Tally Heigh Ho the Grinder

Tally Heigh Hó the Grinder

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
Cheannaíos sáspan is ciotal I bought a saucepan and a kettle
Is búclaí den airgid gréinnig, And buckles of the shiniest silver,
Bróga de leathair bó ceannuine Shoes of the softest leather
Is is ró-bhreá a mheallfainn-se [a]n Grinder And I would entice the Grinder well.
Curfá: Chorus:
Tally heigh ho, heigh ho Tally heigh ho, heigh ho
Tally heigh ho the Grinder Tally heigh ho the Grinder
Tally heigh ho, heigh ho Tally heigh ho, heigh ho
Wherever she’ll go I’ll find her! Wherever she’ll go I’ll find her!
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Do chuas-sa síos go Cluain Meala, I went down to Clonmel
As san go dtí Tobar a’ Dána. And from there to Tipperary town,
Is ní fhacas an Grinder dá casadh And I never saw the Grinder being turned
Go dtanga go Béal Átha Ceárdchan. Until I reached Ballycarty.
Véarsa 3 Verse 3
Leath-ghiní a héadan ‘s a bathas Half a guinea for her forehead and the crown of her head
Is coróin ar bhorder na cóipe, And five shillings for the border of her cloak,
Scilling í [a] chumadh is do ghearradh A shilling to shape and to shear her
Is is ró-bhreá [a] mheallfainnse Grinder. And I would entice the Grinder well.


The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘grinder’ as ‘a person or thing that grinds, especially a machine.’

In the Irish text, Tipperary is given as ‘Tobar a’ Dána’ a corruption of ‘Tiobrad Árainn’ and the townland name which Goodman gives as ‘Béal Átha Ceárdchan’ is actually Béal Átha Ceártan (Ballycarty) in the civil parish of Ballyseedy, near Tralee, Co. Kerry.

This macaronic song from Munster is one of the liveliest songs in the manuscript. Three other versions of it in Irish can be found in Racaireacht Ghrinn na Tuaithe: Seanchas agus Amhráin Thaidhg Uí Chonchúir edited by Fionán Mac Coluim in 1925. Tadhg Ó Conchúir (1840-1925) lived in Lios Póil, a few miles east of Dingle and was a well-known storyteller and playwright with a fund of stories and songs.

I am indebted to Dave Hegarty of Tralee, uileann piper and Goodman scholar for telling me about Ó Conchúir’s book. Some of Tadhg Ó Conchúir’s work was published in An Lóchrann between 1909 and 1927 and his death was announced in the January 1926 issue of that journal. A brief obituary of Tadhg Ó Conchúir says:

‘Bhí sé cliste gan a bheith mórálach agus bhí sé lách gan a bheith lagbhríoch.’ (He was clever without being proud and gentle without being weak.)

He wrote plays – some of which have been revived in recent years and edited by Seán Ó Morónaigh in Drámaíocht ó Dhúchas ó Bhéalaithris Thaidhg Uí Chonchubhair, (2005) – and agallaimh (dialogue poems) as well as games for children and adults. He had a particular interest in lively songs (amhráin scléipiúla) and knew many which Mac Coluim collected from him. These, however, were mostly traditional songs not new compositions. His book is delightfully described as ‘200 leathanach de ghreann is grámhaireacht,’ 200 pages of fun and amiability.

There is also a song in English called ‘Tarry Higho! The Grinder’ published in 1910 in a book called Old Irish Croonauns and Other Tunes edited by Honoria Galwey. The melody is similar to Goodman’s but the words in English bear no resemblance to the Irish words. Miss Galwey described it as ‘a gay, tuneful Donegal air’ but fifty or sixty years earlier James Goodman had collected his version in Munster. In an interesting coincidence, Tadhg Ó Conchúir’s father who was an RIC man in Co. Tipperary was accepted into the police on the recommendation of ‘James Hickson, Peace Commissioner of Fermoyle and Dingle.’ The Hickson and Goodman families were acquainted and, in a poem which James Goodman wrote for his brother Seóirse (George), he makes reference to sporting rivalry between the Goodman boys and the Hicksons.