Tune of the Day: Nell Flaherty's Drake
This melody is best known as the vehicle for a humorous and much-anthologized song dating from the mid-19th century:
My name it is Nell, quite candid I tell,
And I live near Coothill I will never deny,
I had a large drake, the truth for to speak,
That my grandmother left me and she going to die.
He was wholesome and sound he'd weigh twenty pound,
The universe round I'd rove for his sake;
Bad wind to the robber, be him drunk or sober,
That murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful Drake.
According to a commentary on the website of the National Library of Scotland,
The drake of the title is believed to be a coded reference to Robert Emmet (1778–1803), who helped to plan and led an uprising against British rule in Dublin in 1803. The uprising went wrong after an explosion at an arms depot, and Emmet was captured and hanged for his part in the uprising and the assassination of the Lord Chief Justice. Nell Flaherty represents Emmet's fiancée, Sarah Curran, (1782–1808). The author curses those (i.e. the British authorities) who killed Nell Flaherty's drake and urges the readers to keep up the fight. Irish Home Rule was a volatile subject in Britain in the nineteenth as well as the twentieth century, hence the coding in this song.