In the latter half of the 19th Century, Irish politicians dominated the political life of New York and Boston. The Irish musical producers Harrigan and Hart (the Rogers and Hammerstein of their day) caricatured these immigrant upstarts in the figure of Michael Muldoon, the solid man. The song has long outlived its Victorian origins and recently appeared on a Chieftains album. This version that Nick performs in Santa Cruz's Floral Park was inspired by Dublin singer Frank Harte.
For Californians, the "Tombs" and the "Island" in the third verse, where Muldoon's constituents go "to enjoy their summer recreation and the refreshing East River air", refer to Manhattan's infamous Houses of Detention and Blackwell's Island. Then, as now, the line between criminals and lawmakers was not easy to discern.