“The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter”


Thomas Gready's ass is auctioned to an Orangeman to pay the tithe. The ass is confined and starved. Orangeman's daughter tries to have him "relinquish Popery." The cross-marked ass refuses. She threatens to whip the ass. "A multitude of asses" frees him.


The last verse raises a number of points.

Now to conclude and finish, long life to every ass,

May they live to be united, likewise to bear the cross.

We will toast a health to all our friends, likewise our gracious Queen,

May the asses meet in multitude once more in College Green.

Professor Thomas Bartlett in _The 1798 Irish Rebellion_ quoted on the BBC site: "The Society of United Irishmen, founded in 1791, embraced Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters in its aim to remove English control from Irish affairs."

Donkeys have a cross-shaped patch of dark hair on their back. In political ballads this mark is taken as a sign that donkeys are Roman Catholic.

The toast to Queen Victoria makes 1837 an earliest possible date for this broadside.

Zimmermann, commenting on the last line: "The Irish Parliament House ... stood on the N. side of College Green, Dublin." - BS

Despite the mention of the Queen, I suspect the song dates from a few years before 1837. That was indeed the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, but the Tithe War was nearly over by then. The election of Daniel O'Connell and his followers to parliament, followed by tithe riots in 1830-1831, led the British government in 1833 to cease taking the tithe by force; in 1838, the Tithe Rentcharge Act took the tithe off the backs of the (mostly Catholic) peasants and put it on the back of the (mostly Protestant) landlords, though it wasn't until 1869 that Gladstone disestablished the Anglican church in Ireland.

Thus I suspect the song dates from 1830-1832; perhaps it was modified for publication. Alternately, it might refer to the Queens of George IV (reigned 1820-1830, and regent before that) or William IV (reigned 1830-1837). Adelaide, the wife of William IV, was popular enough but hardly notable.

If the reference is to the wife of George IV, though, things become really interesting. George's first wife was the widow Maria Fitzherbert -- a Catholic! Since George had married her in secret, the marriage was held illegal and she never sat on the throne, but she was George's wife in Catholic eyes.

George's slightly more official wife was Charlotte of Caroline of Brunswick, whom he married in 1795. It is said that he was drunk at their wedding, and they were rumoured to have slept together only once.

This is all very speculative, to be sure, but a reference to "The Queen" during the reign of George IV could thus be a highly charged political statement. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Firth b.34(4), "The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter," J. Harkness (Preston), 1840-1866; also 2806 c.15(253), 2806 b.10(150), "The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter"; 2806 b.9(169), 2806 b.9(222)[some words illegible], "The Tipperary Ass"


  1. Zimmermann 46B, "The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter" (1 text)
  2. Hayward-Ulster, pp. 114-115, "The Ass and the Orangeman's Daughter" (1 text)
  3. Roud #6543
  4. BI, Zimm046B


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1867 (broadside, Bodleian Firth b.34(4))
Found in: Ireland