I'll Tell Me Ma

"I'll Tell Me Ma" (also called "The Wind") is a well-known children's song. It was collected in various parts of England in the 19th century and again appears in collections from shortly after the turn of the 20th century.[1] In Ireland the chorus usually refers to Belfast city and is known colloquially as "The Belle of Belfast City", although it is also adapted to other Irish cities, such as Dublin.[2] English versions refer to the "Golden City" or "London City". This song is Roud Folk Song Index number 2649.

The song accompanies a children's game. A ring is formed by the children joining hands, one player standing in the centre. When asked, "Please tell me who they be," the girl in the middle gives the name or initials of a boy in the ring (or vice versa). The ring then sings the rest of the words, and the boy who was named goes into the centre.[1]

Opening verse and chorus

I'll tell me ma, when I get home
The boys won't leave the girls alone
Pulled me hair, and stole my comb
But that's alright, till I go home.

She is handsome, she is pretty
She is the belle of __ __ city
She is a-courting one, two, three
Pray, can you tell me who is she?

Recordings and renditions

"I'll Tell Me Ma"
Single by Van Morrison and The Chieftains
from the album Irish Heartbeat
B-side"Tá Mo Chleamhnas Déanta"
RecordedDecember 1987–January 1988
Producer(s)Van Morrison, Paddy Moloney
Van Morrison and The Chieftains singles chronology
"Queen of the Slipstream"
"I'll Tell Me Ma"
"Have I Told You Lately"

The song has been covered on numerous albums, some of which have adapted the lyrics to their locales.

One of the more notable renditions was by Van Morrison and The Chieftains, for their collaboration record Irish Heartbeat in 1988;[3] the album reached number 18 on the UK Albums Chart. The song was guest-sung by Ronnie Drew of The Dubliners on The Chieftains album Live From Dublin: A Tribute To Derek Bell in 2005. The Chieftains also played the song with Cartoon Network character Brak for the latter's variety show special, Brak Presents the Brak Show Starring Brak and related album in 2000.[4]

Sham Rock released a rendition of "Tell Me Ma" in 1998.[5] The single reached number 13 on the UK Singles Chart,[6] remained on the charts for 17 weeks, and sold over 200,000 copies. It has been included on various compilation albums that have sold a total of over 3 million copies.[5]

Other notable recordings include:



  1. Gomme, Alice Bertha (1894, 1898). The traditional games of England, Scotland and Ireland: with tunes, singing rhymes and methods of playing according to the variants extant and recorded in different parts of the kingdom. London: Nutt. p. 387. ISBN 978-0-500-27316-6. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  2. "The Irish Sessions ::". Young Dubliners. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  3. Browne, David (11 August 1988). "Irish Heartbeat | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  4. "Brak - Brak Presents The Brak Album Starring Brak - at Rhino". Rhino Records. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  5. "Capital Celtic Network - Sham Rock". Capitalceltic.com. 11 May 2004. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  6. "1998-11-07 Top 40 Official Singles Chart UK Archive". Official Charts. 7 November 1998. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  7. Guida, Nick. "The Boys Won't Leave The Girls Alone - 1962 - Columbia CL 1909 LP (mono) - Sleeve Notes". Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem website. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  8. "The Dubliners Discography:1". Dgdclynx.plus.com. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  9. Rossiter, Nicky (January–February 2007). "Releases - Jan/Feb 2007 - The Dubliners - Live at Vicar Street". Irish Music Magazine. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  10. Tobbler, John (3 October 2013). "Lick the Tins: Blind Man on a Flying Horse - Sleeve Notes". Mainly Norfolk. Retrieved 14 February 2014. Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  11. "APHC: Performers, music sources and credits". A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. American Public Media. 30 November 1996. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  12. Winick, Steve (June–July 1995). "Review of Craic on the Road,". Dirty Linen Magazine (58).
  13. I'll tell me ma by Orthodox Celts on Spotify. Spotify. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  14. "The Celts Strike Again". Orthodoxcelts.com. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  15. "Wiggledance (1997) The Wiggles. [videorecording]". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  16. "The Wiggles movie soundtrack". Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  17. "The Wiggles - Apples & Bananas | Music CD | ABC Shop". Shop.abc.net.au. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  18. Cater, Evan (28 July 1998). "Gaelic Storm - Gaelic Storm". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  19. Sleger, Dave. "Za to Zato - Belfast Food". AllMusic. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  20. The Tossers 'Communication & Conviction' CD. "The Tossers: The Tossers 'Communication & Conviction' CD - Music". Shopbenchmark.com. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  21. "The Tossers - Maidrin Rua / Tell Me Ma Lyrics". MetroLyrics. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  22. "Thank You for Hearing Me: "I'll Tell Me Ma"". Sineadoconnor.com. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  23. "Sinead O'Connor: Sean-Nós Nua". Billboard. 19 October 2002. Archived from the original on 21 October 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  24. "The Poxy Boggards | Whiskey Business | CD Baby Music Store". Cdbaby.com. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  25. "The Irish Sessions ::". Young Dubliners. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  26. "The Irish Sessions :: Lyrics". Young Dubliners. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  27. "Beatnik Turtle: 'I'll Tell Me Ma'". NPR. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  28. Lynch, Mick (12 October 2004). "Gig Reviews | Christy Moore in Newbridge". CLUAS. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  29. "Live at Vicar Street". ChristyMoore.com. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  30. "The Irish Tenors - Discography". Theirishtenors.com. Archived from the original on 5 January 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  31. "Orla Fallon releases "My Land"". Celticradio.net. 6 April 2011. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  32. "Reviews". Marc Gunn. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  33. "Renaissance Festival Lyrics: I'll Tell My Ma/I'll Tell My Cat". Renaissancefestivalmusic.com. 16 June 2006. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
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