This is a wonderfully amusing song which I very much enjoy singing. I first heard the text as a child in the early fifties as part of radio broadcast on the BBC. Gerard Hoffnung, if I recall correctly, related the story as part of an after-dinner speech at some banquet or other in London. I first heard it sung by one Noel Murphy on Wally Whyton's, "Folk-Music" on the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) round about 1982.
Imagine my surprise at seeing this song performed by "The Dubliners" at one of their concerts in Bremen in 1992. I'd been singing this song for yonks and somehow considered it as "my" song and not even folk-music. That's the Irish for you, any song an Irishman sings becomes an Irish song.
By the way, "The Dubliners" title for this song is "The Sick Note".
To put the record straight, The Sick Note was written by singer/songwriter Pat Cooksey. Quoting Pat Cooksey himself:
"Over a long number of years there has been much speculation concerning this song. I wrote this song under it's original title Paddy and the Barrell in 1969, and first performed it in The Dyers Arms in Coventry at this time, and in 1972 Sean Cannon, later to become a member of the Dubliners began to perform it in the folk clubs under the title The Sick Note.
The song was based on Gerard Hoffnung's wonderful address to the Oxford Union, but the story in a more simple form dates back to the English music halls in the 1920's and appeared in the Readers Digest in 1937. "