The lyrics to McBreen’s Heifer were written by Percy French who performed it at his concerts throughout Ireland and the UK.
Percy French songwriter
The song explores the dilemma that is faced by a young farmer who must decide whether to marry a pretty girl who has no dowry or a plain girl who comes with a heifer (young cow) as a dowry.
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The lyrics are both clever and funny and show French’s mastery of the comic song.
The chords are presented here in the key of D major.
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McBreens Heifer lyrics and chords
[D]McBreen had two daughters, and each one in turn
[A7]Was offered in marriage to Jamesy O'[G]Byrne.
Now [D]Kitty was pretty but Jane she was plain,
[A7]So to make up the difference, Mc[D]Breen would explain.
[D]He’d give the best heifer he had on the land,
[A7]As a sort of a bonus with Jane, under[G]stand.
But then [D]Kitty would charm a bird off a bush,
And [A7]that left the lad in a [D]horrid non-plush.
[D]Now there’s no denyin’ Kitty was remarkably pretty,
Tho’ I can’t say the same for [A]Jane,
[D]But still there’s not the differ of the [G]price of a heifer,
[D]Between the [A]pretty and the plain.
Entirely bothered was Jamsey O’Burn,
He thought that he’d give the schoolmaster a turn.
Sez he “to wed Kitty is very good fun,
Still a heifer’s a heifer when all’s said an’ done.
A girl she might lose her good looks anyhow,
And a heifer might grow to an elegant cow.
But still there’s no price for the stock, d’ye mind,
And Jane has a face that the Divil designed.”
The schoolmaster said, with a good deal of sense,
“We’ll reduce the two girls to shillin’s an’ pence;
Add the price of the heifer, then Jane, I’ll be bound,
Will come out on top by a couple o’ pound.
But still I’m forgettin’ that down in Glengall,
The stock is just goin’ for nothin’ at all.”
So Jim thought he’d wait till the end of the year,
Till girls might be cheaper or stock might be dear.
But when he came for Kitty
She was married to McGinty
And McGee had appropriated Jane
So whether there’s the differ
Of the price of a heifer
Is a thing that he never could explain.
Lyrics and chords
Links to other songs by Percy French
Mountains of Mourne
Abdul Abulbul Amir
Come Back Paddy Reilly
Phil the Fluther’s Ball
Percy French – the songwriter