“Bounce Upon Bess”


The Irishman every night spends what he earns each day on Walker's "Bounce upon Bess." English porter and ale grow bad as they grow stale; this whisky improves with age. It's good in all weather. Give your sweetheart some and her heart will grow soft.


Croker-PopularSongs: "'Bounce upon Bess' seems to have been a cant term for strong whisky." Croker [explins the term by telling] a long story about a woman who had such strong liquor that "it knocked her down so flat, she couldn't stand after it." As in the song, the liquor was "Walker's best whisky.... The song is given from a manuscript copy, which has been in the Editor's possession upwards of twenty years [that is: before 1819]. Mr Walker was an eminent distiller in Cork." - BS

Despite Croker's improbable tale, my guess is that "Bounce upon Bess" is rhyming cant, perhaps inspired by hope of revenge upon Queen Elizabeth ("Bess"), during whose reign much of Ireland was conquered. The problem, with this theory, I admit, is that "Bess' does not rhyme with any term for strong drink that I can think of except for "Guinness." Which obviously doesn't fit very well here. - RBW

Cross references

  • cf. "The Priest and His Boots" (tune, according to Croker-PopularSongs)


  1. Croker-PopularSongs, pp. 86-88, "Bounce Upon Bess" (1 text)
  2. BI, CrPS086


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1839 (Croker-PopularSongs)
Keywords: drink nonballad