No Irish Need Apply

John F. Poole, 1862

What is happening in the song? Who is singing this song? What feelings does the singer express? Do you think someone who had a similar experience wrote it? Why?

What is the word for not hiring qualified people because of their ethnic group? Discrimination. What immigrant groups besides the Irish were discriminated against during this era? Chinese. Why these groups at this time?

What message does this song send? How does the music reinforce the message?

Some versions of this song end up with the Irishman beating up the prospective employer, who then sees the light. How permanently do you think an employer's attitude would be changed after being beaten up? What was more likely to change attitudes? Where did the Irish men and women find jobs in the 1870s?

What eventually happened that made this song a thing of the past for the Irish? Assimilation. How long did it take before the Irish were assimilated and accepted without prejudice? Recall concerns during John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign about his Irish Catholicism.

Why has this story been repeated so often in American history? What groups have experienced discrimination as new immigrants? What steps have been taken to prevent discrimination in hiring? Where does prejudice and discrimination still exist?

The second verse refers to the Tribune. What is the irony of the employer reading that paper? The Tribune was Horace Greeley’s newspaper that advocated for free labor and the abolition of enslavement.


"No Irish Need Apply" performed by Tommy Makem on The Hand that Holds the Bread, New World Records [80267-2], © 1978. Available on Itunes and YouTube.

Tommy Makem (1932–2007) was a well-known promoter of Irish music. This recording re-creates the environment of an Irish pub, where this song may have been sung. Pub patrons enthusiastically join in singing the chorus. Their singing is accompanied by the tin whistle, a traditional Irish instrument.

View the music and lyrics for "No Irish Need Appy."

View the published broadside.

“No Irish need apply” was a statement commonly included in hiring announcements in newspapers in the United States and England throughout the 1800s. The song addresses this anti-Irish hiring discrimination in the United States. It was written by John F. Poole, who is known for his theatrical works and songs about social issues. A different version of the song was made by British performer Kathleen O’Neil. In her adaptation, she laments the discrimination that the Irish were subjected to in England and expresses how happy Irish immigrants are in the “land of the ‘Glorious and Free.’”

19th century ad

New York Times classified ad, Nov. 10, 1854.

Compare this song to:

"Thousands are Sailing to Amerikay" (this unit)

"The Argentines, the Portuguese and the Greeks" (Unit 6)

"He Lies in the American Land" (Unit 6)

situation: A job.

Paddy: Irishman.

blackguard: A scoundrel.

spalpeen: A rascal.