“The Half Crown”


De Valera will give a half crown to every newborn. Singer marries a widow and does his "best for the blooming half crown." His wife says he's not trying hard enough but then admits she's 63. "Check your wife's age before going to bed"


The tune, verse structure, and some lines derive from "Cod Liver Oil." Compare, for example, these lines from "Cod Liver Oil" [OLochlainn-More 30]

I'm a young married man, and I'm tired of my life,

For lately I married an ailing young wife.

with these from "The Half Crown"

I'm a young married man and I'm tired of life,

Half killed and half crazy from this strap of a wife.

In Andy Cash's version on IRTravellers01 the singer earns his half-crown in spite of his wife's age (though, perhaps, the "young baby scream" makes him wonder if the reward were sufficient).

Notes to IRClare01: "In 1944, despite considerable opposition, the DeValera government introduced a family allowance of two-and-sixpence for every child after the first." The song says that DeValera was concerned because "the population of Ireland was beginning to fall." - BS

Ireland's population was a constant concern of her politicians -- see, e.g., "Daniel O'Connell (I)," plus all the hundreds of emigration songs. The problem did indeed continue into the twentieth century and De Valera's presidency -- Ruth Dudley Edwards, _An Atlas of Irish History_, second edition,Routledge, 1981, shows that the population of Ireland *fell* 4% from 1901 to 1946 (a period when the rest of the world increased its population massively), and fell another 1% from 1946 to 1961. What's more, the population decrease was all concentrated in the Republic of Ireland (8% and 4%, respectively); in Ulster, the population increased in this period.

So De Valera had a point. Except -- paying people to have children only works if there are jobs to support the children, and the Republic of Ireland was an economic basket case for most of De Valera's lifetime, including at the time he proposed this silly idea. If, instead of gimmicks, he has worked on genuine economic development, real free trade (including even with England), and a reasonable policy on science and technology, he could have had the kids and kept them in the country too. As witness the fact that Ireland is doing just fine now that it's gotten away from De Valera type economics -- it's very nearly the fastest-growing country in Europe. - RBW

Cross references


  • Vincie Boyle, "The Half Crown" (on IRClare01)
  • Andy Cash, "The Half Crown" (on IRTravellers01)


  1. Roud #16988
  2. BI, RcTHaCro


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1985 (IRTravellers01)
Found in: Ireland