Night of the Ragman's Ball


Just pay attention for a while, good friends one and all
I’ll sing to you a verse or two about a famous ball
The ball was given by some friends who lived down in Ash Street
In a certain house in the Liberties where the ragmen were to meet

When the names were called at seven o’clock, every man was on the spot
And to show respect to the manager, every ragman brought his mot
I must say that I brought mine at twenty-five minutes to eight
And the first to stand up was Kieran Grace to tell me I was too late

Then up jumps Humpy Soodlum and he says ‘I think somehow
By the way you are going on all the night, you’re looking for a row
But look here, Grace, if you want your face, you’d better not shout or bawl
There’s a lot of hard chaws to be here tomight to respect the Ragman’s Ball

Then we all sat down to some fish and chips, and every man was there
And as a post of honour Billy Boland took the chair
He swiped the chair and sold it to an old one in Carmen Hall
And danced on the face of poor Kieran Grace the night of the Ragman’s Ball

Says my one ‘You’re a quare one and Billy, you’re hard to beat’
When up jumps Liza Boland, and told her to hold her prate
But my one made a clout at her, she missed her and struck the wall
And the two of them went in the ambulance, the night of the Ragman’s Ball

Just to make the thing a swell affair, we all brought friends a few
We brought up blind Gort Whelan and big Dan Kenny too
And the gallant Jack Tar smoked his cigar, and slipped coming through the hall
He lost a new bag and all his swag the night of the Ragman’s Ball

To keep the house alive my boys, we brought some music too
We brought up Tommy Reynolds and his old tin whistle too
He played that night with all his might till coming on to dawn
But we couldn’t find many to dance with Dan Kenny that night at the Ragman’s Ball

For eating we had plenty, as much as we could hold
We drank Brady’s Loop-Line porter till around the floor we rolled
In the midst of the confusion someone shouted for a song
When up jumped Dunlavin and sang “Keep rolling your barrel along’

So we all sat down to some ham-parings when everything was quiet
Well I must say, for broken noses we had a lovely night
Black eyes, they were in great demand, not to mention split heads at all
So anyone who wants to commit suicide, let them come to the Ragman’s Ball


I passed by Ash Street in The Liberties every day from 1948 to 1955 on my way to Francis Street Christian Brother’s school. The place holds great memories for me, although the characters mentioned are from long before my time. Aparently, they were all local ‘nobilities’ who took offence at being portrayed as ‘Ragmen’, and subsequently persecuted the ballad sheet printer with unsuccessful demands for compensation.

Rere entrance to Francis Street school and church

Rere entrance to Francis Street school and church

Song Clip