The song with tune was printed about 1740 as a single sheet issue, copies of which are in the British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
This well-known drinking song is generally accepted as an Irish tune, since Mallow is a town in County Cork, Ireland. However, there have been early versions of this tune with the title “The Rigs of Marlowe,” leading to speculation that this was an English tune to begin with. Whatever its origin, this reel (sometimes described as a polka) has long been popular in Scotland, and it was there that it was published in the 1780s in James Aird’s ” Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs.”
A rake (short for rakehell) was a fashionable youth who led a somewhat immoral life, often womanizing, and so this tune celebrates such young men from the town of Mallow.
In recent times, a version of the tune was included by American composer Leroy Anderson in his Irish Suite for orchestra. The song is also a fight song for Notre Dame.
The Rakes of Mallow
Beauing, belling, dancing, drinking,
Breaking windows, cursing, stinking
Ever raking, never thinking,
Live the Rakes of Mallow,
Spending faster than it comes,
Beating waiter’s bailiffs, duns,
Bacchus’ true begotten sons,
Live the Rakes of Mallow.
Living short but merry lives,
Going where the devil drives,
Having sweethearts, but no wives,
Live the rakes of Mallow.
Then to end this raking life,
They get sober, take a wife,
Ever after live in strife,
And wish again for Mallow.
Aird’s Version of the tune is available upon request via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Charmer: A Choice Collection of Songs, Scots and English. the Third Edition. … Edinburgh : printed for M. Yair, 1765. p. 277.
Vickers MS c 1770 in the British Library
David Herd’s MS, c 1776