songs when she was quite young. Her aunts would be continually trying to either push her out of the room or shush their husbands. She said it was pretty funny. I wish she would post some of the pictures of her youth on her Facebook page for me to see. Even though I live in the US, it’s great how it is so easy to stay in touch via Facebook. Perhaps I’ll just message her a request for pictures of her youth. If she were to start a historical family album on her Facebook page, I would get other relatives to contribute. I wonder if any of my Irish relatives know these types of songs. It would be hilarious to make videos of them singing and then posting the videos on YouTube.
Such is the case with the seemingly-rollicking “Whiskey You’re the Devil” which is a bit less temperance-minded than the title would have you believe. In fact, the line “Whiskey you’re my darlin’ drunk or sober” ends each chorus.
However, in between these odes, there’s also a bit of unpleasantness. The lyrics actually deal with war for a few verses, saying things like “men are dying hot and coldly”. Then there’s also this distressing glimpse:
“Says the old wan do not wrong me
don’t take me daughter from me
for if you do I will torment you
when I’m dead my ghost will haunt you”
Liam Clancy of The Clancy Brothers has only this to say:
“There’s only one song in here we can really claim we learned at mother’s knee, that’s Whiskey, You’re the Devil. My mother’s family owned a pub in Carrick-on-Suir which was the source of many a good song. She says that her mother used whiskey in a multitude of ways, such as rubbing it on the chest for a cough or giving it with hot water for a cold. The word ‘whiskey’ actually comes from the Gaelic, “uisce beathadh,” which means ‘water of life.’ “
Well, not exactly illuminating in the way that we were hoping, but some very good color and a bit of essential info about whiskey in general. Thanks Liam!