Finnegan’s Wake is a raucous, irreverent song that tells the story of hod carrier Tim Finnegan who has a “love of the liquor”.
So much so that to send him on his way each day he has a “drop of the craythur every morn”.
This refers to whiskey, the drink that leads both to Finnegan’s downfall and his revival as we shall see.
While working he falls from his ladder, breaks his skull and dies. True to Irish tradition there is a wake and, again true to Irish tradition, there is plenty of crying, drinking and eventually, fighting.
The wake may begin with “tea and cake” but soon the mourners are on the whiskey punch and that’s when the trouble starts.
First it brings out the emotion as Biddy Malone begins to cry at the sight of poor Tim Finnegan motionless on the bed. “Why did you die” she wails.
The crying and whimpering is too much for Molly McGhee who tells Biddy to shut her gob.
Mary Murphy enters the conversation and, perhaps trying to calm things, suggests that Biddy may have been wrong about some point or other – it’s not clear what.
Not that it matters because Biddy, overcome with emotion, was in no mood for talking. Instead, she turned to Mary and “fetched her a belt in the gob”.
Then the fighting really starts. “Twas woman to woman and man to man” as a form of civil war breaks out. “Shillelagh law was all the rage” and the strange thing is that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.
It would take something special to stop them but, of course, something very special is about to happen.
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