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Whiskey in the Jar

22 Jul 02 - 04:30 PM (#752597)
Subject: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Mrrzy

Whiskey you're the divil mentions whiskey in the jar. There is also a song called Whiskey in the Jar. Does it come up anywhere else, and what is the Jar in this context? I've read Brits saying Come down to the pub for a jar... is it a measure? A container? Is it like the growler that used to be rushed?

22 Jul 02 - 04:37 PM (#752601)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Clinton Hammond

I've been trying to find an answer to this question for years Mrrzy.. to no avail...

One theory that I read said that that kind of nonsense blather (Musha ring rumma do... Whak fol the da now) might actually have been gaelic at one point, but has since been lost...

An interesting theory, that is impossible to prove or disprove...

In the context of "Come down fer a jar", it's a drink... a pint or 6...

22 Jul 02 - 05:32 PM (#752641)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Sorcha

Moonshine stills catch the whiskey in a "slobber jar". Could that be it? Also, jar is just as common as pint, glass, drink, draugh, draft, etc.

22 Jul 02 - 06:26 PM (#752675)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: X

Being a banjo picker and having a wife born and raised in North Carolina I've had my share of Moonshine Whiskey. I've always purchased it in a one-quart jar. To me that's Whiskey in a jar.

22 Jul 02 - 06:56 PM (#752693)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)

Banjoest- Yup, and served up in jelly glasses.

22 Jul 02 - 07:25 PM (#752702)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Amos

It is plain to me that jars have a much older history than bottles, because they are simpler to make, and can be thrown as well as blown and so on; and I am not completely certain but think the notion of bottling our drinks is a fairly recent invention -- whereas putting them up in jars has a long, wide-spread history to it going back more centuries than I can count, anyway. I get hung up on them eleventies, myself...


22 Jul 02 - 08:18 PM (#752728)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: X


And picking a tune be-twix each slip. Don't ya. know.

23 Jul 02 - 12:44 AM (#752832)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Kaleea

It is common for lyrics in a song to alude to another song, and yes, during the prohibition time (& later, too) folks would have a still, and the product was often sold in "Fruit jars" as in jars which might be used to "can" fruits, jellies & jams, veggies, etc.

23 Jul 02 - 12:39 PM (#753103)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Mrrzy

I know the British call TINS what the US calls CANS. Is it possible that the British "jar" isn't the American Jar?

23 Jul 02 - 12:51 PM (#753119)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: IanC

In Britain, a "jar" is a wide-mouthed bottle, suitable for putting jam and pickles in. Storage jars - such as the "Kilner" jar - are adapted for long term storage and were the (recyclable) forerunners of tin cans.

Jars have, historically, been used for storing liquids as well and, presumably, drinking from them was common as can be deduced from common usages such as "I'll have a jar" (= a drink (usually) of beer) replacing "I'll have a pint".


23 Jul 02 - 01:02 PM (#753130)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Clinton Hammond

So why then is a song about a highway man with a bitch of a girlfriend called "Whiskey In The Jar"?


23 Jul 02 - 01:24 PM (#753140)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: X

Because, Others take delight in the carriage a rollin'

I take delight in the juice of the barley

23 Jul 02 - 01:32 PM (#753144)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)

Whiskey in the jar, as a song, is compounded of two or more songs. Lord Lovell, Col. Pepper, etc., has had the "Whiskey" chorus added by musicians just to liven it up a bit. I prefer the Smothers Brothers version.

23 Jul 02 - 02:22 PM (#753191)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: death by whisky

..and sometimes the door is ajar

23 Jul 02 - 02:36 PM (#753198)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)

Oops! Farrell, not Lovel. Too much early morning dew.

24 Jul 02 - 02:14 AM (#753524)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Kaleea

It is called thus inasmuchas the last line of the refrain states, "there's whiskey in the jar." When I think of the song, "Whiskey in the jar," I recall the little trick which allowed Peter, Paul & Mary to get this song past the censors back in the 1960's. They simply titled it "Gilgarra Mountain." The Smothers Brothers got little past the censors, the censors got the Smothers Brothers instead.

24 Jul 02 - 01:00 PM (#753792)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Clinton Hammond

"the censors got the Smothers Brothers instead"

I'm glad someone got 'em...


25 Jul 02 - 12:19 AM (#754197)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: The Pooka

Awww, ClintonHammond. The Smothers Brothers were hilarious. / Oh well: matter of taste I suppose. / Like whiskey from an ould tin can. (Whiskey-o, Johnny-o....)

so it's go, fare thee well
with a too da loo ra loo ra doo de da
a too ra loo ra loo ra doo de da
me rikes fall too ra laddie-o
there's whisky in the jar.

03 Feb 04 - 09:05 AM (#1108103)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: GUEST,skyesong

See the threads under "KILGARY MOUNTAIN" or "Gilgarry Mountain"

03 Feb 04 - 10:20 AM (#1108166)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The main thread is 3116: Origins Whiskey in the Jar
Several versions of Kil--- .

04 Feb 04 - 08:13 AM (#1109016)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: pavane

Note re Can/tin

Can is just short for canister
English 'Tin Can' was a canister made of tin-plated steel, shortened to just tin.

There is an area of East London called Canning Town - I presume this was due to the local industry?

(incidentally, I live near Swansea, which I believe at one time was a major centre for tinplate production)

04 Feb 04 - 10:04 AM (#1109103)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: GUEST,sorefingers

When I was a wee lad, back in the dark ages, my uncle had a Pub and at times when the staff would be off for a few hours, a rare occasion, he would say 'lets sit down and have a few jars', meaning a half pint or what ever was yer fancy.

I knew, as did everybody in those poor dark post war days, that we did not drink out of a jar, but just the same the word was assumed to mean and earthenware pot.

Second bit of useless information, the other day while disputing about Blighters and how the people came to be there over aeons of time, I realized that myself and my buddies across the pond are descended from ancient tribes which at one time wore animal skin clothes and lived in mud huts. Much later arrived the Post Office, Cricket, Fish and Chips etc, but only a few fleeing continentals ever could have put up with the smelly grass roofs and pigs in the kitchen etc, hence the Romans, Welsh, Anlgo Saxons, Normans and finally Pakistanis who ruled over the Britons imported lots of refinements to civilise the natives.

Among these were Meads, Noonnie Noh, Scottish Tiddle Winks, Welsh Rabbits and Irish Folksinging.

Even though the Irish are great musical compromisers and even though it is without doubt that Hissing Sid Hedgegroper was the true genius of this fine ballad, it is nonetheless the case that the bleedin Irish rewrote it, recorded it and so everybody and his dog named spot all over the entire world sing it! Consequently the Japanese tourist at London Airport assumes that 'Whiskey In The Jar' is an Irish song.

Life is like that, get over it and move on!

04 Feb 04 - 03:03 PM (#1109374)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

"Can" was also a common name for the straight-sided cup (china or whatever) from which the islanders drank their coffee, before there was a crop failure (about 1820?) and the East India Company addicted them to tea, which, I have been told by malt drinkers, is as destructive as opium.
Intoxicated as they were by the stuff, they could no longer make straight-sided cups and that is why they drank from those oddly shaped vessels they call teacups.
Teatotalers, who can be identified by their once again practically-shaped mugs, are fighting the scourge of tea valiantly with their abolitionist songs and abstemious habits as a good example.

Canning and Cannington are not uncommon surnames. A Canning perhaps was one of the 'entrepreneurs' who built housing for the dockworkers.
Then again, Molly, with the reward she got for turning in our sporting hero, may have started a vegetable farm and opened a canning factory as suggested by pavanne. From what I see on the internet, Canning Town is being 'gentrified' with a vengeance.

04 Feb 04 - 05:20 PM (#1109462)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Cluin

Illicit whiskey, be it poteen or moonshine, commonly sold and transported in jars meant for preserves and other purposes. If you drank a whole jar of the stuff in one go you'd end up being "corpse in the bog" like as not.

01 Apr 04 - 03:50 PM (#1152219)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar

>> why then is a song about a highway man with a bitch of a girlfriend >> called "Whiskey In The Jar"?

Coz as long as you still have some whiskey in the jar it don't matter.

This is a good 'ol, good time, drinkin song. Further attempts to analyse/deconstruct/interpret it are, as our american cousins so cutely put it, horseshit.

Francesco Vincento Zappata

01 Apr 04 - 04:03 PM (#1152226)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar

Having lived in Ireland for most of my life, apart from the occasional year in other countries, the image that the phrase "Whiskey in the jar" calls to my mind is one of those stone whiskey-jars that were the norm before modern bottles. They were kind of fish-shaped buff-coloured stoneware bottles capped with corks.

01 Apr 04 - 05:29 PM (#1152293)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: JWB

There's an old sea song about a crimp in San Francisco who would put dope in the beer he served to sailors. He apparently served it out from "the big five-gallon jar." Can you imagine a jar of whiskey that size?


01 Apr 04 - 05:57 PM (#1152315)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Francesco, there are a baker's dozen (and more) of these old songs from the late 18th and first half of the 19th c. about a young man on the scamp and his blowen. Someone, probably a music hall singer, added the nonsense chorus for interest and to get the crowd involved. We know that in a Glasgow music hall, the 'Whisky' chorus was popular in the 1850s; see thread 3116: Whisky in the Jar
Another of these songs is "Newry Highwayman" - "Wild and Wicked Youth" - Jolly Blade" - etc. See threads 21558, 68402 and others.
Thread 21558: Newry
Thread 68402: Jolly Blade
Picked up in the music halls, these songs went to all the lands occupied or traded with by Great Britain.

On the scamp- making a living as a highwayman, etc.
Blowen- the whore or mistress of a thief or highwayman.

19 Dec 06 - 10:28 AM (#1913645)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: GUEST,Patrick Sheehan

Anybody know why the song is called "Whiskey in the Jar"? More specifically, why do they say, "There's whiskey in the jar" in the chorus when not one of the versions of the song has anything to do with Whiskey or Jars?
   The last stanza in a lot of the versions has the bit about "the juice of the barley" but all of the songs are about this outlaw guy getting betrayed by some girl, so why is the chorus a bunch of nonsense and a random bit about booze?

Some of my thoughts:
   I keep looking but everywhere I look tells me the same thing: the words in the chorus are just nonsense. But I find that hard to believe. It sounds very much like the little Irish I know:

"Musha ring um a do um a da" is very very similar sounding to these Irish words:
Musha => M'uishe (my whiskey)
ring um a => rinne me/ (rinne = past tense of "de/an" which is "do, make, perform, carry out, commit, turn out, reach, establish"; me/ = "I, me")
do => don (from "do" + "an" = "to the, for the")
um a da => amada/n (fool)

which translates to "I made my whiskey for the fool." Which, as a translation, has the nice qualities that it follows correct Irish grammar and also follows stress rules for both sentences and individual words. It also has to do with whiskey, which is nice.

my whiskey made a fool of me would translate to, I think:
Rinne se/ m'uishe me/ amada/n. Which doesn't work as a translation because the subject has to follow the verb.

"Whack for the daddy-o" is sometimes said to be a mistranscription of "work of the devil-o" which makes some sense as far as my first translation goes in an "alcohol is the devil's brew" sort of sense. It is also in keeping with the story line revolving around a highwayman.

A possible anternative Irish translation is as follows:
uacht failte ta/ diobh,
which sounds like "whack fol cha ta jiov" which is pretty close. Unfortunately, I don't think it makes any sense since it translates to "It is a testament of welcome for them".

My last thought is that maybe it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with whiskey at all. Maybe the line "there's whiskey in the jar" is actually the mistranscribed line. Maybe the chorus never had anything to do with whiskey.

The Irish word for whiskey, "uisce" (pronounced "ish-keh"), is also the Irish word for water. And many of the versions of the song have his girl filling up his cartridges with water as a main plot point. "Whiskey in the jar" might have been a mishearing of some Gaelic like "uisce ina dearadh" punning on dearadh, drawing his pistols and jenny or molly etc drawing water into his charges, or something.

My Irish is definitely not good enough to do the translation but I do think there's something there.

Those are some ideas. Does anybody else have any helpful suggestions? (Aside from the suggestion that it is just nonsense...)
Does anyone know where this chorus originates? (There is a very similar sounding chorus in "Whiskey, you're the divil" which the Clancys cover, I think, and that song has a bit more to do with whiskey but still not much as it's mainly a war song.)
Any leads on what's goin' on here?

- Very confused,

19 Dec 06 - 10:36 AM (#1913655)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Cluin

"There's whiskey in the jar!" comes as the last line of the chorus. It's meant to indicate that the singers should stop and take a slug before proceeding on with the story.

Kind of like that ubiquitous line "But I'll sing no more now... `till I get a drink!" which ended a lot of songs. Often the last bit was spoken loudly instead of sung.

19 Dec 06 - 10:43 AM (#1913663)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Big Mick

That's the way I took it as well, Cluin. But that is a damned interesting take on the root of Musha ring........ I hope Philipa looks in on this one.


19 Dec 06 - 10:54 AM (#1913681)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Cluin

A lotta "folk process" gone on with this song.

Version I know has the chorus:

Musha ring rumma doo rumma da
(hi and its...) Whack fol the daddy-oh
Whack fol the daddy-oh
There's whiskey in the the jar

I think it's evolved to a nonsensical version to enhance its singability since, as anyone who's led a singalong on this one knows, it's a rouser that all enthusiastically join in on.

But I agree about the "interesting" comment.

19 Dec 06 - 11:36 AM (#1913739)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Big Mick

Yep, I've sung this song a gazillion times, same general version as you. But the twist this gent puts on the genesis of the term is pretty interesting. It will be fun to hear the responses to his hypothesis.


19 Dec 06 - 01:21 PM (#1913862)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Dept. of ad nauseum
Origins and meanings were discussed in great detail (excessive) in thread 3116, as noted in a previous post:
Origins Whiskey

The phrase was not in the original songs
The phrase appears in 19th c. music hall versions, recorded in broadsides, in several forms.
As Malcolm Douglas remarked (thread 3116): "Although it's possible that the chorus may have some meaning on the lines of some of the ingenious suggestions made ..., it's probably just as likely that it's meaningless 'cod Irish' of the music-hall variety."

19 Dec 06 - 01:42 PM (#1913886)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

15 threads
423 posts
Probably more buried in the Mudcat cemetery

20 Dec 06 - 04:45 AM (#1914497)
Subject: RE: Whiskey in the Jar
From: GUEST,Nelie Clatt

It means ' all Englishmen are bastards '