“The Irish Harvestmen's Triumph”


Irishmen that "reap the English harvest" should be prepared to fight "with John Bull and his crew." Irish harvestmen beat some Englishmen and go to look for work. At a railway line they fight navvies and beat them with bricks, stones, scythes, and hooks.


Zimmermann's variant last verse and other comment identifying the "holy priest" as Father Maguire are both illustrated by Bodleian broadside 2806 c.8(223).

The navvies were British railway workers [see Coleman, Terry _The Railway Navvies:A History of the Men Who Made the Railways_ (BCA, 1972)]

Zimmermann guesses at the tune: "The final words of the last stanzas suggest "The Shamrock Shore," Joyce, No. 415." Creighton's tune, with an Angelo Dornan fragment, is probably a better bet. - BS

The name "John Bull" as a symbol for England or the English comes from John Arbuthnot's 1712 satire _The History of John Bull_, and does not represent a real person. (It's interesting to note that "The Roast Beef of Old England" by Richard Leveridge [c. 1670-1758] was an anthem of the Royal Navy.)

Dornan's fragment ("Be sure you're well provided for With comrades stout and true, For you'll have to fight both day and night With John Bull and his crew") initially made me think of a navy song -- a boast to the French, perhaps, during the Napoleonic Wars. Which just shows how hard it can be to identify what songs are about. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 2235a, "The Irish Harvests Triumph Over the English ," P. Brereton (Dublin), c.1867; also 2806 c.8(223), "The Irish Harvestmen's Triumph" [title spelled "Thriump"]


  1. Zimmermann 66, "A New Song on the Irish Harvest Men's Triumph Over the English" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  2. Creighton-SNewBrunswick 104, "John Bull and His Crew" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #13468
  4. BI, CrSNB104


Author: unknown
Earliest date: c.1860 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland Canada(Mar)