Person list


  • Johnny Burke


  • Traditional


  • first published in 1904

Locations associated with this song:

Background Info:

Kelligrews Soiree was composed by Johnny Burke, the “Bard of Prescott Street,” who lived in St. John's from 1851 to 1930 and was well known as a songwriter, playwright, and local character. Filled with the names of local characters and slyly poking fun at a small community not far from St. John's by making it the improbable site of a fancy ball that ended in a brawl in the fashion of Irish/American popular songs of the era, this was his most popular composition. Burke first published it in 1904, and he reprinted it in local songsters at least five times. In 1912 he re-composed parts of it for publication in the United States. The second verse includes the names of the American presidential candidates for that year. It appeared in every edition of Gerald S. Doyle's songster.
Dr. Neil V. Rosenberg, Catch Ahold this One...Songs of Newfoundland & Labrador –Volume 1
© Vinland Music. Reproduced with permission


You may talk of Clara Nolan's ball
Or anything you choose,
But it couldn't hold a snuffbox
To the spree in Kelligrews.
If you want your eyeballs straightened
Just come out next week with me,
And you'll have to wear your glasses
at the Kelligrew's Soiree.

There was birch rine, tar twine,
Cherry wine and turpentine,
Jowls and cavalances, ginger beer and tea,
Pig's feet, cat's meat, dumplings boiled in a sheet,
Dandelion and crackies' teeth
At the Kelligrew's Soiree.

Oh, I borrowed Cluney's beaver,
As I squared my yards to sail;
And a swallow-tail from Hogan
That was foxy on the tail;
Billy Cuddahie's old working pants
And Patsy Nolan's shoes,
And an old white vest from Fogarty
To sport at Kelligrew's.

There was Dan Milley, Joe Lilly,
Tantan and Mrs. Tilley,
Dancing like a little filly;
'Ttwould raise your heart to see.
Jim Brine, Din Ryan, Flipper Smith and Caroline;
I tell you boys, we had a time
At the Kelligrew's Soiree.

Oh, when I arrived at Betsey Snooks'
That night at half past eight,
The place was blocked with carriages
Stood waiting at the gate.
With Cluney's funnel on my pate,
the first words Betsey said,
"Here comes the local preacher
With the pulpit on his head."

There was Bill Mews, Dan Hughes,
Wilson, Taft, and Teddy Roose,
While Bryant he sat in the blues
And looking hard at me;
Jim Fling, Tom King,
And Johnson, champion of the ring,
And all the boxers I could bring,
At the Kelligrew's Soiree.

The Saritoga Lancers first,
Miss Betsey kindly said,
Sure I danced with Nancy Cronan
And her Grannie on the "Head";
And Hogan danced with Betsey,
Oh, you should have seen his shoes,
As he lashed old muskets from the rack
That night at Kelligrew's.

There was boiled guineas, cold guineas,
Bullock's heads and picaninies,
And everything to catch the pennies,
You'd break your sides to see;
Boiled duff, cold duff, apple jam was in a cuff;
I tell you, boys, we had enough
at the Kelligrew's Soiree.

Crooked Flavin struck the fiddler
And a hand I then took in,
You should see George Cluney's beaver,
And it flattened to the rim!
And Hogan's coat was like a vest-
The tails were gone you see.
Oh, says I, "the devil haul ye
And your Kelligrews Soiree."
from Old-Time Songs and Poetry of Newfoundland, 2nd ed.

See lyrics on a page by themselves