O’Reilly’s Daughter

Life Presents a Dismal Picture

The Ball of Kirriemuir

Cats on the Rooftops

The Good Ship Venus

She’s a Daisy



O’Reilly’s Daughter

Sitting in O’Reilly’s bar
I was a-drinking gin-and-water;
Suddenly it came to mind:
Like to shag O’Reilly’s daughter.

Titty-i-i, titty-i-i,
Titty-i-i the one-eyed Reilly,
Jig-a-jig jig, frig a little pig,
Jig-a-jig jig très bon.

Her hair was black, her eyes were blue,
The colonel, major, and captain sought her,
The company goat and the drummer too,
But they never got into O’Reilly’s daughter.

Titty-i-i, titty-i-i, etc

Oh Jack O’Sullivan is my name,
I’m the king of copulation,
Drinking gin my claim to fame,
Shagging girls my occupation.

Well, walking through the park that day
Who should I meet but O’Reilly’s daughter;
Never a word I had to say
But, “Don’t you think we really oughter?”

Up the stairs and into bed,
I gently cocked my left leg over;
Never a word the maiden said,
Laughed like hell till the fun was over.

Heard some footsteps on the stair,
Who should it be but her bloody old father?
Two horse-pistols in his belt,
Looking for the man who’d had his daughter.

Grabbed O’Reilly by the hair,
Shoved his face in a bucket of water,
Crammed the pistols up his butt,
A damn sight harder than I shagged his daughter.

Now come ye lasses, come ye maids,
Answer now and don’t speak shyly;
Would yez have it straight and true,
Or the way I give it to the one-eyed Reilly?

Titty-i-i, titty-i-i,
Titty-i-i the one-eyed Reilly,
Jig-a-jig jig, frig a little pig,
Jig-a-jig jig très bon.


Life Presents a Dismal Picture
Air: “Deutschland über Alles”

Life presents a dismal picture,
All around is toil and gloom;
Father has an anal structure,
Mother has a fallen womb.
In the corner squats Jemima,
Never laughs and rarely smiles,
What a wretched occupation,
Cracking ice for father’s piles!

Uncle Harry was transported
For a homosexual crime,
And the housemaid has aborted
For the twenty-second time.
Our new baby’s no exception
For he’s always throwing fits.
Every time he cries he pukes and
Every time he laughs he shits.

Cousin Joseph won the Hackney
Masturbation marathon.
But he died of self-expression
When he buggered Uncle John.
Bert the postman called this morning,
Stuck his penis through the door.
We could not, despite endearment
Get it out till half-past four.

In a small brown-paper parcel
Wrapped in a mysterious way
Is an imitation arsehole
Grandad uses twice a day.
From the shithouse hear him yelling
(No one helps the ancient clown);
Hours ago he pushed the plug up
And he cannot get it down.


The Ball of Kirriemuir

Four and twenty virgins
Came down from Inverness,
But when the ball was over
There were four and twenty less,

Singing balls to your partner,
Arses to the wall.
If you’ve never been fucked on a Saturday night
You’ve never been fucked at all.

There was fucking in the hayloft:
There was fucking in the ricks.
Why, you’d scarcely hear the music for
The swishing of the pricks.

Singing etc.

The elders of the Kirk were there,
All scandalized to see
Four and twenty maidenheads
A-hanging on a tree.

Singing etc.

The Minister’s daughter she was there,
She wasna’ feeling weel;
She had to make her water
In the middle of a reel.

Singing etc.

They were sucking in the parlour;
They were screwing on the stairs.
The piper swore the dancing floor
Was black with pubic hairs.

Singing etc.

The village butcher he was there,
His cleaver in his hand.
He danced a reel and flashed his steel
And circumcised the band.

Singing etc.

The village cripple he was there
But wasn’t up to much.
He tripped them with his wooden leg
Then stuffed them with his crutch.

Singing etc.

The conjurer was there as well
And worked a clever trick.
He pulled his foreskin over his head
And vanished up his prick.

Singing etc.

The schoolmaster was there, of course
And screwed by rule of thumb,
By logarithms working out
The time that he would come,

Singing etc.

The Lady of the Manor, she
Had kept us all in fits
By swinging from the chandelier
And sliding on her tits.

Singing etc.

They fucked them on the balcony;
They fucked them in the hall.
God save us, said the porter, but
They’ve come to fuck us all.

Singing etc.

Up in the morning early, and
The farmer nearly shat,
For forty acres of his corn
Was fairly fuckit flat.

Singing etc.

So when the ball was over, then
The maidens all confessed
That while they liked the music fine
The fucking was the best.


Cats on the Rooftops,

Cats on the rooftops, cats on the tiles,
Cats with syphilis and cats with piles,
Cats with their arseholes wreathed in smiles
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

The baboon’s arse is red and white,
There’s a glow below like a neon light,
And it waves like a flag in the jungle night,
As he revels in the joys of copulation.

The elephant’s rump is thick and round,
A small one weighs a thousand poun;
Two together shake the ground,
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

The old wild boar, in the mud all day,
Thinks of the sows that are far, far away,
And the corkscrew motion that lasts half a day,
As he revels in the joys of copulation.

Sheep in the sheepfold, sheep in lamb,
Sheep in agony, sheep in a jam,
Sheep being done by a bloody great ram
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

Bulls in the paddock, bulls in the corn,
Bulls with balls and bulls with a horn,
Bulls with their cocks all shaven and shorn,
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

The owls in the trees, and the cats on the tiles,
One screws in solitude, the other in files;
You can hear the howls and shrieks for miles,
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

Old brother tortoise lives in his shell,
He can’t get at it very well,
But when he does, cor bloody hell!
As he revels in the joys of copulation.

Frogs on the seashore, frogs on the rocks,
Frogs with the clap and frogs with the pox,
Frogs with warts and festering cocks
As they revel in the joys of copulation.

Long-legged curates grind like goats,
Pale-faced spinsters screw like stoats,
And the whole damn world stands by and gloats,
As they revel in the joys of copulation.


The Good Ship Venus

It was on the good ship Venus,
By God you should have seen us;
The figurehead was a whore in bed
And the mast a rampant penis.

It was at the China station,
By way of celebration,
We sunk a junk with a hunk of spunk
By mutual masturbation.

We sailed to the Canaries
To screw the local fairies;
We got the syph in Tenerife
And the clap in Buenos Aires.

We sailed to the Bahamas
Where the girls all wear pajamas;
They wouldn’t screw our motley crew—
They much preferred bananas.

The captain, name of Tugger,
Was such a dirty bugger;
He wasn’t fit to shovel shit
From one ship to another.

The first mate’s name was Morgan,
A homosexual gorgon;
Six men could ride with legs astride
Upon his sexual organ.

The second mate’s name was Abel;
His arsehole bore this label:
“I’ll give the crew their daily due
Though I’m no Betty Grable.”

The third mate’s name was Walter;
At love he’d never falter.
The bloody stiff had given syph
To all the girls in Malta.

The steward’s name was Topper;
Boy did he have a whopper!
Twice round the deck, once round his neck.
And up his arse for a stopper.

The trainee cook was Wooden,
He really was a good ’un;
He tossed off twice in a bag of rice
And called it sago puddin’.

The cabin-boy was Nipper,
A regular little ripper;
He stuffed his arse with broken glass
And circumcised the skipper.

The captain’s wife was Mabel,
Always willing and able,
Behind the door, or on the floor,
Or on the chart room table.

She had a bonnie daughter,
Who fell into the water;
By the shouts and squeals you could tell the eels
Had found her sexual quarter.

The ship’s dog’s name was Rover;
By God we did him over,
We poked and ground that faithful hound
From Land’s End round to Dover.

The crew were different races,
You could see it in their faces;
They were always frigging against the rigging
For want of better places.

If you’d like more of this serial,
There’s plenty more material;
I wish you luck, wherever you fuck,
From all disease venereal.


She’s a Daisy

She’s a daisy, she’s a lily,
She’s a whore in Piccadilly,
And her brother is a bum-boy in the Strand,
While her father hocks his arsehole
Round the Elephant and Castle.
They’re the finest fucking family in the land.



Well, and why not? You wouldn’t expect to find them in the Nortons. But there’s a difference between exclusion from textbooks in the interests of good manners, their student audiences being captive, and exclusions for not being “poetical” enough.

The poems here are poems, with more linguistic vitality than in prairie acres of “personal” free verse about one’s fascinating self and family. They didn’t enjoy the long festive life that they did (I can’t speak for nowadays) just because guys liked singing dirty. In their rhyming, their figures of speech (“Cats with their arseholes wreathed in smiles”), their over-the-top exaggerations, they made sex exuberant and unworrisome.

They simply take us a bit further along from poems like “The Green-Gowne,” “The Blythsome Wedding,” “Ane Little Interlude of the Droichs,” and “Hob Upon a Holiday.”

Basically, in their versions here, “O’Reilly’s Daughter” (quasi-quoted in T.S. Eliot’s Cocktail Party), “Cats on the Rooftops,” and “The Good Ship Venus” come from Don Laycock’s The World’s Best Dirty Songs (Angus, 1986) and “Life Presents a Dismal Picture ” and “The Ball of Kirrimuir” from John Whitworth’s The Faber Book of Blue Verse (1990/2006). “She’s a Daisy” is my own recollection, nudged by the text in Whitworth.

But I’ve omitted some stanzas from “Cats,” “The Good Ship,” and “The Ball,” some, as they seem to me, simply weaker, others a bit too scatological, or olfactory, or tactile, like the lady organist with “A wreath of roses round her arse/And thistles round her cunt.” A New Book pushes envelopes, but it has its own decorums.

An advantage to doing things online is that items can indeed be “there,” with pop-ups and links, without, as in print books, being in anyone’s face like a storefront that you can’t avoid glimpsing as you pass back and forth along a street.

I take the tiles in “Cats” to be those on the gently sloping roofs of one-storey sculleries projecting from the backs of British houses, otherwise there would be an obvious redundancy. I assume that the poem, at least what we have in Laycock, was created after Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It. Let’s Fall in Love” of 1928, adapted in the Fifties as simply “Let’s Do It” by Noel Coward.

For a less fantastical, older, and maybe original version of “The Ball of Kirriemuir,” plus the traditional melody, go to Bawdy Songs.

I go on not including limericks, there being so very many of them. Edward Lear’s don’t work their famous charm on me, probably because he didn’t have to come up with that crucial new rhyme-word for the fifth line. Victorian dirty limericks are too much the equivalent of those 19thc. erotic photos that invite the predatory eye to root around in thickets of unwashed hair on the lumpy bodies of the poor. Which is to say, too merely dirty. And 20th century ones, a lot of them over-familiar by now, become less funny in clusters. But there are great ones along the way in John Whitworth’s lovely anthology.

I’ve no idea when my six poems assumed more or less the forms they have here. I heard versions or parts of them in the Forties after WWII. I would guess that a fair amount of composing and supplementing went on during the early years of the war when bright young conscript officers had time on their hands and drinks on the table in places like Cairo.