“Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill”


Describing, in extravagant terms, the hard life of the (Irish) railroad workers -- subjected to long hours, blast, short pay (and that docked for any or no reason). And always the order comes again, "Drill, ye tarriers, drill!"


This is believed to have originated with an Irish comedy team, (Thomas F.) Casey and (Charles) Connelly, in the 1880s. It has gone almost verbatim into oral tradition; variations in the text are very few.

Very nearly the only exception to this uniformity is the Chubby Parker recording, which is longer than the popular version, and a genuine song about railroad life rather than a humorous item. Cohen, based on this and a few hints in nineteenth century writings, wonders if there may not have been some ancestral text in existence before 1888. If so, that version has been almost completely displaced by the Casey version.

I seem to recall, in my youth, a bunch of us understanding "tarriers" as "terriers," with resulting very odd notions of what the song was about. - RBW

Cross references


  • George J. Gaskin, "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill" (Berliner 064-1/Berliner [Canada] 4, 1899)
  • Chubby Parker, "Drill Ye Tarriers Drill" (Conqueror 7893, 1931)
  • Dan W. Quinn, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" (Victor 3155, c. 1901)


  1. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 553-559, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  2. Geller-Famous, pp. 14-18, "Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill!" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Lomax-FSNA 217, "Drill, Ye Tarriers" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Arnett, pp. 112-113, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Botkin-RailFolklr, p. 442, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Greenway-AFP, pp. 43-44, "The Tarriers' Song" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Darling-NAS, pp. 329, "Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" (1 text)
  8. Silber-FSWB, p. 130, "Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill" (1 text)
  10. Roud #4401 and 4436
  11. BI, LoF217


Author: words: Thomas Casey/music: Charles Connolly
Earliest date: 1888 (play, "A Brass Monkey")
Found in: US