Bocach[1] Buí na Léige

The Sallow-Skinned Beggar from Liag[2]

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
Rachadsa ‘nón[3] go Sasana I will go over to England
Mar a bhfaighidh me ór ‘s airgead Where I will get gold and silver.
Cailín deas ar leabaig liom A pretty girl in bed with me
Pé’n uair is meon liom í Any time I desire her.
Beidh punch is beor is beath’ uisc’ ‘gam There will be punch and beer and whiskey,
Dá líonadh as cártaibh airgid Being poured out of silver two-pint jugs for me,
Is bean an tí dá habairt liom And the landlady will tell me
Go gcaithfead feasta díol. That I’ll have to pay from now on.
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Do chuireas-sa lámh im’ phóca I put my hand into my pocket
Is ní bhfuaireas ann ach feoirling, But all I found there was a farthing.
Is do thugas do mhnaoi[4] an óil í I gave it to the landlady
Mar stór chum na dí. To pay for the drink.
Chuir sí síos ‘na póca í She put it into her pocket
Mar shúil ‘s gur ginní óir í, As if it were a golden guinea,
D’imíos féin an bóthar And I hit the road
Is is mómharach do bhíos. Feeling very pleased with myself.


This lively drinking song is still popular in west Kerry, in Rinn Ó gCuanach, Co. Waterford and elsewhere in Munster but always with a chorus, something which does not appear in Goodman’s version. Part of the reason for the song’s popularity in the 20th century and down to the present day is because it was taught at coláistí samhraidh and in schools, when we were still sensible enough to have singing classes as a regular part of the curriculum. It’s a good song for a large group to sing.

This song certainly seems to cry out for a chorus so I wonder if there was one extant in Goodman’s day which he simply didn’t bother to note down

The second verse in Goodman’s text is one of the verses that are usually sung nowadays. I have found a version of Bacach Buí na Léige in An Blas Muimhneach Iml.2 (ed. Breandán ‘ac Gearailt, who collected it from local singers in west Kerry) which has 5 verses. The fifth verse corresponds to Goodman’s verse 2.  I have also found this song (with only 3 verses) in Amhrán Leabhar – Coláiste na Mumhan, which was produced for the Irish college in Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, Co. Cork sometime in the 1960’s. Again, the third verse matches Goodman’s second verse.

That a version of this song was popular in Ulster is evinced by a song called Bacach Mála, collected by Énrí Ó Muirgheasa in Co. Tyrone as a song and in Co. Monaghan as a pipe tune and published by him in Céad de Cheoltaibh Uladh in 1915. Its second verse is almost identical to ‘ac Gearailt’s second verse and to the second verse in Amhrán Leabhar – Coláiste na Mumhan and but does not correspond to either verse in the Goodman text. From references in the text, Ó Muirgheasa dates it to the Napoleonic wars.

I have not found Goodman’s first verse in any other printed source. It fits the well-known modern air perfectly but Goodman’s tune is different.

[1] Nowadays this is ‘bacach.’

[2] This is sometimes erroneously translated as ‘of the League’ but I have rendered it ‘from Liag’ because I think it refers to a placename, such as, for example, the village of ‘Drom Dhá Liag’(Drimoleague) in west Carbery, Co. Cork or the townland called ‘Cathair na Léige’  (Cahernaleague), in the civil parish of Seskinan, Decies-without-Drum, Co. Waterford. ‘Liag’ is a large, flat stone, ‘a large stone or boulder, a monolith.’ Apart from a coincidence of sound, ‘liag’ does not translate as ‘league’ which is ‘conradh’ or ‘comhcheangal’ or ‘buíon,’ depending on the context.

[3] ‘anonn’

[4] Dative singular of ‘bean’