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Updated 12/05/2014


Lanigan's Ball

Lanigan's Ball (or Lannigan's Ball) is a popular traditional or folk Irish song which has been played throughout the world since at least the 1860s and possibly much longer.  In Alfred Perceval Graves book, Songs of Irish Wit and Humour, published in 1884, Lanigan's Ball is attributed to anon. In Folk Songs of the Catskills, edited by Norman Cazden, Herbert Haufrecht and Norman Studer, there is a reference to John Diprose's songster of 1865 attributing Lanigan's Ball to D. K. Gavan with music by John Candy. It also mentions that the tune was previously known as Hurry the Jug.


The lyrics are about a party thrown by a hard working young man, Jeremy Lanigan, who has inherited a "farm and ten acres of ground" on the death of his father. The events occur in Athy, Co. Kildare, Ireland. Jeremy decides to have the party for friends and relations who supported and helped him out when he didn't have any resources: "friends and relations Who didn't forget him when come to the wall".


The lyrics of the song describe the people who attended the party and the food and drink that was available. In the chorus of the song, the narrator describes his time spent at "Brooks Academy" in Dublin learning to dance in preparation for the ball.

Later on in the evening, in one version "Miss Kerrigan" fainted and her "sweetheart Ned Morgan" got upset and started a fight. In another popular version, "young Terence McCarthy, He put his right leg through Miss Finerty's hoops" and that started the fight. The narrator says that he "got a lick from big Phelim McHugh". This fight, described in the song as "ructions", "put an end to Lanigan's Ball".

As with many traditional songs, the lyrics vary depending on the performer.  Here is but one:


In the town of Athy one Jeremy Lanigan
Battered away 'til he hadn't a pound.
His father died and made him a man again
Left him a farm and ten acres of ground.
He gave a grand party for friends and relations
Who didn't forget him when come to the wall,
And if you'll but listen I'll make your eyes glisten
Of the rows and the ructions of Lanigan's Ball.
Myself to be sure got free invitation,
For all the nice girls and boys I might ask,
And just in a minute both friends and relations
Were dancing 'round merry as bees 'round a cask.
Judy O'Daly, that nice little milliner,
She tipped me a wink for to give her a call,
And I soon arrived with Peggy McGilligan
Just in time for Lanigan's Ball.
There were lashings of punch and wine for the ladies,
Potatoes and cakes; there was bacon and tea,
There were the Nolans, Dolans, O'Gradys
Courting the girls and dancing away.
Songs they went 'round as plenty as water,
"The harp that once sounded in Tara's old hall,"
"Sweet Nelly Gray" and "The Rat Catcher's Daughter,"
All singing together at Lanigan's Ball.
They were doing all kinds of nonsensical polkas
All 'round the room in a whirligig.
Julia and I, we banished their nonsense
And tipped them the twist of a reel and a jig.
+'Och mavrone, how the girls got all mad at me
Danced 'til you'd think the ceiling would fall.
For I spent three weeks at Brooks' Academy
Learning new steps for Lanigan's Ball.
Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin,
Three long weeks to learn nothing at all,
Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin,
Learning new steps for Lanigan's Ball.
She stepped out and I stepped in again,
I stepped out and she stepped in again,
She stepped out and I stepped in again,
Learning new steps for Lanigan's Ball.
Boys were all merry and the girls they were hearty
And danced all around in couples and groups,
'Til an accident happened, young Terrance McCarthy
Put his right leg through miss Finnerty's hoops.
Poor creature fainted and cried, ``Meelia murther,''
Called for her brothers and gathered them all.
Carmody swore that he'd go no further
'Til he had satisfaction at Lanigan's Ball.
In the midst of the row miss Kerrigan fainted,
Her cheeks at the same time as red as a rose.
Some of the lads declared she was painted,
She took a small drop too much, I suppose.
Her sweetheart, Ned Morgan, so powerful and able,
When he saw his fair colleen stretched out by the wall,
Tore the left leg from under the table
And smashed all the Chaneys at Lanigan's Ball.
Boys, oh boys, 'twas then there were runctions.
Myself got a lick from big Phelim McHugh.
I soon replied to his introduction
And kicked up a terrible hullabaloo.
Old Casey, the piper, was near being strangled.
They squeezed up his pipes, bellows, chanters and all.
The girls, in their ribbons, they got all entangled
And that put an end to Lanigan's Ball.