List of Irish ballads

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The following are often-sung Irish folk ballads and folksongs. The songs are arranged by theme under two main categories of 'Politics and soldiering' and 'Non-political' and are not necessarily contemporary to the events to which they relate.

Songs may fit into more than one category, but where possible are grouped uniquely to where is most appropriate.

Politics and soldiering

Anti-war and anti-recruiting

16th and 17th centuries

18th century

  • "Clare's Dragoons"[10] - written by Thomas Davis about one of the divisions of the Irish Brigades.
  • "Mo Ghile Mear - written by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill, it is a lament by the Gaelic goddess Éire for Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was then in exile.
  • "Gaol of Clonmel" (also known as the "Jail of Cluain Meala" (sung by Luke Kelly) and the "Convict of Clonmel") - translation by Jeremiah Joseph Callanan of the Irish-language "Príosún Chluain Meala", a song from the time of the Whiteboys[11]

1798 Rebellion

Songs relating to the Irish Rebellion of 1798 (though not necessarily contemporary):

  • "Bagenal Harvey's Farewell (Bagenal Harvey's Lament)" - song about rebel leader Bagenal Harvey[12]
  • "Ballyshannon Lane" - about a battle between rebels and Hessians in 1798 in Wexford, written by Michael O'Brien, about 1896[13]
  • "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus" - about one of the leaders of the rebellion[14]
  • "Boolavogue" - song about Father John Murphy, one of the leaders of the Wexford rebels, written by P.J. McCall (1861–1919) for the centenary anniversary in 1898[4]
  • "Boys of '98" - modern song written by New York band Shillelagh Law
  • "The Boys of Wexford" - written by P.J. McCall[15]
  • "By Memory Inspired" - a tributary role-call of many of the rebel heroes who died in the rebellion, anonymous, recorded by Frank Harte[16]
  • "Come All You Warriors (Father Murphy) - song written close to the time of the rebellion upon which later songs such as Boolavogue were based.[15]
  • "The Croppy Boy" - There are at least two songs by this name: "It was early, early in the spring..." and "Good men and true in this house...". They are concerned with the period following the suppression of the rebellion and how the climate of repression saw relatives and close family deny any links to condemned rebels for fear of being deemed guilty by association.[14]
  • "Croppies Lie Down" - a Unionist or Orangeman's perspective on the rebels triumphant defeat[17]
  • "Dunlavin Green" - a local ballad written in response to the Massacre of Dunlavin Green of May 24, 1798[6]
  • "General Munroe", "Henry Munroe", "General Munroe's Lamentation" and "Henry Joy" - all songs about the United Irish leader Henry Joy McCracken.[17]
  • "The Heroes of '98" - patriotic song by Bruce Scott.
  • "Irish Soldier Laddie" - modern song about the events of 1798, written by Paddy McGuigan of the Barleycorn
  • "Jimmy Murphy" - song of music hall origin with distinctly unusual chorus
  • "Kelly of Killanne" - ballad by P.J. McCall (1861–1919), recounting the exploits of John Kelly, one of the most popular leader of the Wexford rebels.[8]
  • "The Liberty Tree" - anonymous United Irishmen ballad in praise of the French Revolution[4]
  • "The Man from God Knows Where" - poem by Florence Wilson (set to music by Tom Hickland of Five Hand Reel) about Thomas Russell, leader of the United Irishmen in Ulster, executed in Downpatrick in 1803[17]
  • "The Memory of the Dead" - ballad recalling the rebellion's heroes by John Kells Ingram[4]
  • "The Minstrel Boy" - in remembrance of a number of friends of Thomas Moore who lost their lives in the rebellion[18]
  • "The Rambler from Clare"[17]
  • "Races of Castlebar", epic of French rider in the streets of Castlebar[citation needed]
  • "The Rising of the Moon" - written by John Keegan Casey in the 1860s, this ballad invokes the hope and optimism surrounding the outbreak of the Irish rebellion of 1798.[14]
  • "Roddy McCorley" - ballad by Ethna Carbery lamenting the execution of the young Antrim Presbyterian rebel, Roddy McCorley.[14]
  • "The Sean-Bhean bhocht" - the "poor old woman," i.e. Ireland, is about to be liberated in tandem with the French; also known as "The French are on the Sea"[14]
  • "Sliabh na mBan" - an Irish-language song composed by Michéal O Longáin of Carrignavar and translated by Seamus Ennis, about the massacre in July 1798 of a party of Tipperary insurgents at Carrigmoclear on the slopes of Slievenamon[17][19]
  • "Tone's Grave" - lament for Wolfe Tone, United Irish leader, the ballad is more commonly known as "Bodenstown Churchyard". Written by Thomas Davis, one of the leaders of Young Ireland movement.[8]
  • "The Wake of William Orr"[17]
  • "The Wearing of the Green" - song about repression after the rebellion[8]
  • "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" - a young man's remorse at leaving his lady love to join the United Irishmen is cut short when she is killed by an English bullet (Roud Index 2994). Written by Robert Dwyer Joyce (1836–1883).[20][21]

19th century

Napoleonic Wars

Napoleon on Saint Helena
  • "The Bonny Bunch of Roses"[17]
  • "Bonny Light Horseman" - collected by Sam Henry and others, recorded by Frank Harte, Planxty, Dolores Keane & John Faulkner[24]
  • "Eighteenth of June" - recorded by Frank Harte
  • "Grand Conversation on Napoleon"[25]
  • "Granuaile" - recorded by Frank Harte[25]
  • "The Green Linnet"[25]
  • "Isle of Saint Helena"[25]
  • "Lonely Waterloo" - recorded by Frank Harte, Daithi Sproule[26]
  • "Napoleon Bonaparte"[17]
  • "Napoleon's Dream"[25]
  • "Napoleon's Farewell to Paris" - recorded by Frank Harte[25]
  • "Napoleon's Lamentation"[25]
  • "My Love at Waterloo"
  • "The Plains of Waterloo" - several songs by this name,[17] including "As I rode out one bright summer's morning...", "On the fourteenth day of June, me boys...".
  • "The Royal Eagle"[25]
  • "Wounded Hussar"[27]
  • "Welcome Napoleon to Erin" - recorded by Frank Harte[25]

The Great War 1914–1918

  • "The Connaght Rangers" - by Charles Martin.[28] Not to be confused with the song of the same name by Brian Warfield which refers to the mutiny of the First Battalion of the regiment in response to the Irish war of independence.
  • "Gallipoli"[29]
  • "Salonika" - there were two Cork songs with this title about the Irish serving in the British Army in the First World War, one for and one against. Jimmy Crowley collected the verses in his version from Mrs Ronayne of County Cork.[30][31]

1916 Rising

War of Independence and post-treaty Republicanism

"The Big Fellah", song about the life of Michael Collins, written by Larry Kirwan, in 1994 Album, "Home of the Brave" by Celtic Rock Group Black 47. "James Connolly" about a leader of the 1916 Uprising, written by Larry Kirwan, in 1993 album, "Fire of Freedom" by Celtic Rock Group Black 47.

The Troubles (1969-98)

  • "The Ballad Of Aidan McAnespie" - song about a young Catholic man, shot by a British soldier while walking to a Gaelic football match, at Aughnacloy border checkpoint in County Tyrone.[43]
  • "The Ballad of Billy Reid" - song recorded by the Wolfe Tones, Shebeen, and others, about Provisional IRA member Billy Reid (killed in May 1971).[44]
  • "The Ballad of Ed O'Brien" - song about Edward O'Brien who died in a bus explosion in London.
  • "The Ballad of Joe McCann" - song by Brian Moore ("Whoriskey") about the assassination of the Official IRA activist, performed by Belfast band Men of No Property.[45]
  • "The Ballad of Joe McDonnell" - song about hunger striker Joe Mcdonnell, written by The Wolfe Tones.
  • "Ballad Of Mairéad Farrell" - song by Seanchai & The Unity Squad about Mairéad Farrell and two IRA members killed in 1988 in Gibraltar by the SAS.[46]
  • "Birmingham Six" - song about those wrongly accused of the Birmingham bombings in England in 1974.
  • "Freedom's Sons" - written by Tommy Makem.
  • "Gibraltar 3" - song by Andy O'Donnell, performed by the Fianna, in memory of the Gibraltar Three.
  • "Enniskillen - At The War Memorial" - song about the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing of 1987
  • "Fightin' Men Of Crossmaglen" - about South Armagh republicans
  • "Give Me Your Hand" (Tabhair dom do Lámh) - words of reconciliation composed by Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones in 1974 to a 17th-century tune by Ruairí 'Dall' Ó Catháin
  • Go on Home British Soldiers
  • "The Lambeg Drummer"
  • "My Little Armalite - early 1970s militant republican song
  • "Loughall Martyrs" - song about 7 IRA men killed at Loughgall in 1987
  • "The Men Behind the Wire" - 1970s song about internment in Northern Ireland, composed by Paddy McGuigan of the Barleycorn
  • "Rock On Rockall - also known as "You'll get F'All from Rockall" - a satirical song from the Wolfe Tones, about Rockall, an Irish island disputed by Britain, Denmark and Iceland.
  • "Roll of Honour" - Republican song about the hunger strike of 1981
  • "Rubber Bullets for the Ladies" - 1970s song about the British Army in Northern Ireland
  • "SAM Song" - song praising the Provisional IRA and their acquisition of surface to air missiles
  • "Say Hello To The Provos" - PIRA song
  • "There Were Roses" - song by Tommy Sands that portrays a tragic story of two friends
  • "The Town I Loved So Well" - 1980s song about the impact of The Troubles in Derry (Composer: Phil Coulter)
  • "Up the Rebels" - also known as "Teddy's Head" due to a line in the chorus, song about the partition of Ireland.
  • "The Winds Are Singing Freedom" - written by Tommy Makem


Miscellaneous and uncategorised

Work and industry

Love and romance

These songs can be grouped as: aislings, broken token songs, night visiting songs, modern songs, etc.

Places, emigration and travel

Songs of the Travelling People

  • "The Blue Tar Road" - song by Liam Weldon
  • "Danny Farrell" - by Pete St John
  • "I'm a Rover Seldom Sober" - Irish version of "The Grey Cock" or "The Night Visit" (Child #248)[88]
  • "Last of the Travelling People" - song by the Pecker Dunne
  • "Man of the Road" - Recorded by The Cafe Orchestra featuring singer Sinead Stone. Composed by Dick Farrelly.
  • "The Tinker's Lullaby" - song by the Pecker Dunne
  • "The Little Beggarman" - sung to the melody of the "Red-Haired Boy"[20]
  • "Sullivan's John" - written by the Pecker Dunne

Sport, play and fighting

Humorous songs

  • "Arkle" - by Dominic Behan, about the race-horse Arkle[23]
  • "An Poc Ar Buile" - Irish-language song about a rebellious billy-goat, made popular by Seán Ó Sé and Kevin Conneff[20]
  • "The Boys of Fairhill" - popular Cork song, original version by Con Doyle, recorded by Jimmy Crowley
  • "Delaney's Donkey" - recorded by Val Doonican[94]
  • "The Finding of Moses" - written by Zozimus (Michael Moran, 1794–1846), recorded by The Dubliners[23]
  • "General Guinness" - a song about the stout from Dublin, recorded by The Boys of the Lough
  • "In the Town of Ballybay" - a "nonsense" song by Tommy Makem
  • "The Irish Rover" - song about a seafaring disaster on a vessel sailing from Ireland to the new Americas. Written by J. M. Crofts.[20][95]
  • "Johnny Daddlum" - Irish version of the song known in the Roud Index as "the Crabfish"[21]
  • "Master McGrath" - about the famous greyhound, Master McGrath[20]
  • "Monto (Take Her Up To Monto)" - a song by George Hodnett about the famous red-light district around Montgomery Street in Dublin.[96]
  • "Nell Flaherty's Drake" - written (in Irish) by Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1748–1782), a translation of which by Frank O'Connor appeared in A Broadside, 1935. In Cork called "Ned Flaherty's Drake".[15][20]
  • "The Night the Goat Broke Loose on Grand Parade" - a Cork song from the 1930s, recorded by Dick Hogan (on Wonders of the World).
  • "O'Rafferty's Motor Car" - recorded by Val Doonican[94]
  • "Paddy McGinty's Goat" - recorded by Val Doonican[94]
  • "The Peeler and the Goat" - an old song recorded by Delia Murphy.[8][49]
  • "Rafferty's Racin' Mare" - written by Percy French.[55]
  • "A Sailor Courted a Farmer's Daughter" - found mainly in Northern Ireland, a version of a song also called The Constant Lovers (Roud 993, Laws O41).[21] A parody was written by Percy French and recorded by Dominic Behan.[14][97]
  • "Shake Hands with Your Uncle Dan" - written in the 19th century by Johnny Patterson[47]
  • "Slattery's Mounted Foot" - written by Percy French.[55]

Murder ballads

  • "Miss Brown" - a murder ballad from Dublin[23]
  • "Henry My Son" - the Irish version of "Lord Randall" (Child ballad #12), also a children's song[21][98]
  • "Weila Waile" - the Irish version of "The Cruel Mother" (Child ballad #20)[21][98]
  • "The Woman From Wexford" - the Irish version of "Eggs and Marrowbone"[21]
  • "What Put the Blood" (also known as "What Brought the Blood?") - the Irish version of "Edward" (Child ballad #13), popularised by Al O'Donnell[21]
  • "The Well Below the Valley" - the Irish version of "The Maid and the Palmer" (Child ballad #21), recorded by Planxty[21]
  • "The Maid From Cabra West" - an Irish version of an English song, sung by Frank Harte[23]
  • "The Colleen Bawn", based on a true story of a girl murdered in 1819, dealt with in a play by Dion Boucicault[99]
  • "The Twangman" - written by Zozimus (Michael Moran, 1794–1846)[23]


Hedge schoolmaster songs

  • "The Boys of Mullaghbawn"[14]
  • "Cloghamon Mill"
  • "The Colleen Rue" - translated from an Irish-language song "An Cailín Rua" (the red-haired girl)
  • "The Cottage Maid"
  • "The Cuckoo's Nest" - by John Sheils
  • "The Curracloe Boat Crew" - a song from Wexford
  • "Easter Snow" - an aisling set in a town in Roscommon
  • "Flower of Gortade"
  • "The Limerick Rake" - a popular song, from a broadside[15]
  • "Lough Erne Shore"
  • "Old Arboe" - a song in praise of a spot near Lough Neagh in Co Tyrone"
  • "Sheila Nee Iyer" - a parody of an aisling


See also


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Dominic Behan record notes
  3. The Spirit of the Nation: Ballads and Songs by the Writers of The Nation Dublin, James Duffy, 1845. p. 58
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