Wrestling With Rats (The Waterford Boys)
Lyrics: Harry Clifton (1832-1872)
Guitars, Mandocello and Keyboards: Garry O'Briain
Harry Clifton was a London music-hall writer and performer who popularised such songs as 'On Board the Kangaroo' and 'Pulling Hard Against The Stream'. 'The Waterford Boys' was originally published in broadsheet form and later appeared in 'The Mercier Book Of Old Irish Street Ballads' (1989). Most versions can be traced to Paddy Tunney who recorded it on 'A Wild Bees' Nest' (1965). I've added my own little touches to this misadventure over the years. My thanks to Tom Munnelly and Seán Garvey.
fun and diversion we have come together, I tell you from Waterford hither
We crossed the deep ocean in dark stormy weather, our hearts they were light and our pockets the same.
Sad at leaving Old Ireland we're once more on dry land when at the roadside a tavern I spied
And as I was melting, my pockets I felt; for the price of a drink I was mortally dry.
the tavern I rolled and the landlord he strolled in, "Good morrow",
said he and said I, "If you please,
Will you get me a bed and then bring me some bread and a bottle of porter and a small piece of cheese".
My bread and cheese ended I then condescended to take my repose so I bade him goodnight,
When under the clothes I was trying to doze; I first ducked my toes and then blew out the light.
Now I wasn't long sleeping when I heard something creeping and gnawing and chawing around the bedpost.
O my breath I suspended but the noise never ended. Says I, "You have damnable claws for a ghost".
For to make myself aisy I being very lazy, my head once more I stuck out from the clothes.
Yerra, japers what's that but a thundering jack rat took one leap from the floor, jumped right up to my nose.
I reached for my hobnailed and made me a bobtail and wrestled with rats
till the clear light of day.
Then the landlord came in and said he with a grin, "For your supper and bed you've five shillings to pay".
"Five shillings for what, now don't be disgracing yourself", says I, " as a rogue if you please,
While I can't get to sleep you've the devil's own cheek for to charge me five shillings for dry bread and cheese".
the landlord went rearing and leaping and tearing, he jumped through the
window and kicked in the door.
When he could get no farther he cried, "Míle murder! These rats they are eating me up by the score.
They sleep in my stable, they eat from my table, they wrestle my dogs and they kill all my cats".
"Faith then, says I, "oh give me those five shillings; I'll tell you a way to get rid of the rats".
I will then", said he as he handed the silver, "my life is a wreck
and my nights are a curse.
My wife has long left me, my children neglect me; my grassy green fields have all turned to furze".
"Ah you miser", says I just invite them to supper, "and dry bread and cheese lay before them for sure,
Never mind if they're willing but charge them five shillings and never the rat will again cross your floor".