"Bad luck to ye Drimon and why did you die?" I'd sooner have lost my son and hut. When I found her "I rolled and I bawled and my neighbors I called." "I thought my poor Drimindoon never would fail."

Long description

Macaronic w. Gaelic. An old man loses a cow but can't tell how; he laments that as he went to mass, he saw his cow, drimindown, sunk into (water, mire). He cries and raises the neighbors; after the cow sinks, she rises again "like a bunch of black wild berries". Ch.: "Ego so ro Drimindown ho ro ha/So ro Drimindown nealy you gra...."


The description is based on Creighton-Maritime with help from the notes for Creighton/MacLeod 88(3) in _Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia_. Creighton/MacLeod has three versions in English (two with chorus in Irish Gaelic).

Is this an allegory or really about a country-man's lament for the death of his cow? There are Jacobite songs in which a cow is named Drimin and denotes Ireland allegorically. H Halliday Sparling, in _Irish Minstrelsy_ (1888), gives three examples of this in other songs:

"O Say, My Brown Drimin" by James Joseph Callanan, p. 309 [Also in Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry, pp. 183-184 -RBW];

"Drimin Dubh"--from Druim-fionn dubh dilis "dear black white-backed (cow)" by Samuel Ferguson, p. 148.

"Drimin Donn Dilis" by John Walsh, p. 203.

ibiblio site The Fiddler's Companion: DEAR BLACK COW [1] (Druimin Dubh). AKA and see "The Black Cow." Irish, Air (3/4 time). G Dorian. Standard. AAB. The words lament the loss of a cow, comparing it to the celebrated mythological Irish cow which could never be fully milked. In Bunting's 1840 collection he gives a few verses of a political song in which "the black cow" serves as a "very whimsical metaphor, the cause of the exiled monarch." [I must admit, in reading Creighton's first version, I thought of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The more so as many residents of Nova Scotia fled there after the Jacobite rebellions. - RBW]

Other writers, notably George Petrie, Patrick Walsh, Margaret Hannegan, Seamus Clandillon and Redfern Mason, believe "Drimin/Druimin Dubh" (or "Dhriman Dhoun Deelish" "Drimin donn Dilis" etc.) also note the title's symbolizm (sic.) with Ireland. Cazden (et al, 1982) finds that, "with sufficiently imaginative adjustment," the melody resembles the "Drimindown" tune family, which includes O'Neill's "The Sorrowful Maiden" and Cazden's own Catskill Mountain (New York) collected ballad "The Maid on the Shore."

For an exhaustive discussion of text and tune history see "Drumion Dubh(Drimindown,Irish)" on Bruce Olsen's web site. The earliest complete text he finds "is from The Universal Songster, III, p. 45, London: Jones and Co., 1828."

For another copy of "O Say, My Brown Drimin" by James Joseph Callanan (Sparling p. 309) see Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 183-184, "O Say, My Brown Drimin". This is an example of Drimin as Ireland.

Zimmermann p. 56: "the strangest allegorical name for Ireland in Irish songs of the eighteenth century is 'Druimfhionn Donn Dilis': 'dear brown cow'. Petrie gave for this rather incongruous name the explanation which has been proposed for some of the women's names applied to Ireland, namely that it might have been suggested by the title or refrain of an older popular song which furnished the tune. In political broadside ballads of the Tithe War, the cow was still accepted as the symbol of Ireland. (See song 41["The Barrymore Tithe Victory"])." - BS

I believe this was the song, originally Irish, which Lead Belly adapted into "If It Wasn't For Dicky," which the Weavers in turn made into, "Kisses Sweeter than Wine." Really. - PJS

Cross references

  • cf. "Maid on the Shore, The (The Fair Maid by the Sea Shore; The Sea Captain)" [Laws K27] (tune)
  • cf. "If It Wasn't For Dicky" (lyrics)
  • cf. "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" (lyrics)
  • cf. "The Barrymore Tithe Victory" (subject: cows, tithes, and the name Drimon).


  • Ernest Sellick, "Drimindown" (on MRHCreighton)


  1. Creighton-Maritime, p. 176, "Drimindown" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  2. Dibblee/Dibblee, p. 78, "Drimindown" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. O'Conor, p. 19, "Drimmin Dubh Dheelish" (1 text)
  4. Roud #2712
  5. BI, CrMa176


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1956 (Creighton-Maritime)
Found in: Canada(Mar)