MUIRSHIN DURKIN

In the days when I was courtin',
I was seldom done resortin'
In the ale house and the playhouse,
And many's the house between
I told me brother Seamus,
I'll go off and get right famous,
And when I come back home again,
I'll have seen the whole wide world

And it's goodbye, Muirshin Durkin,
I'm sick and tired of workin'
I'll no more dig the praties,
I'll no longer be a fool
As sure as me name is Carney,
I'll go off to California
And instead of digging praties,
I'll be digging lumps of gold

Farewell to all the girls at home,
I'm bound away across the foam
Off to seek me fortune
In far Amerikay
There's silver there a-plenty,
For the poor and for the gentry
And when I come back home again,
I never more will say,

Goodbye, Muirshin Durkin,
I'm sick and tired of workin'
I'll no more dig the praties,
I'll no longer be a fool
As sure as me name is Carney,
I'll go off to California
Where instead of diggin' praties,
I'll be digging lumps of gold

And goodbye, Muirshin Durkin,
I'm sick and tired of workin'
I'll no more dig the praties,
I'll no longer be a fool
As sure as me name is Carney,
I'll go off to California
Where instead of diggin' praties,
I'll be digging lumps of gold

Goodbye, Muirshin Durkin,
I'm sick and tired of workin'
I'll no more dig the praties,
No more be a fool
As sure as me name is Carney,
I'll go off to California
Where instead of diggin' praties,
I'll be diggin' lumps of gold


Traditional
Arrangement Copyright 1985, the Pogues


Note: Great heaping wadges of thanks go to Paul Pendell for the transcription.

Note II: Tony Tramma gets to have the thrill, the glory, the excitement, and yes, the prestige of having his name on this page, in exciting Blue Pixels. Why? Because he was the first person to tell me what Muirshin Durkin (probably) is along with what a pratie is. In his words:

A pratie is a potato, according to a friend from Dublin, however, I don't know if pratie is Gaelic or some type of slang.

As for Muirshin Durkin, I am less sure; but on an old Irish Rovers' album the same song appears listed as "Goodbye Mrs. Durkin". My superb powers of deduction lead me to believe that Muirshin means Mrs in some Celtic tongue.

Bill Burke and Adrian Leach also get a special mention for sending me email soon after Tony with very similar information.


Uh-oh. On October 17, 1996 the debate raged on. Bobby James wrote:

On the subject of the definition of muirshin, I asked my mother (an Irish woman, currently re-learning Irish), and she said:

I asked her if it meant 'Mrs' and she thought that the translation of Mrs was munteoir? (pronounced mun-shaw)? However, different dialects may have different pronunciations/variations.


Well, who would have thunk it? More Muirshin(een?) updates have come in. On Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, 1996 Joe Mernagh sent me two updates:

December 29:

Back about 1967 Johnny McEvoy had a major hit in Ireland with a single of the song. It has probably been recorded by dozens of groups or individuals over the years. The origin goes way back and is generally thought to mean Mrs. Durkin. I will check out the muirsheen bit with some Gaelic scholar friends of mine to see if it has any more significance.

For Bobby James' mum, the Gaelic word muinteoir means a teacher. The Gaelic word for Potatoes is Pratie, with an inflection or fada on the a. It would be pronounced "prawtee". Praties is quite a common word in Irish songs (sung in English) from the last century. Remember the great famine in Ireland (caused by the failure of the potato crop, or the pratie) only took place in the 1840's so late 19th. century Irish song and folklore was full of reference to the humble spud. An example is "The Garden where the praties grow" or "when I'm diggin the praties in Cushla today".

A far cry of course from Rum, Sodomy and the Lash!!

December 30:

Apparently in Kerry, Muirsheen is quite a common "pet" name. It's usually a boy's name and a variation of Maurice, the Gaelic for which is Muiris.

The suffix "een" means small or tiny, so it's reasonable to assume that the name Muirsheen Durkin would translate as "Little Maurice Durkin".

Beat that !

Because no great debate can ever be finished, a new salvo has been fired by Jim Lucas.

October 20, 2004:

While I'm not at all sure about "Muirshin" (or various other spellings I've seen), "Durkin" — or "durcín" in Irish — means "young pig", according to my old Irish-English dictionary. No, I don't speak Irish; I just have an old dictionary. The guess that "Muirshin" might be diminutive of "Muiris" makes sense; my dictionary generally doesn't include names.

So... "Morrie Piglet" might well be a pet name for a child. I don't know whether "piglet" would be endearing in Irish, but I wouldn't be surprised. In English calling a woman a "cat" is an insult, but a "kitten" is a compliment. Similarly in Russian for "pig" vs. "piglet", so maybe also for children in Irish.

"Pratie", on the other hand, may mean "potato" in both Irish and Irish-English, but potatoes originally came from South America, so the word is less than 500 years old in either language.

So the debate wanders ever on. Is Muirshin(een?) a salute (i.e. Mrs), a place, a pet name for Maurice, or something else entirely? Is "durkin" a piglet? Are "praties" potatos? Is it all just nonsense? Will the world ever know? Care to take a crack at it? Send me email with your best guess.



Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.