Saturday, April 9, AD 2011

Something for the weekend.   The lilting strains of Lilliburlero from the classic movie Barry Lyndon (1975). 

The song originated during the Not So Glorious Revolution of 1688, after the usurper William of Holland, with the help of English traitors, chased James II, the rightful King of England, from his throne due to James’ Catholicism.  Like most of the Stuart monarchs, the bad points of James tended to outweigh his good points, but the obloquy heaped upon his reign in most of the histories of this period is largely a function of partisan distortion and outright religious bigotry.  On the other hand, Jacobite views of this period of British history, which goes to 1746 and the smashing of the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the grandson of James II at Culloden, tend greatly to exaggerate the virtues of the “Kings across the waters” who, Old Pretender (James II), Young Pretender (James III) and Bonnie Prince Charlie, were basically selfish blockheads who probably would have been disasters as monarchs if they had succeeded in regaining the throne.  History, alas, often gives us unpalatable alternatives.

Lilliburlero’s original lyrics are as follows:

Ho, brother Teague, dost hear the decree?
Lilliburlero bullen a la
We are to have a new deputy
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Lero Lero Lillibullero
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Lero Lero Lero Lero
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Oh by my soul it is a Talbot
Lilliburlero bullen a la
And he will cut every Englishman’s throat
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Now Tyrconnell is come ashore
Lilliburlero bullen a la
And we shall have commissions galore
Lilliburlero bullen a la
And everyone that won’t go to Mass
Lilliburlero bullen a la
He will be turned out to look like an ass
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Now the heretics all go down
Lilliburlero bullen a la
By Christ and St Patrick’s the nation’s our own
Lilliburlero bullen a la
There was an old prophecy found in a bog
Lilliburlero bullen a la
The country’d be ruled by an ass and a dog
Lilliburlero bullen a la
Now this prophecy is all come to pass
Lilliburlero bullen a la
For James is the dog and Tyrconnell’s the ass
Lillibulrero bullen a la

This all seems quite cryptic to us now, but these are all satirical comments placed by the song in the mouths of James’ Irish supporters.  Go here to read an explanation of the lyrics.

Another scene from Barry Lyndon, to the strains of The British Grenadiers.

16 Responses to Lilliburlero

  • Here are the first stanza and chorus for a Highland song regarding Bonnie Prince Charlie:

    Bonnie Charlie’s noo awa
    Safely o’er the friendly main
    Mony a heart will break in twa
    Should he ne’er come back again.

    Will ye no’ come back again?
    Will ye no’ come back again?
    Better lo’ed ye canna be
    Will ye no’ come back again?

    This is the song the Scots troops sing route marching up to save India from Thugee and Victory MacLaglen , et al in the Gunga Din movie.

  • Thanks for the link, Don. Kubrick’s best film and one of my all-time favorites. Perhaps Thackeray’s best novel, notwithstanding Vanity Fair, which did not have one likable character. Here’s the opening sentence of the novel:

    ‘Since the days of Adam, there has been hardly a mischief done in this
    world but a woman has been at the bottom of it.’

  • I agree Joe. A good companion novel to set the mood is Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.,_Gentleman

    T. Shaw, how the English turned the Highlanders from perennial rebels into a mainstay of their Empire is one of the most successful feats of political alchemy that I can think of!

  • TS opener:

    “I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me…”

  • “History, alas, often gives us unpalatable alternatives.”

    As does the present day, and quite possibly the near future (e.g. an Obama vs. Trump or Obama vs. Gingrich presidential election)

  • Ms. K: Anyone will be more palatable compaared to four more years the liberal/progressive job destruction.


    The saxon already had subverted the lowlanders and several Highland clans fought with the saxon against their traditional enemies.

    Then, it was alchemy of which Hitler would have approved. It was the harrowing of the glens. They destrpyed the clan system and the economy. What else could the few that survived than be mercenaries and fight for the hated foe. “Scotland the Brave”: Gallant in the winning of the wars of others.

    After Culloden, the Brits killed the wounded and murdered any clansman they thought was Jacobite. It was called the harrowing of the glens. The US treated the Indian better. Many were transported to the Americas or West Indies.

  • “The US treated the Indian better. Many were transported to the Americas or West Indies.”

    Where, ironically, some kept the forced oath of allegiance and fought for the Brits during the Revolution. Others, General Mercer for example, joined the patriots.

    Highlanders fighting as mercenaries T. Shaw was hardly a British innovation, as the Highlanders had been doing that since the time they entered recorded history. The English used a skillful mixture of force and reward with the Highlanders and it worked.

  • “As does the present day, and quite possibly the near future (e.g. an Obama vs. Trump or Obama vs. Gingrich presidential election)”

    My crystal ball for 2012 politics is a bit hazy Elaine, but I can guarantee that neither Trump nor Gingrich will be the Republican nominee: both have enough skeletons in their past to fill a small town cemetary, not to mention bitter ex-wives. Trump could pose a bit of a problem for the GOP if he runs third party, but probably only a serious problem if the GOP nominee is so weak that victory appears unlikely in any case.

  • Trump could pose a bit of a problem for the GOP if he runs third party, but probably only a serious problem if the GOP nominee is so weak that victory appears unlikely in any case.

    Dunno, Sir. Mr. Perot proved quite troublesome for an incumbent president who had some irritating aspects to him but generally left public business in better condition than when he found it. The Republican base is smaller than the Democratic base but the Republican Party generally does a great deal better at persuading voters without strong antecedent commitments. This makes a Republican candidate more vulnerable to the effects of 3d party challengers.

  • The crazed H. Ross Perot, whose true role in life was to be a Yoda impersonator, benefited from the fact that George Bush alienated a huge part of the Republican base by the betrayal of his “Read my lips, no new taxes pledge.” Bush was elected largely in 88 due to the awe inspiringly self destructive campaign of Michael Dukakis. Considering him to be a RINO, the GOP core voters were always suspicious of Bush, and when he broke his word on taxes, quite a few Republican voters never forgave him.

  • I do not think Mr. Perot is ‘crazed’. He is a very capable businessman, somewhat eccentric. He also assembled the most persuasive 3d party candidacy (bar one) in the last 150 years. Absent some serious opinion research, I would not attribute his balance of support to a discrete factor, much less to postures assumed in the previous presidential campaign. (For starters, Mr. Perot’s primary issue was public sector borrowing, about which the Laffer-bots in the GOP tend to be insouciant).

  • Nah, he was a nutjob Art. He got out of the race temporarily in 1992 because he said he had received “secret intelligence” that the Republicans were going to sabotage his daughter’s wedding. Of course there was not a scintilla of evidence to support this charge. It was merely one more example of Perot’s habit of making paranoid charges unsupported by any evidence:

    Perot’s paranoia is pretty well known, due to his announcement in 1992 that he was quitting the presidential race (in which he was a very strong contender) because Republican’s were planning to disrupt his daughters wedding (by forging photos of phony lesbian sex.) But it has long been typical of him.

    He thinks he lost his 1993 debate to Al Gore because Gore had a hidden earpiece, through which he was being fed answers, or possibly questions. (Posner, p330). While he was serving on a Texas anti-drug commission in the early 1980s, he became convinced that Charles Harrelson (the father of actor Woody Harrelson, from “Cheers”) had been hired to kill him by drug dealers. (The elder Harrelson is in fact a career criminal doing time for killing a federal judge.) The FBI dismissed his fears as baseless.

    In 1992, Perot claimed that the North Vietnamese government had hired the Black Panthers to assasinate him, back in 1970, because of his efforts on behalf of POWs. He even said that “one night they had five people coming across my front lawn with rifles”, and that a guard dog bit a big piece out of one attacker’s butt.

    However, Harold Birkhead, the man who ran security (including the dogs) at Perot’s house at the time, says he never saw or heard about anything like that. And Paul McCaghren, who headed Dallas police intelligence in 1970, also dismisses the notion. “… it did not happen. There were only about 8 people here [in Dallas] that belonged to the Black Panther party. Two of those people worked for us, and they told us every day what was happening.” (Posner, p66)

    Just before Perot’s 1993 debate with Gore, he announced that the FBI had alerted him that a six-member Cuban hit squad had been sent to murder him. “The organization is a Mafia-like group in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement”, Perot claimed. (Posner, p327-8) The FBI had told him about an anonymous tip that he would be assassinated, but public figures get weird threat calls all the time. What is striking is that Perot believed the claim, embellished it and announced it publicly.”

    Yeah, it would have been great allowing that man to have access to the nuclear strike order. As to 1992, his appeal was all about Bush betraying his pledge not to raise taxes.

  • “He (Perot) became convinced that Charles Harrelson… had been hired to kill him by drug dealers.”

    If I remember correctly, Charles Harrelson is also a favorite figure among JFK conspiracy theorists since he was allegedly on the “grassy knoll” in Dallas at the time, or something.

    Which makes Woody Harrelson’s role in “2012” as a crazed conspiracy theorist (who just happens to be right about the supervolcano lurking under Yellowstone National Park) rather ironic.

  • Random notes about the opening topic:

    1) “Lillibullero” (or ~burlero) did not originate in 1688. Most accounts I’ve run across say it was adapted from an earlier Irish tune, possibly in parody. The refrain is supposed to be cod-Gaelic.
    2) The song appears in a famously unproduced screenplay called ‘Harrow Alley’ (by Walter Newman), set in London during the plague and Great Fire years of 1665-1666. It is sung by a crowd of lowlifes.
    3) In modern times the melody is best known as the signature theme of the BBC World Service, which used it from the 1940s till the 1990s. In Wikipedia I find this nice link to an mp3 archive recording: