Two Irish Catholics congratulate one another on victory over the Protestants, and make nasty remarks about what they intend to do to them. The song was written by a Protestant Englishman, in a burlesque of Irish dialect


The tune was used, under its own name, for an English country dance. A fragment of it is also played on the BBC World Service, 20 seconds before every hour. -PJS

Chappell/Wooldridge report of this piece, "The words have been variously ascribed to Lord Wharton and Lord Dorset, but probably neither was the author. The tune is a harpsichord lesson by Purcell, printed... in... Musick's Handmaid, two years before Tyrconnel's appointment as Lord Deputy." They quote Percy, "[The piece] was written, or at least re-published, on the Earl of Tyrconnel's going a second time to Ireland, in 1688. 'Lilliburlero' and 'Bullen-a-lah' are said to have been words of distinction used among the Irish Papists in their massacre of Protestants, in 1641."

The appointment of Tyrconnel is explicitly mentioned in the song:

Ho brother Teague, dost hear de decree...

Dat we shall have a new deputie...

Ho, by my Soul, it is a Talbot.

Talbot is Richard Talbot (1630-1691), Earl of Tyrconnel since 1685, appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1687. He proceeded to "reform" the Irish army by removing its Protestant officers and increasing its size. Catholics were appointed to other positions as well. The Protestants, naturally, panicked; "Lilliburlero" is one sign of this.

It is said that this song "whistled James II from his throne." (For background on this, see the notes to "The Vicar of Bray.") RBW

Broadside Bodleian Wood 417(168) has the tune.

Broadside Bodleian Firth b.20(145) has another tune and the annotation "Made upon ye Irish upon Tyrconnells goeing Deputy thither 25 Oct. 1688."

Sparling: "Generally attributed to Lord Wharton, but this has never been conclusively proved.... A copy printed in London, 1689, is in the British Museum." - BS

Historical references

  • 1685-1688 - Reign of James II (James VII of Scotland), the last Catholic king of Britain
  • 1688 - Glorious Revolution overthrows James II in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary II and her husband and first cousin William III of Orange

Same tune

  • My Thing Is My Own (BBI ZN1181, DT THINGOWN)
  • Overtures from Richmond (File: SCW46)
  • Bumpers, Bumbers, Flowing Bumpers (File: CrPS094)
  • There Was an Old Woman Tossed up in a Basket (File: OO2544)
  • You that love mirth, give ear to my song/Teague and Sawney (BBI ZN3133)
  • The Martial drum no sooner did beat/The Couragious Soldiers of the West (BBI ZN1757)
  • I have been long in Custody here/The Chancellors Resolution (BBI ZN1282)
  • Come all ye Protestant Lads in the Land/The Protestants Delight, Or An Health to His Highness (BBI ZN515)
  • I'll sing ye a Song, if you'll pay me but for't/The Brandy-Bottle Plot (BBI ZN1357)
  • We came into brave Reading by Night/The Reading Skirmish (BBI ZN2745)
  • Protestant Boys, both valliant and stout/ Undaunted London-Derry (BBI ZN2262)
  • Protestant Boys, good tydings I bring/Dublin's Deliverance..Surrender of Drogheda (BBI ZN2263)
  • Protestant Boys now stand your Guard/The discovery of the New Plot (BBI ZN2264)
  • You that a fair maids heart would obtain/Faint Heart never won fair Lady: Or, Good Advice to Batchelors (BBI ZN3109)
  • Pray now attend and listen a while/The False-hearted Glover (BBI ZN2235)
  • The Protestant subjects of England rejoice/ ..Kingdom's Joy for the Proclaiming King William (BBI ZN2266)
  • I am a Lad that's come to the Town/West-Country Tom Tormented (BBI ZN1201)
  • Sound up the Trumpet, beat up the Drum/The Protestant Courage..of Valiant Sea-men (BBI ZN2391)
  • The coffee-house Trade is the best in the town/The City Cheat discovered (BBI ZN498)
  • Boys let us sing the Glory and Fame/Couragious Betty of Chick-Lane (BBI ZN427)

Cross references


  • Bodleian, (Wood 417(168), A New Song [The first part of "Lill-li-burlero bullen a-la"] ("Ho brother Teague dost hear de decree") , unknown, [the date is illegible; see part 2];Wood 417(172), The second part of "Lill-li-burlero bullen a-la" ("There was an old prophesie found in a bogg") , unknown, "Printed in the Year 1688"); also Firth b.20(145), "A New Song" ("Ho brother Teague dost hear de decree"), unknown, see notes; Firth b.21(103), Harding B 5(33), A new song. Being a second part to the same tune of "Lillibullero" ("A treaty's on foot, look about English boys") (see notes for broadsides with a tune)


  1. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 359-362, "Lilli Burlero" (1 text)
  2. OLochlainn 36, "Lillibulero" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Friedman, p. 286, "Lilliburlero" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 58-60, "Lilliburlero" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Silber-FSWB, p. 303, "Lilli Burlero" (1 text)
  6. Darling-NAS, pp. 90-91, "Lilliburlero" (1 text)
  9. H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 441-443, 513, "Lillibulero"
  10. Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), pp. 178-179, "Lilli Burlero" (1 text)
  11. Roud #3038
  12. BI, FR286


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1688 (broadside, Bodleian (Wood 417(168)-Wood 417(172)))
Found in: Britain(England) Ireland