Sherlock Holmes

The Rocky Road to Dublin

In the merry month of May from me home I started, left the girls of Tuam nearly broken hearted, saluted father dear, kissed me darlin' mother, drank a pint of beer me grief and tears to smother. Then off to reap the corn, leave where I was born, cut a stout black-thorn to banish ghosts and goblins, bought a pair of brogues rattling o'er the bogs and fright'ning all the dogs on the rocky road to Dublin!

(Chorus): One two three four five, hunt the hare and turn her down the rocky road and all the ways to Dublin, whack fol la de dah!

In Mullingar that night I rested limbs so weary, started by daylight next morning light and airy, took a drop o' the pure to keep me heart from sinking. That's a Paddy's cure whenever he's on drinking, they hear the lassies smile, laughing all the while at me darlin' style, 'twould set your heart a-bubblin', asked me was I hired, wages I required, till I was almost tired of the rocky road to Dublin...

In Dublin next arrived I thought it's such a pity to be so soon deprived a view of that fine city. So then I took a stroll all among the quality, me bundle it was stole all in a neat locality. Something crossed me mind when I looked behind, no bundle could I find upon me stick a-wobblin'. Enquirin' of the rogue they said me Connaught brogue wasn't much in vogue on the rocky road to Dublin...

From there I got away, me spirits never failing, lan-ded on the quay just as the ship was sailing. The captain at me roared, said that no room had he. When I jumped aboard, a cabin found for Paddy. Down among the pigs played some funny rigs, danced some hearty jigs, the water round me bubb-lin'. When off Holyhead wished meself was dead, or better far instead on the rocky road to Dublin...

The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed, called meself a fool, I could no longer stand it. Blood began to boil, temper I was losing, poor old Erin's Isle they began abusing. "Hurrah me soul!", says I, shillelagh I let fly. Some Galway boys were nigh and saw I was a-hobblin', with a loud "hur-ray!" joined in the affray. We quickly cleared the way for the rocky road to Dublin...

FolkWorld Issue 42 07/2010; Article by Seán Laffey

Folk Music on the Silver Screen (5)
The Rocky Road to Dublin - Sherlock Holmes

"Anyone seen the Sherlock Holmes film, starring the Irish American actor Robert Downey Junior?" asks Seán Laffey.

The movie is by Guy Ritchie, I love his darkly comic ouvre: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and his wonderful Snatch both had energy, pace and Snatch had little bits of folk music. So what a joy to hear the sound track of the Holmes film. Robert Downey Jr starring as Sherlock Holmes Described by the picture's musical director Hans Zimmer as "The Pogues Go To Romania". It isn't Romanian neither are the Pogues on it, but it has a disjointed live sound, an almost out of tune feel about it, like dynamite it is packed with the fizz of danger.

One of its central musical motifs is the slip jig The Rocky Road to Dublin from the Dubliners, sung by the late Luke Kelly. Now this version was already one hundred years old when the Dubliners recorded it in the 1960's. The song works in the movie, it worked in the 1860's and there is no reason to doubt that it will work equally well in 300 years time. The pity is it isn't on the movie's soundtrack album, forcing fans to scramble to on line versions. The tune familiar from the singing of the Clancys and also famously by Luke Kelly is older than the song itself.

Breandán Breathnach identified the rocky road of the title as a road in Clonmel, and he said that nurses in south Munster had a saying used as a qualification for hiring: "They can sing and dance the baby to the Rocky Road." O'Neill (1913) states a special dance was performed to this melody. The title appears in a list of tunes in his repertoire brought by Philip Goodman, the last professional and traditional piper in Farney, Louth, to the Feis Ceoil in Belfast in 1898.

Rocky Road to Dublin was als made into a song and distributed in an anonymous broadside of the 19th century. The title is among those mentioned in Patrick J. McCall's 1861 poem The Dance at Marley, the first three stanzas of which scan closely to the tune we all know. Luke Kelly Some sources cite the writing of the familiar words to D.K. Gavan the Galway poet who also penned the words to Lannigan's Ball. The Rocky Road was first popularised by Harry Clifton in the 1860's in the London Musical Halls.

It soon entered into broadsheet circulation (copyright protection being ineffectual in the Victorian age). Irish songs were very popular during the heyday of the Music Hall in Britain and America, indeed Dublin Jack of All Trades and Danny Boy were both written by Englishman Fred E Weatherly, a songwriter who never once set foot on Irish soil.

It is to the ballad revival of the 1960's that we can assign folk credentials to such songs, those bearded ganseyed troubadours changed the month from June to May to scan with Merry and this being the May issue[1] we thought why not give the road a lash?

Folk Music on the Silver Screen (4):
You Can't Find Out Everything from
Books - The Secret of Kells (FW#41)
Footnote: [1] Seán's article was originally featured in the Irish Music Magazine #184 May 2010 (

Photo Credits: (1) Sherlock Holmes (by Wikipedia); (2) Robert Downey Jr starring in Sherlock Holmes [2009] (unknown); (3) Luke Kelly (unknown).

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