“The Sprig of Shillelah”


The Irishman "loves all that's lovely": drinking, fighting. May English, Scots and Irish drub the French and be "united and happy at loyalty's shrine, May the rose and the thistle long flourish and twine Round a sprig of shillelah and shamrock so green!"


Broadside Bodleian Harding B 10(50) notes that the text was "sung with unbounded applause by Mr Johnstone, of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane." The publication date is October 20, 1807. The Peninsular Campaign against the French in Portugal is in the news. That may explain the text's sense of unity of Irish and English against the French. O'Conor has the leek of Wales with the rose of England and thistle of Scotland, in "the rose, leek and thistle" joining the shamrock of Ireland.

The Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco) site entry for Henry Brereton Code notes that Code included "Sprig of Shillelah" in his 1813 musical drama "The Russian Sacrifice, or the Burning of Moscow." While its inclusion there is consistent with its sense of unity the earlier broadside rules against the play as its first appearance. The site also refers to Code as "a particularly detested character, spy and informer" from the Irish viewpoint.

_Irish Minstrelsy_ by H. Halliday Sparling (London, 1888), pp. 481-482, 503, "The Sprig of Shillelah" makes the attribution to Edward Lysaght (1763-1810).

Croker-PopularSongs, p. 106: "The Irish oak, figuratively termed 'a sprig of Shillelah,' is so called from Shillelah, a district in the county of Wicklow, formerly celebrated for its oak woods.... [Quoting _The Dublin Penny Journal_:] '... an Irishman cannot walk or wander, sport or fight, buy or sell, comfortably, without an oak stick in his fist.'"

I can no longer reach the Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco) site. Perhaps I misunderstood the entry there to indicate that Henry B. Code is the author; Bodleian, in its documentation for broadsides Harding B 25(1830), Harding B 17(299a), 2806 c.18(300) and Harding B 17(298b) also has Code as the author [Code's name is not on the face of any of those broadsides]. Croker, possibly Sparling's source, has Edward Lysaght as the author. Lysaght's title for the song was, apparently, "Sprig of Shillelah and Shamrock so Green," as on a number of the broadsides.

If this poem had been included in _Poems by the Late Edward Lysaght, Esq_ (Dublin, 1811) that would have gone a long way toward settling the authorship question. That book is a collection of some of Lysaght's poems, but not this one.

Broadside LOCSinging as203420: J. Andrews dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Same tune

  • Black Joke (broadside Bodleian Harding B 10(50))

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 10(50), "Sprig of Shillelah and Shamrock So Green", Laurie & Whittle (London), 1807; also Harding B 17(299a), "The Sprig of Shillelah and Shamrock So Green"; Firth b.34(279), "Sprig of Shillelagh"; Harding B 11(3632), 2806 c.18(300), "Sprig of Shilelah"; Harding B 11(892), "Sprig of Shillalah"; Harding B 18(448), Harding B 17(298a), Harding B 17(298b), Johnson Ballads 60, "Sprig of Shillelah"; Harding B 25(1830) [only partly legible], "The Sprig of Shilelah and Shamrock So Green"
  • LOCSinging, as203420, "Sprig of Shillelah", Andrews (New York), 1853-1859


  1. O'Conor, p. 13, "The Sprig of Shillelah" (1 text)
  2. Croker-PopularSongs, pp. 110-115, "The Sprig of Shillelah" (1 text)
  3. ADDITIONAL: H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 481-482, 503, "The Sprig of Shillelah"
  4. Roud #13379
  5. BI, OCon013


Author: Edward Lysaght (1763-1810)? (according to Croker-PopularSongs); Henry Brereton Code (d. 1830)? (according to Bodleian documentation re broadsides (see notes))
Earliest date: 1807 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 10(50))