The Name Ballyhooley



How Ballyhooley got its name

Ballyhooley, very loosely translated, is Irish Gaelic for 'party-town', or more formally as the "Ford of the Apples", Beal Áth h’Úbhla.

So far, we've become aware of it as a town in Ireland, a tune, two songs, a civil engineering company, several Australian place names, a railway in QLD and another Irish music group in Canada.

Jesse first came across it as the name of a song - Humours of the King of Ballyhooley - by well-known Irish singer, Andy Irvine.  It covers the life and loves of an illicit whiskey distiller.

So, when we were looking for a name for our band, the name positively leapt off the page from O'Neill's 1001 Gems - The Dance Music of Ireland, where it appears as No 131....

The place

We can then track down the Irish town of Ballyhooly (note, no penultimate letter "e", but more of that later).  Wikipedia tells us it's "a small village in North Cork situated along the N72 between Castletownroche and Fermoy.  Ballyhooly is home to several pubs, a church, community centre and petrol station with shop." 

Elsewhere we learn: "Ballyhooly is a civil parish and a village, situated on the river Blackwater, in north county Cork. There is also a Catholic parish of Ballyhooly, which covers a much larger area: the 2 civil parishes of Ballyhooly and Killathy and parts of Kilcummer, Litter and Bridgetown."

You don't have to travel far in Ireland of course to be confronted with tune names.  East of Ballyhooly we find Fermoy (as in "The Fermoy Lasses").  West we find Mallow (as in the "Rakes of Mallow").  Not far north we hit Mitchelstown (as in the Maids of Mitchelstown), and to the south is Cork (as in "Top of Cork Road").  And the town is built "on Blackwater's Side", as the song goes.  Yep, we're definitely in safe territory around here....

Now about that missing penultimate letter "e".  Although the town is labelled Ballyhooly, it's interesting to note that its golf course is run by the Ballyhooley Golf Society....

The songs

I've already mentioned one song, the humorous King of Ballyhooley.  The second song is somewhat darker.  Titled "The Races of Ballyhooly", it details an 1834 massacre of townsfolk who resisted paying tithes to the Anglican Church (as they were Catholics).

Information about the song can be found at:

The stirring tune can be heard at:

But it seems like there are other songs.  This one comes from a site entitled "American Old Time Song Lyrics"


There's a dashing sort of boy, who is called his mother's joy,
His ructions and his elements they charm me;
He takes the chief command in a water-drinking band,
Called the Ballyhooly Blue Ribbon Army.
The ladies all declare he's the pride of every fair,
And he bears the patriotic name of Dooley;
When the Temperance Brigade go out upon parade,
Faith: there's not a sober man in Ballyhooly.

Willoo loo hoo! hoo!
We will all enlist, you know,
For their principle.- and elements they charm me.
Sure they don't cure what they ate.
If they drink their whiskey nate,
In the Ballyhooly Blue Ribbon Army.

When we're out upon patrol sad we're under his control.
We take, of course, a most extended radius;
Although It's very clear we drink only ginger beer,
We find the drinking sometimes rather tadius.
The police, one fine day; faith! they chanced to come our way,
And they said we were behaving most unruly;
When the sergeant he did state, that we were not walking straight.
Faith! we stretched him for a corpse in Ballyhooly.


Then before the magistrate every one of us did state.
That we had taken nothing that could injure:
And as it's very clear we drink only ginger beer,
There must have been some stingo in the singer.
Some of us did own we were drinking zosodone,
But the police were behaving most unruly;
It was of no avail, and within the county jail
Lies the Temperance Brigade of Ballyhooly.


In Australia...

Interestingly, the name shows up a number of times in Australia, apart from us....

In Port Douglas, QLD, we find an extra-cute steam train with that name.  It's a relic of the days before diesel. 


You can see more at


There's also a civil engineering company, called Ballyhooly Civil Pty Ltd

Their motto?


I like it!

In NSW, we find the Bally Hooley Rd, running east from Frogmore, north east of Boorowa.  It appears to be named for a mixed beef and sheep farm called Ballyhooley, run by the Carey family.

In Victoria, there's a Bally Hooley in Gippsland, lying between the Snowy and Buchan rivers.

And in Tasmania, we find the Ballyhooly Rd, running northeast from Mangalore.

A Dog called Balleyhooly?

The National Library's Trove yields up a story printed in the West Gippsland Gazette of June 16, 1903, titled:

"THE CAKE THAT SAVED A MAN." (By FRANCES CAMPBELL, in the "Westminster Budget.")  *

Set on a rural property somewhere in Australia, it mentions the dog by name five times.

(* The Westminster Budget was a British national newspaper at the time.)

In New Zealand

Seems there is a Murray Grey beef cattle farm down near Invercargill with the brand name Ballyhooley Beef.

Another group

Finally, we find another group of Irish musicians, these ones in Canada.


Just when I thought I was getting to the end of known Ballyhooleys, I thought to enter the name into the National Library's Trove search box.  And got 2952 hits!  This is going to take quite some time.....

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