The Bould Thady Quill

Sung by Tim Browne from Kanturk. In his own words:

“This is a version of the great Cork song written over 100 years ago by Johnny Tom Gleeson. Recorded for “Mutiny in the County” a solo album made in 2003. The lyrics were published in the 1993 edition of the wonderful Seanchas Duthalla Magazine in an article written by one James Chisman. It is a mighty song and many versions of it, even one in the Irish language, are known. I particularily like this version because of its Land League component and Chisman mentioned in his article that this version is thought to be the nearest lyrically to the original version. The song has undergone many changes and additions since the original believed to have been written in the 1880’s and first published around the early 1920’s. It is a much favoured drinking song possibly due to the references to drinking black porter as fast as you’ll fill etc., Some extra lines have been added to this version so perhaps in one hundred years time or so Thade Quill will have become an internationally recognised academic, and maybe even an assissinated President of America…………….!!!”

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5 thoughts on “The Bould Thady Quill”

  1. Praise to Michael for writing the article and to Tim Browne for singing such a fine rendition of Johnny Tom Gleeson’s ballad “The Bould Thady Quill.

    Since I am mentioned in the article, I should say that Johnny Tom was my first cousin 3 times removed – he was my great grandmother, Hanora Gleeson’s first cousin – they grew up together near Rylan, County Cork. I remember, as a kid, hearing her proudly talking about him.

    While on a Fulbright Fellowship to University College Cork in 1987, I was also able to do a genealogical search and track down people who had intimate knowledge of Johnny Tom, from which I was able to write a biography of him. My article in Seanchas Duthalla,Vol. IX, 1993 was a prelude to publishing the book: “Johnny Tom Gleeson – The Author of the Bould Thady Quill”, Three Spires Press, Cork, 1994.

    As with many poems and ballads that Johnny Tom wrote, “The Bould Thady Quill” was a spoof. Thady, a real person, was not an athlete or a lady’s man He was a burly farm laborer, who often slept in the barns of people for whom he worked.

    1. I grew up in The Bronx, New York, and heard a similar story about Thady Quill. The comment was, “He couldn’t tie his own shoes!”

      The ballad, however, was a great one and was often sung at family weddings, etc. by my mother’s side of the family – the Buckley’s of Park, Knocknagree. My cousins and I can still belt out a few choruses of this lively tune.

      Thanks for the memories!

  2. Good man Tim You cant beat it what a great rendition I remember me Mother RIP who was a great songstress herself singing this old ballad as she worked in the old place many years ago. The dont write them like this anymore what a story and what a character. Thanks for posting

  3. James it doesn’t matter if Thady was only a fictitious character what he represents and what the ballad represents was a boisterous turbulent time when Cork was alive with Nationalism if only we could have some of those days back and more Thadys were about who dealt with life as he found it particularly injustice meted out to his own people

  4. My book, “Johnny Tom Gleeson – The Author of the Bould Thady Quill”, which has long been out of print, is now available in e-book format through, BN, and other book suppliers. Enjoy.

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