The Humours of Whiskey



This example of "The Humours of Whiskey" is performed by Kate Akers
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

Background nnotes

Cratur (creature), cray'tur, pep, poteen (also spelled poitin and pronounced paw-CHEEN) are all words for illegal whiskey. The Irish words uisce beatha (pronounced ish-ka bah-ha)  means "water of life" and this is thought to be the origin of the word "whiskey," which is correctly spelled either whiskey or whisky. Legal whiskey in Ireland was sometimes called "Parliament Whiskey" because the taxes paid on it went to the British parliament.

This song probably dates no earlier than 1825 because that's when construction began on the "Thames Tunnel" by Marc Brunel (here's a web site about him), who is mentioned in the last verse. The "Thames Tunnel" was only called the Thames Tunnel until the second one was built, then it became known as the Rotherhithe Tunnel.  PBS (American Public Broadcasting Stations) recently did a show called "Building Big: Tunnels" that talked a lot about Marc Brunel's efforts to build the Thames Tunnel. Here's the web site about the show.

Martin Ryan, a contributor to the forum posted this note:

Folklorist Tom Munnelly collected songs from Tom Lenihan over many years, publishing them in a lovely tape/book package called Mount Callan Garland a year or so ago. He gives details on this one.

Lenihan learned the song from an American songbook "617 Irish Songs and Ballads" sent to him by his sister in America. He fitted the jig tune "Larry O'Gaff" to it and its this version everyone sings.

The earliest version Munnelly could find was in "The Emerald Isle Songbook" , published in 1899 in Dublin. The words are credited to one Joseph Lunn (no dates) and a tune called "Ireland so Frisky" is recommended. Lenihan's version, incidentally, omits one verse of the original - Munnelly speculates because it is difficult to scan to his tune.

BTW There's a line in the first verse usually rendered as ".. the true physic to matters pathetic" or ".... to bother pathetic" (Lenihan's version). The original was "... physic to bother phthisis.."! It's a pulmonary disease.

Tom Lenihan recorded this song as "Paddy's Panacea"

The musical form for this is A B B,  in three groups of four lines.

Alternate words are in [ ] brackets. This song is found on Andy M. Stewart & Manus Lunny's album Dublin Lady and sheet music for the song is in The Andy M. Stewart Collection songbook.  

Alternate words are in [ ] brackets.  

Let your quacks and newspapers be cuttin' their capers
And curing the vapors the scratch and the gout
With their medical [magical] potions, their pills [serums] and their lotions
Upholding their notions, they're mighty put out.

Who [You] can tell the true physic of all things prophetic [pathetic]
And pitch to the divil, cramp, colic and spleen
You'll know it I think if you take a big drink
With your mouth to the brink of a jug of poteen

So stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh what moderation gives hope to a nation
Or brings consolation like poteen me boys.
[Oh what botheration, no dose in the nation
Can give consolation like poteen me boys. ]

No liquid cosmetic to lovers athletic
Or bodies [ladies] pathetic can give such a bloom
As the sweet by the powers in the garden of flowers
E'er gave their own bowers such a darling perfume
And this liquid so rare if you willingly share
To be taking your hair when it's frizzled and dead
Oh the sod has the merit to yield the true spirit
So strong it will shake all the hairs from your head

Then stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh since its perfection, no doctor's direction
Can cleanse the complexion like poteen me boys

As a child in me cradle, me nurse with [from] her ladle
Was filling my [swillin her] mouth with a notion of pap [Pep]
When a drop from her bottle fell into my throttle
I stumbled and capered clean out of her lap

On the floor I lay crawlin' and screaming and bawling
'Til me mother and father were called to the fore
All sobbing and sighing they feared I was dying
But soon found I only was crying for more.

So stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh lord how they'd chuckle if babes in their truckle
They only could suckle on poteen me boys

Through my youthful aggression, through times of depression
My childhood's impression still clung to my mind
And at school or at college the basis [bolus]* of knowledge
I never could gulp 'til with whiskey combined

And as older I'm growing times ever bestowin'
On Erin's potation, a flavor so fine
And how ere they may lecture on jove and his nectar
Itself is the only true liquid divine

So stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh lord, 'tis the right thing for courting and fighting
There's nowt so exciting as poteen me boys.

Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipes and fiddle
What's hotter than mustard and milder [wilder] than cream
What best wets your whistle, what's clearer than crystal
What's sweeter than honey and stronger than steam

What'll make the lame walk, what will make the dumb talk,
The elixir of life and philospher's stone
And what helped Mr. Brunel to build the Thames Tunnel
Wasn't it poteen from ould Inishowen

So stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
Oh lord, it's no wonder, if lightning and thunder
Weren't made from the plunder of poteen me boys.


Alternate Verse:

You maidens pathetic, with lovers athletic
For liquid cosmetic, you can't beat the drop
With a glow to your cheek, it will make your heart leap
It'll quiet a stallion or cure an old cob

At the mouth you would drool, be reduced to a fool
You'd kick up your heels and you'd peel to the buff
Then 'tis he'd be pathetic while you'd be athletic
If only you'd take a few drops of the stuff

So stick to the cratur' the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys
For there's nothing like whiskey to make maidens frisky
It soon separates all the men from the boys.

And another one; this is an original verse to the song that is rarely sung. It was posted on

Let philosophers dabble in science and babble
'Bout Oxy-gin, Hydro-gin, Nitro-gin's fame
For their gin, to my thinking, is not worth the drinking
Their labour's all lost and their learning a drame
They may prate by the score of their elements four
That all things earth, fire, air and water must be
For their rules I don't care, for in Ireland I'll swear
By St. Pat there's a fifth and that's whiskey, machree!

* Bolus:  A contributor noted that "A bolus is like a cud, a mouthful of food. It fits nicely with the image of gulping."  This is probably the original word.


(A part)
E A C#m A

(B part - x2)
A F#m E A D
A F#m E A E7 A
A F#m A
C#m D E A