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There once were two cats of Kilkenny

There once were two cats of Kilkenny,
Each thought there was one cat too many,
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Till, excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats, there weren’t any.


The Two Cats of Kilkenny’ is formally a limerick, and like many such rhymes, anonymous. The rhyme refers to a cruel game involving tying the tails of cats together and allowing them to fight to the death. Given that it refers to a real town in Ireland it is likely originally been a political squib, and it has been argued that it originated in stories about soldiers quartered there in Cromwell’s time or alternatively in the 1798 uprising. Yet another explanation holds that it refers to the deep divisions between the two city boroughs, Irishtown and Englishtown. Because the rights and duties of the two townships hadn’t been made clear by statute this led to three centuries of dispute which beggared both of them.