The Craic is Mighty

by Martin Gleeson

Origin of the Word ”Craic”

While some people say that there is no English equivalent of the Irish word craic, it can however be described as fun, gossip, laughter and enjoyable conversation.

There was an old Middle English word ‘crak’ which described loud conversation and bragging talk. It was used by the Ulster-Scots for many years. The Irish then “stole” the term and because the Irish language does not contain the letter ‘k’, its spelling was changed to craic. It was in the 1950s that the word began to be used extensively in literature in this country.

Robert Burns

In 1785, in his poem “To J. Lapraik”, an old Scottish Bard, Robert Burns wrote:
On Fasten-een we had a rockin’
To ca’ the crack we weave our stockin’
And there was muckle fun an’ jokin’
Ye need na doubt
At length we had a hearty yokin’
At sang about

When he wrote these words, Robert was 26 years old, and we can see that he liked To ca’ the crack when he lived in Ayrshire, in bonny Scotland.

Mc Alpine’s Fusiliers

Written about the huge numbers of Irishmen who worked for the Sir Robert McAlpine Civil Engineering Company rebuilding war-damaged Britain in the 1950s, the great ballad ‘Mc Alpine’s Fusiliers’  was recorded by The Dubliners, Christy Moore, Paddy Reilly and The High Kings. The spoken monologue favoured by Ronnie Drew and delivered before the song contains these words:

The craic was good in Cricklewood
And they wouldn’t leave The Crown
With glasses flying and Biddy’s crying
‘Cause Paddy was going to town

Having often frequented The Crown in Cricklewood when I worked in London in the early 1970s, I can visualise the Irish navvies back in the 1950s on Saturday nights drinking, talking and enjoying the craic.

The Craic (Film)

Jimeoin, whose real name is James McKeon, is an Irish stand-up comedian and actor. He moved to Australia when he was 22 years old and he rose to prominance while performing in comedy tours of Australia’s cities. Jimeoin had his own comedy television show called ’Jimeoin’ which ran for three seasons. Having acted in feature comedy films, in 1999 he starred in a movie about two Irish men who entered Australia illegally. The film was called ‘The Craic’ and it was a box office success.

So, even down under in Australia people – particularly Irish people – know how to enjoy the craic.

The Craic in the Paris Police Station

A story is told about two innocent Irish tourists in  Paris. As the two young men were strolling along an elegant boulevard, they began to talk out loud about where in the city there would be a bit of craic. Unfortunately, they were overheard by a gendarme who had fluent English. He assumed they were seeking crack cocaine! He handcuffed them and lead them to the local police station where they were held for a number of hours. Needless to say, while they were in custody being interrogated, the craic was not good for those two fellows.

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