Exploration of a song

Lannigan’s Ball

I chose Lannigan’s Ball as my song for the group presentation as I wanted to mainly focus on the Irish music, and in

particular, the jig. A jig is a lively dance which is in compound time (6/8). The song ‘Lannigan’s ball’, I first came across in a violin book I own, ‘The Ceilidh Collection’ by Edward Huws Jones, listed under ‘Irish jig’. I then proceeded to YouTube the song and found many different covers and changes throughout history. What follows is my exploration of this.

Lannigan’s Ball is a popular Irish folk song which has been played throughout the world as early as the 1860’s, and possibly much longer (Romer, n.d.). It is not known who it was written by and it is attributed to Anon. According to Wikipedia (used as a basis for further investigation), the song is typically performed in a minor key, but in an upbeat style reminiscent of the party atmosphere with which the lyrics portray.

The lyrics are about a party thrown by Jeremy Lannigan, an hey continue to describe the antics an activities of the party.

The first verse and the chorus (Romer, n.d.):

In the town of Athy one Jeremy Lannigan
Battered away ’til he hadn’t a pound
His father died and made him a man again
Left him a farm and ten acres of ground He gave a grand party to friends and relations
Who did not forget him when come to the will
If you’ll but listen I’ll make your eyes glisten
At rows and ructions at Lannigan’s Ball.

Six long months I spent in Dublin
Six long months doing nothing at all
Six long months I spent in Dublin
Learning to dance for Lannigan’s Ball
I stepped out, I stepped in again
I stepped out again, I stepped in again
I stepped out and I stepped in again
Learning to dance for Lannigan’s Ball.


The embedded video is me playing the instrumental version of Lannigan’s ball (layering two violin parts using the iPad app, ‘Garage Band’).

The Irish group ‘The Bards’ released a version of the song in 1980 which was a huge hit in Ireland. They used instruments such as the guitar and mandolin.

Catalpa’s Channel. (2007, April 19). Lanigan’s Ball, The Bards [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3s3F1VXFQ4.

Frank Kelly is an Irish actor, singer and writer who released his political based version of ‘Lannigan’s Ball’ in 1980, entitled ‘Charlie Stepped In’. Kelly’s version of the song is a parody as it is merely using the tradition tune of ‘Lannigan’s Ball’ and layering it with lyrics to poke fun at ‘Fianna Fail’, the Republican party in Ireland. The lyrics discuss the infamous upheavals beginning with the Arms Crisis of 1970 and continuing with the changing leadership including the titular ‘Charlie Haughey’ (Rock Roots, 2012).

Celtic Note. 2014, December 10). Frank Kelly- Charlie Stepped In [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW8P_ae9hwc

Fiddler’s Green is a German band that play Irish folk music. Their version of Lannigan’s Ball was released in 1995 and has influences of Celtic Rock bands such as ‘The Pogues’ which can be heard mainly through their use of drums. The traditional Celtic influences can be heard through the use of a violin and an accordion.

yellowpfeiffer91. (2007, July 27). Fiddler’s Green- Lanigan’s Ball [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFwjp3GfEGM

Irish artist Christy Moore released a cover of the song in 1983. His version used only a drum (for rhythm) and his voice.

Lughaidh Verald  (2014, July 2). Christy Moore- Lanigan’s Ball [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5ceUEPZZKE

Enter the Haggis (now known as Jubilee Riots) is a Canadian Indie/Folk rock world-fusion band who recorded a version of Lannigan’s Ball in 2002. Their quite unique sound incorporates the traditional Celtic instruments such as the fiddle, popes, mandolin and bagpipes with the more modern instruments of electric guitar, bass guitar, more percussion and brass instruments.

slayerxMerlin. (2008, January 20). Enter the Haggis- Lanigan’s Ball [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoBa9p1Bu2w

The Dropkick Murphys are an American Celtic punk band whose cover of the song in 2007 changed lyrics to reference places in the Boston region and people associated with the band. The song was then titled ‘Flannigan’s Ball’. Celtic pun is a subgenre of punk rock that “blends traditional Irish music with contemporary punk rock” (Cooper, n.d.), it began in London in the 80’s. Celtic punk bands would often play traditional Irish songs, dealing with traditional themes such as the Irish plight, political songs and drinking songs (Cooper, n.d.).

BlackDawn626. (2009, September 9). Dropkick Murphys- Flannigan’s Ball with lyrics. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChkjbkyyzzQ

As seen throughout the different clips, the traditional Irish song, ‘Lannigan’s Ball’, continues to influence bands around the world and develop into something different, as world music is embraced by more and more.


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