Weldon Thornton (Allusions in Ulysses) notes of the expression “Shake hands, brother. You’re a rogue and I’m another” that:
Though I have not found this recorded in print, I know it to be a fairly common Irish saying. (p. 274)
Later commentators are unable to improve on this.
Documentary evidence for the expression now available shows that it exists in two forms, a long form and a shorter form perhaps derived from this. The short form seems to be alluded to in this quotation of 15 October, 1832, from the London Morning Chronicle:
I omitted to mention that it is the particular wish of the good Lord Bishop Athanasius, and of many of his illustrious brother Bishops, that we should exert ourselves for the Master in Chancery. When we shall meet I will be glad to take you by the hand, and say "shake hands brother!"…; but we’ll not finish the couplet. Keep this letter strictly private.
By 1849 the Irish newspapers carry the saying. “Walter Murtagh” (shielding “rogue” with a polite dash) offers:
I see the Chartists and Nationalists have shaken hands – this reminds me of the phrase, "shake hands brother, you are a – and I’m another"! – no matter, "proceed and prosper", you must have every sound-headed and right-minded man on your side.
Freeman’s Journal (1849), 27 November
Several years later the same newspaper offers the same wording:
Lord Dunsandle and Sir Thomas Burke are near neighbours and cater cousins at fairs and farming; and though one calls himself a Tory and the other a Whig, in the present family job it is thought they will "shake hands, brother, you are a - and I am another".
Freeman’s Journal (1852), 30 April
The longer form is said to be a traditional Irish rhyme based on seventeenth-century Anglo-Irish history. The verse appears in several variants. In 1871 Annie Keary’s Father Phim was serialised in advance of book publication in the Monthly Packet:
And then Father Phim, who had lifted Helen on the table, laughed too, held out his hand, and said in a sing-song Irish voice,
You're a rogue, and I'm another
You were hung at Ballytub,
And I was hung at Ballytubber.'
Helen put her little hand into Father Phim’s large red one, and by the time he had shaken her arm up and down in time to each word of his rhyme, till he came to Ballytubber for the second time, she felt as if she and Father Phim had been friends and comrades all their lives, and could never be anything else whatever happened.
Monthly Packet (1871) New Series vol. 12 p. 83 (also quoted on p. 183)
The spelling of the two towns intended shifts. Two years later the Dublin University Magazine cites an article by Oliver J. Burke, a barrister on the Connaught circuit, who prefers “Ballinrobe” and “Ballintobber” (vol. 84, p. 480).
When Burke wrote up his experiences in Anecdotes of the Connaught circuit (1885) he changed the spelling of Ballintubber to its official version “Ballintober”, and explains the historical reference. In the early seventeenth century the assizes for County Mayo in the north-west of Ireland were not held regularly in one particular place. The county gaol was at Cong, and prisoners had to be transported there from the assizes, often held some distance away. Lord Mayo petitioned the King in 1632 to bring some order to this situation. After some discussion:
[...] his Majesty was pleased to cause letters patent to issue authorizing the holding of the assizes at Bellcarra for the next thirty-one years. After the expiration of this period, they were for half a century held at Ballinrobe and Bellcara alternately. Criminals condemned to death in the latter place were executed from a tree on the lands of the neighbouring Abbey of Ballintober, and hence a verse well known in Mayo –
"Shake hands, brother – you’re a rogue, and I’m another;
You’ll be hanged at Ballinrobe, and I’ll be hanged at Ballintober."
Oliver J. Burke Anecdotes of the Connaught circuit (1885), ch. 2 p. 21
By the late nineteenth century the expression could be adapted to new situations:
Dr Kenny – I regarded the words –
Mr Justice Andrews – What words are you referring to now?
Dr Kenny – "Shake hands brother; you are a priest-hunter, I am another", and on my hat are the words, "Down with the Priests" (laughter).
Freeman’s Journal (1892), 25 June
As time passed, the historical connection may have been gradually lost. In 1909, writing in New York City, Bolton Hall refers to the rhyme simply as a “children’s song”:
As the children's song says, "You're a rogue, and I'm another." We do not desire to be so, probably nobody does; but we are. And, when we realize that we are sinners ourselves, it is easy to be a friend of sinners.
Bolton Hall Things as they are (1909), ch. 6 p. 79
Later still it was simply apprehended as a nursery rhyme – traditional lore rather than historical reality:
Yes, there was the nursery rhyme, and at seventeen I could remember it still:
Shake hands brother — You're a rogue and I'm another,
You were hanged in Ballinrobe and I was hanged in Ballintubber,
1979 Paul O’Dwyer Counsel for the defense (1979) p. 52
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