from “Representations of Drinking in English Songs” in Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia [pg. 224]:

In English songs of the nineteenth century, fighting assumes less prominence than in contemporary Irish drinking songs (Ingle 2000). Only 16 English songs of this period contain fight-related themes, and 7 songs from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been identified. In contrast, over 70 of 200 Irish drink-related songs of the same era concerned fighting. Of those, half were concerned with a peculiar Irish institution, ‘faction fighting,’ which is foreign to British tradition (Conley 2000). Only 2 English songs have been found with comparable themes. ‘Pleasures of the fair’ (in which a mob at a rural carnival ‘drinks and fights uproariously’) depicts a brawl that apparently arises from high spirits. And ‘Pace egging song’ also depicts a spontaneous group fight among a reveling throng at an Easter festival.

“Other English group fight-theme songs include ‘Dramatic morality,’ in which drinking at a theater leads to disorder wherein men cuff and spar with each other, with no mention of anger as a motive. In a playful scene at ‘The Manchester races,’ a throng eats and drinks with abandon, while others fight. Three songs depict group fights, growing out of arguments at sporting events. ‘Wednesbury cocking’ describes a bloody affair, to be long remembered (and thus atypical), while in ‘Wedgfield wake’ (a seasonal fair) another cockfight debate triggers a fight. Finally, in ‘Humor of Eccles wake,’ an unspecified sporting dispute also leads to a brawl. In reviewing ‘recreational fighting,’ it appears these English songs are neither as organized nor as damaging as Irish faction fights….

The contrasts between song themes from Scotland, Ireland, and England are also intriguing and suggest topics for social historians to pursue. The balance between perceived benefits and dangers of drinking is significantly different between Irish and British songs, for one thing — and the Irish reference for fighting as a recreation in their street ballads (Ingle 2000) could not be discovered in English street ballads or in rural folk songs. Are the British really so different in their attitudes toward drink-enhanced fighting, or are they simply disinclined to sing about them?


_____

previously: early modern and modern clannish ireland and english victorian working class pugilists

(note: comments do not require an email. the mudmen!)

Advertisements