by D. Sorba, M.S.Wirz and E. Zuccato

One of the best-known Irish tunes of all time. It has been around since at least the early days of the 17th century, when it was the tune of an Irish nursery song. It was used later on that century as a marching song by soldiers, and also as a tune for political songs in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its attribution to the English composer Henry Purcell, who published "Lillibullero" in his compilation Music's Handmaid of 1689 as a "new Irish tune", is doubtful. Purcell probably hijacked the tune as his own, a common practice in the musical world of that time. In later years the BBC has used "Lillibullero" as its signature tune for its World Service broadcasts. The spelling of the tune's name varies. Common variants are "Lillburlero" and "Lilliburilero".


Click on the manuscript to see the piano - vocal score "Lillibullero".


My Uncle Tobys Whistle


The ballad to this Tune was
written in the year 1686, on account
of King James II nominating to
the Lieutenancy of Ireland, Genl.
Talbot, newly created Earl of
Tyrconnel, furious Papist, who had
recommended himself to his bigoted
master by his arbitrary treatment
of the Protestants in the preceding
year, when only Lieutenant General
and whose subsequent conduct, fully
justified his expectations of their
fears. This foolish Ballad, treating
the Papists, and chiefly the Irish in
a very ridiculous manner, had
a burden said to the Irish words,
"Lero lero lillibullero', and made an
impression on the King's army,
more powerful than either the
Phillipics of Demosthenes or Cicero.
The whole army, and at last the
people in city and country, were
singing it peripatetically. Perhaps
never had so slight a thing
so great an effect, for it
contributed not a little towards
the Revolution of 1688!
Lillibullero and bullen-a-bah,
are said to have been the watchwords
used amongst the Irish Papists, in
their massacre of the Protestants
in 1641.
See Percy's Relics of Ancient English Poetry:
Bishop Burnett's Hist. of his own Times: and
Kings State of the Protestants in Ireland