American Sailor

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s no secret that horse racing is a bigger deal in Ireland than in America. A quick glance at, say, the Irish Times, will tell you all you need to know in that regard.

Given that, it also shouldn’t be surprising that horses and horse racing feature fairly prominently in traditional (and newer) Irish music. On the day given to the wearin’ o’ the green, here are a couple of our faves.

So pour yourself a Guinness and enjoy!


The Galway Races take place in late July each year at Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway, in the west of Ireland. The seven-day summer meeting is perhaps the country’s most upscale race meet, as well as its longest.

This traditional song uses the meet as a jumping-off point to comment on – and call for – a world in which all sorts of people coexist peacefully:

There was half a million people there from all denominations
The Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, and Presbyterian
There was yet no animosity, no matter what persuasion
But “failte” and hospitality inducin’ fresh acquaintance.


Not a traditional, this song by a traveling street musician named “The Musical Slave” celebrates a horse yard in a Dublin neighborhood known as the Liberties.

The Liberties, which is home to the stabling for the city’s carriage horses, also apparently is home to what The Musical Slave describes as a group of “rebel horse owners,” mostly teenagers who tend to their horses in the midst of a major modern city.


Irish music has a long tradition of combining bitter and sweet, and this cheerful tune with more troubling lyrics hits that mark bang on.

The waxies’ dargle is a kind of working class holiday, and the song recounts a conversation between a couple of workers about whether they’ll be attending the dargle, or the Galway Races, or even whether they’ll have money for food.

Here’s a nice piece of advice
Got from an aul’ fishmonger:
“When the food is scarce and you see the hearse
Then you’ll know you’ve died of hunger.”