Theresa O’Connor

Delirium Tremens — Irish History in Song

To kick off my Irish History in Song series this year, I thought I’d start out with Christy Moore’s hysterical tale of a case of delirium tremens after a long night of drinking. Christy’s written several such songs jam-packed with references (c.f. Lisdoonvarna, which I wrote up in 2007).

Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Smithwick and the Harpic, the bottle, draught, and keg.
As I sat lookin’ up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after fourteen pints of stout.

I dreamt a dream the other night I couldn’t sleep a wink
The rats1 were tryin’ to count the sheep and I was tryin’ to get off the drink
There was footsteps in the parlour and voices on the stairs
I was climbin’ up the walls and I was movin’ round the chairs.
I looked out from under the blanket and up at the fireplace.
The Pope and John F. Kennedy were starin’ in me face.
Suddenly it dawned at me I was getting the ould D.T.s
When the Child o’ Prague began to dance around the mantlepiece.

Well I swore upon the bible I’d never touch a drop.
My heart was palpitatin’ I was sure ’twas going to stop,
Thinkin’ I was dyin’ I gave my soul to God to keep.
A tenner to St. Anthony to help me get some sleep.
I fell into an awful nightmare and I got a dreadful shock.
When I dreamt there was no Duty-free at the airport down in Knock.
Ian Paisley was sayin’ the rosary and Mother Teresa was on the pill.
Frank Patterson was out of his head and he singin’ Spancil Hill.

I dreamt that Mr. Haughey had recaptured Crossmaglen
Then Garret got re-elected and gave it back again.
Dick Spring and Roger Casement were on board the Marita-Ann
As she sailed into Fenit they were singin’ Banna Strand.
I dreamt Archbishop McNamara was on Spike Island for 3 nights
Havin’ been arrested for supportin’ Traveller’s rights.
I dreamt that Ruairi Quinn was smokin’ marijuana in the Dáil
Barry Desmond handin’ frenchies out to scuts in Fianna Fáil.

I dreamt I was in ecstasy up in Heaven, I was in agony down in Hell
I was bored in Limbo, and in Purgatory as well
There were Original sins, venial sins, and mortal sins by the score
So I tied barbed wire ’round me underpants and flagellated meself on the floor
I dreamt I was in the confessional box, and the bishop says to me
“Any impure thoughts me child,” and sure the barbed wire was killng me
I dreamt I was in a jacuzzi along with that old whore in Number Ten
’twas then I knew I’d never ever, ever drink again.

I’ll be at SXSW this year, so I don’t know how many of these I’ll get around to writing up this year.


  1. The D.T.s are sometimes called “the rats,” so I’m sure it’s no coincidence that these particular creatures are doing the counting.