Courtin’ in the Kitchen

The origins to this song has been surprising elusive. The seemingly most reliable sources place it as an Irish broadside ballad dating to before the 1880s and likely to have been from Dublin… I have found an image that is said to be of this broadside but with no date; that said, it does conform to other known songs from the era in style and melody.

The “speaker” is a young man warning against falling in love and cites his example in which when seventeen he had met and began courting a young woman who worked in the kitchen of an upper class gentleman – Capt. Kelly. She invites our protagonist to a private assignation (here, the term “hooley or “hoolie” is used: an colloquial term for a party or a celebration, and usually a loud and boisterous one… The phrase “Blowing a hoolie” is to have quite the party!). However, the boss returns far too early and she, seemingly with a concern to save her own situation and face, turns on her suitor – our man – and his fate is sealed.

Jos. Morneault

.           Bb                                                              F
Come single belle and beau, unto me pay attention
.         Bb                                     Eb                    F
Don’t ever fall in love; it’s the devil’s own invention.
.      Bb                  F                  Bb                    F
For once I fell in love with a maiden so bewitchin’
.         Eb                                 F
Miss Henrietta Bell, out of Captain Kelly’s kitchen

.               Bb                                                  F
With me toora loora la! Me toora loora laddy
.      Bb                            Eb       F        Bb
Me toora loora la! Me toora loora laddy.

At the age of seventeen, I was ‘prenticed to a grocer
Not far from Stephen’s Green, where Miss Henry used to go, sir
Her manners were sublime and she set me heart a-twitchin’
She invited me to a hooley in the kitchen.

Next Sunday bein’ the day we was to have the flare-up
I dressed myself quite gay, an’ I frizzed and oiled me hair up
The Captain had no wife and he had gone a-fishin’,
So we kicked up high life, down below-stair in the kitchen.

Just as the clock struck six we sat down to the table.
She handed scone and cake and I ate while I was able.
I drank hot punch and tea till my side had got a stitchin’,
And the hours fly quick away while you’re courtin’ in the kitchen.

With my arms around her waist, she slyly hinted marriage;
To the door in dreadful haste came Captain Kelly’s carriage!
Her eyes then filled with hate and poison she was spittin’
That I should go to Hell, or somewhere far from the kitchen.

She flew up off my knees, a full five feet or higher
And over heads and heels, threw me slap into the fire
My new Repealers coat, that I’d bought from Mr. Mitchel
For a twenty-shilling note went to blazes in the kitchen.

I grieved to see my duds, all besmeared with smoke and ashes
When a tub of dirty suds, right in my face she dashes.
As I lay on the floor and the water she kept pitchin’,
The footman broke the door and walked straight into the kitchen.

When the Captain came downstair, though he saw my situation,
In spite of all my prayers I was marched off to the station
For me they’d take no bail, tho’ to get home I was itchin’
And I had to tell the tale of how I got into the kitchen.

I said she did invite me, but she gave a flat denial
For assault she did indict me, and I was sent for trial.
She swore I robbed the house, in spite of all her screechin’
And I got six months hard, for my courtin’ in the kitchen!