Coleraine is a town some 30 miles East of Londonderry and 55 miles Northwest of Belfast. The name comes from the Irish term ‘Cúil Rathain’ which means ‘nook of the ferns‘. The town is only a couple of miles inland from the stunning North coast (Causeway Coast). Poets in the past have been inspired by this coast. The River Bann runs through Coleraine, meaning part of the town is in County Derry and part in County Antrim. The town has two bridges which cross the river.
Nobody knows for sure who wrote Kitty of Coleraine. The author is usually listed as ‘anonymous’. But given the time of it’s publication, the wry humour and wit of Kitty’s story, many suspect that it was written by Edward Lysaght. Lysaght was a barrister who lived between 1763 and 1810. The County Clare man was famous for his wit, as was known to write a few humourous songs.
UPDATE: On delving through old newspapers, I discovered this fascinating article in the Coleraine Chronicle from 12th March 1887. A reader of the newspaper writes in, to confirm that Edward Lysaght composed Kitty of Coleraine.
The correspondent wrote to the newspaper’s ‘Notes & Queries’ section, saying: “The author of this charming song (Kitty of Coleraine) was Edward Lysaght, born in County Clare in 1768, died 1810.
He was a Protestant, educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and at Oxford (where he graduated M.A. In 1784), was successively called to the English and Irish bars, and, after practising as a barrister, was appointed a divisional police magistrate of Dublin in the year before his death.
In addition to ‘Kitty of Coleraine’ he wrote The Sprig of Shillelagh,’ and the song addressed to Henry Grattan, ‘The Gallant Man who led the Van of the Irish Volunteers.’
He was a determined opponent of the Act of Union.
Mr Owen Madden, in big ‘ Revelations of Ireland,’ says Lysaght, ‘in his personal character, was a thorough Irishman—brave, brilliant, witty, eloquent, and devil-may care.”
Kitty of Coleraine Lyrics
As beautiful Kitty one morning was tripping,
With a pitcher of milk from the fair of Coleraine,
When she saw him she stumbled, the pitcher it tumbled,
And all the sweet buttermilk watered the plain.
Oh! What shall I do now, ’twas looking at you now,
Sure, sure, such a pitcher I’ll ne’er meet again.
‘Twas the pride of my dairy, Oh, Barney McCleary,
You’re sent as a plague on the girls of Coleraine.
He sat down beside her and gently did chide her,
That such a misfortune should give her such pain.
A kiss then he gave her, and before he did leave her,
She vowed for such pleasure, she’d break it again.