“Whack Fol the Diddle (God Bless England)”


"We'll sing you a song of Peace and Love." "'God Bless England.'" When we were savages she raised us up "and sent us to heaven in her own good time." "Irishmen, forget the past." Soon we shall be civilized. "Won't Mother England be surprised."


Most of the charges in this song are, of course, true -- and, in fact, the final stanza has in some ways come true also; in the early twenty-first century, the Irish economy is growing much faster than the English.

I can't help but point out one irony, though: The Anglo-Irish conflicts were caused, more than anything else, by the problems between Catholic and Protestant -- and it was the English who made the Irish firmly Catholic! Celtic Christianity had been largely monastic rather than Episcopal, and had celebrated Easter according to a different calendar. It was England, at the Synod of Whitby, that forced the English Celtic church to follow the Catholic calendar, and the English invasion of Ireland was authorized by Pope Adrian IV to bring the Irish back into proper episcopal practice. The Irish have followed those English practices for over 800 years; it is the English who have abandoned them.

According to Hoagland, p. 784, Peadar Kearney (O'Cearnaigh; 1883-1942) was a member of the IRA and participated in a minor role in the 1916 Easter Rebellion. He also wrote the words to "The Soldier's Song" ("Soldiers are we Whose lives are pledged to Ireland; Some have come From a land beyond the waves"; in Gaelic, "Amhran na bhFiann"; composed 1907), one of the best-known rebel songs and a future national anthem, but a song which does not seem to have entered into tradition. Happily, since such a violent item would be reasonable as a military song but which is, frankly, completely unsuitable to be used as national anthem of a civilized country.

Other Keaney songs in this index include "Down By the Glenside (The Bold Fenian Men)," "Michael Dwyer (II)," "Fish and Chips (Down by the Liffey Side)," and perhaps "Erin Go Braugh! (I)."

According to Hoagland, the British banned the singing of three Kearney songs, "The Soldier's Song," this item, and "The Tri-Colored Ribbon." The effect, of course, was to make them more popular. - RBW


  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, "Whack Fol the Diddle" (on IRClancyMakem03)


  1. OLochlainn-More, pp. 250-251, "Whack Fol the Diddle" (1 text)
  3. ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 686-688, "Whack Fol the Diddle" (1 text)
  4. Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, pp. 52-53, "Whack Fol the Diddle" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. BI, OLcM0250


Author: Peadar Kearney
Earliest date: 1965 (OLochlainn-More)
Found in: Ireland