The Mary Ann McHugh

Come all ye lads who plough the seas and also seize the plough,
The cruise of a canal boat I am telling to ye now.
It was the Mary Ann McHugh that braved the angry surf
And bore away from Mullingar with a terrible load of turf.

And the captain’s name was Duff,
His manners they were rough,
But every cape and headland by its Christian name he knew,
And he issued his command –
“Keep her well in sight of land!
Till we make the port of Dublin in the Mary Ann McHugh.”

The engine was of one horse-power, propelled wid a blackthorn stick,
Wid the wind astran, and filled with corn, the horse went a terrible lick.
We worked her roun’ the Hill o’ Down, and then Kilcock we passed,
And when we seen John Flynn’s shebeen, we cried out “Land at last.”

But the captain, Jamesy Duff,
Cried “Luff! Ye lubbers, luff!
And don’t put in near Johnny Flynn
Whatever else ye do.
We forgot to pay his score,
So he’s got the polis watching for the Mary Ann McHugh.

Then up an spake an old sailor who had sailed the Irish Sea.
“I pray thee put into yonder port or the crew will mutinee;
To put to sea with the boy and me is a cruel thing, I think,
With water, water everywhere, and never a drop o’ drink!”

But the captain, Jamesy Duff,
Said, “Enough, my lad, enough!
No man before mast shall ever tell me what to do.
Clap on the sail at wance,
For that’s our only chance,
To keep from debt and danger in the Mary Ann McHugh.”

With anxious heats the vessel starts upon her altered course,
The wind and waves they lashed the shore, and the pilot lashed his horse,
But all in vain – beneath the strain the rope began to part,
And she ran aground on a lump of coal that wasn’t put down in the chart!

And the captain, Jamesy Duff,
He caught me such a cuff,
And then he said, “Go heave the lead,” while the flag at half-mast flew,
But I had had enough
Of the tyrant, Jamesy Duff,
So I heaved the lead at his head and fled from the Mary Ann McHugh.

Prose, Poems & Parodies of Percy French, 1980, Helicon Limited, Dublin.


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The 16th Percy French Festival

Our Great Disconnect

17th, 18th, 19th July 2024

At Castlecoote House

The Percy French Festival 2024 acknowledges the major support of Excel Industries; Whyte’s; CastleAcre; C&F Quadrant Ltd; Davies Group; Hidden Ireland.

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