“Drihaureen O Mo Chree (Little Brother of My Heart)”


The singer's brother "is gone to the wars now proud England united with France" and is killed on the battlefield. "The dark narrow grave is the only sad refuge for me Since I lost my heart's darling, my driharin o mo croi"


NFABest01: Best says "As far as I can make out Driharin O Mo Chroi means 'little brother of my heart' in the Irish language. Tom [Antle] pronounced it 'Dreery o Machree.'" The broadside version's differences from Best's version are best illustrated by a LONG DESCRIPTION of the broadside:

"I am a young fellow that always lov'd rural sport" in Erin's towns and cities "until I was deprived of my Dreearian O'Machree." My brother was pressed and taken or killed in battle. We used to ramble and work together. Our father and mother are dead. I wish to be sent where my brother is and "like a true loyal brother I'd fight for him manfully Or die in the arms of my sweet Dreearian O'Machree."

The broadside ends with a riddle:

The name of a nymph that Jupiter did admire

The head and tail of a fowl you must inquire

The name of a beast exchang'd in a letter or three

Will tell you the name of my Drecharin O'Machree.

John Moulden -- researcher at the "Centre for the Study of Human Settlement and Historical Change" at National University of Ireland, Galway

whose subject is "the printed ballad in Ireland" -- offers the following comment on riddles like this:

A riddling verse, indicating the name of the praiseworthy (usually female) person at the end of a love song, is a standard device in Irish sheet ballads. There is a fair number of such -- all are characteristically difficult of interpretation. However -- Jupiter's favoured nymphs can be discovered and it seems likely that this will provide a first name. The name of an animal with some letters shifted around will presumably give the surname.

Dr. Simon Furey (PhD in Folk music research, but not Irish -- from Sheffield University) illustrates an approach to solving the riddle [with my liberties taken in piecing together a number of messages and a contribution by Dr. Furey's wife]:

How about "John" for the first name? Io for the nymph and hen (h+n) for the fowl.

The only thing [for John's surname] I can think of is "Cow":

In the old children's game of cows and bulls (guessing letters or numbers, a bull is a letter/number correctly guessed in the correct position and a cow is a letter/number correctly guessed but in the wrong position); a cow was marked with an o and a bull with an x. At least it was when I played it at school in the 1950s in England, if memory serves.

So we have cow as a beast with one letter or three, and "Cow" is one spelling of an old Kilkenny name. The "beast exchanged" is a reference to Jack and the Beanstalk, where the cow was exchanged for beans. Which of course gives another possible link because of John=Jack.

So perhaps our mystery person is John Cow, aka Sean Cough.

John Moulden and Dr Furey are quoted [or their ideas mangled] with permission.

This may bear on dating the song: while Tunney-SongsThunder in 1991 has "He went to the war where proud England united with France," on IRPTunney02 in 1963 he has "He went to the wars to fight against England for France"; Brigid Tunney's version on IRTunneyFamily01 omits the verse altogether.

Considering the "England united with France" line in Best's version and the possible late date of 1855 for the broadside it is at least possible that this refers to the Crimean War. [Effectively certain, I would say; it's too early for World War I, and the Crimean War is the only other significant occasion on which they were allied. Unless Best's version was a Canadian World War I adaption; after all, the Canadians were fighting in France with the French and British. The text from IRPTunney02 sounds more like one of the Wild Geese, though, with the occasion perhaps being the War of the Spanish Succession. - RBW]

The spelling I am following for the NAME is from OLochlainn-More 28. That version, it is worth noting, follows the broadside but without the riddle.

For another name riddle see "The Belfast Beauty."

The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:

Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "Dearthairin O Mo Chroi" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte," Hummingbird Records HBCD0027 (2001)) -BS

Cross references

  • cf. "Jimmy Mo Veela Stor" (tune according to OLochlainn-More, p. 207)


  • Bodleian, Harding B 11(985), "Drecharian O'Machree," Wm. Wright (Birmingham), 1842-1855; also Firth b.25(126), Harding B 11(1963), "Drecharian O'Machree"; 2806 b.11(269), "Dechrarian O'Machree"; 2806 b.11(190), Firth c.26(199), "Dreearian O'Macree[!]"; 2806 b.9(264), 2806 c.15(199), Harding B 19(106), "Drah Harion O Machree"; Harding B 26(150), Harding B 26(149), 2806 c.8(120), "Drahareen O Ma Chree"


  • Anita Best, "Driharin O Mo Croi" (on NFABest01)
  • Brigid Tunney, "Dritherearin-o-Mo-Chroidhe" (on IRTunneyFamily01)
  • Paddy Tunney, "Drahaareen-O Mochree" (on IRPTunney02)


  1. OLochlainn-More 28, "Drihaureen O Mo Chree" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Tunney-SongsThunder, pp. 148-149, "Mo Drathereen O Mo Chroi" (1 text)
  3. Roud #2360


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1856 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(985))
Found in: Canada(Newf) Ireland