Nell Flaherty's Drake
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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This Irish ballad was written in the nineteenth century. The words are said to be secret code for Robert Emmet (1778-1803).

Robert Emmet helped plan and lead an uprising in Dublin in 1803. Forced to act early because of an explosion at one of the arms depots, the uprising disintegrated into chaos. Wearing a green and white uniform Emmet and a small troop marched on Dublin Castle, killing the Lord Chief Justice on the way. He fled, hoping to escape to America with his fiance Sarah Curran. He was captured and hung.

Thomas Moore's songs She is Far From the Land and Oh, Breathe Not His Name were also inspired by Emmet.

At his trial Emmet requested that no epitaph be written for him until Ireland took her place among the nations of the earth.

Oh my name it is Nell, and the truth for to tell,
I come from Cootehill which I'll never deny;
I had a fine drake, and I'd die for his sake,
That my grandmother left me, and she going to die.
The dear little fellow, his legs they were yellow;
He could fly like a swallow or swim like a hake
'Til some dirty savage, to grease his white cabbage,
Most wantonly murdered my beautiful drake.

Now, his neck it was green oh, most fit to be seen,
He was fit for a queen of the highest degree.
His body was white, and it would you delight;
He was plump, fat, and heavy, and brisk as a bee.
He was wholesome and sound, he would weight twenty pound,
And the universe 'round I would roam for his sake.
Bad luck to the robber, be he drunk or sober,
That murdered Nell Flaherty's beautiful drake.

May his spade never dig, may his sow never pig,
May each hair in his wig be well thrashed with a flail;
May his turkey not hatch, may the rats eat his meal.
May every old fairy from Cork to Dunleary
Dip him smug and airy in river or lake,
That the eel and the trout, they may dine on the snout
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's drake.

May his pig never grunt, may his cat never hunt,
May a ghost ever haunt him at dead of the night;
May his hens never lay, may his horse never neigh,
May his goat fly away like an old paper kite.
That the flies and the fleas may the wretch ever tease,
May the piercing March breeze make him shiver an shake;
May a lump of a stick raise the bumps fast and thick
Of the monster that murdered Nell Flaherty's drake.

Now the only good news that I have to infuse
Is that old Paddy Hughs and young Anthony Blake,
Also Johnny Dwyer and Corney Maguire,
They each have a grandson of my darling drake.
My treasure had dozens of nephews and cousins,
And one I must et or my heart it will break;
To set my mind aisy or else I'll run crazy -
So ends the whole song of Nell Flaherty's drake.
Related Links
From The Irish Songbook
See Bibliography for full information.