“The Doneraile Litany”


The singer's Dublin watch is pilfered in Doneraile. He wishes fire and brimstone, the fate of Pompey, the death of its industry, and many other disasters on the town. "May Charon's boat triumphant sail, Completely manned, from Doneraile"


Croker-PopularSongs: "The popularity of this jingle in the south of Ireland is remarkable.... The Doneraile Litany consists of a series of anathemas upon that town, strung together, it appears, in consequence of the author having there lost his watch."

Hoagland: "Widely circulated through Ireland, this poem caused a great deal of amusement. To appease O'Kelly Lady Doneraile presented him with a 'watch and seal,' in place of the one he 'lost,' upon receipt of which he wrote 'Blessings on Doneraile.'" (See Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 357-359, "Blessings on Doneraile") - BS

Charon was of course the boatman who sailed the dead across the River Styx. Pompey is Gnaius Pompeius Magnus, known as Pompey the Great (106-48 B.C.E.), whose life was not exactly pure tragedy: Although he lost his farher in the time of Sulla's dictatorship, he managed to remain in that dictator's favor, picked up a good deal of land in the period after that, was given a series of extraordinary military commands (among other things conquering a big part of Spain, and of Asia Minor, plus Jerusalem; he also cleaned the pirates off the Mediterranean). Eventually he was appointed consul without colleague to deal with the threat posed by Julius Caesar. That's when things finally went bad for Pompey. Caesar, the conqueror of Gaul, forced Pompey and his Senatorial supporters out of Italy, then beat them at Pharsalus in Greece (48 B.C.E.; called "Pharsale" in the song). Pompey fled to Egypt and was killed by the government there, who wanted no quarrel with Caesar, now the clear ruler of Rome.

(Caesaar, to be sure, came to Egypt anyway, met the young queen Cleopatra VII, and fiddled around in the civil war going on at the time, but the murder of Pompey probably did save the country from being sacked.)

Egypt's plagues of course refers to the Exodus story of the Ten (or so) Plagues (Exodus 7-13).

For "Granuale" and her sons, see e.g. the notes to "Granuaile."

Pluto (Greek Hades) was king of the dead.

The destruction of Sodom is told in Genesis 18-19.

I have to say -- if this guy had spent half the energy working that he spent coming up with all these goofball curses (all of which rhyme with "Doneraile"), he could surely have easily made back what he lost. - RBW


  1. Croker-PopularSongs, pp. 176-182, "The Doneraile Litany" (1 text)
  2. ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 354-357, "The Curse of Doneraile"
  3. BI, CrPS176


Author: Patrick O'Kelly (source: Croker-PopularSongs)
Earliest date: 1808 (Patrick O'Kelly, _Poems on the Giant's Causeway and Killarney, with other Miscellanies_, according to Croker-PopularSongs)
Found in: Ireland