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Farmer Michael Hayes
(Roud 5226)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

 

Tom Lenihan

I am a bold and undaunted fox that never was before in tramp.
My rent, rates and taxes I was willing for to pay;
I lived as happy as King Saul and loved my neighbours great and small,
I had no animosity for either friend or foe.

I made my den in prime good land between Tipp’rary and Knocklong,
Where my forefathers lived for three hundred years or more.
But now of late I was betrayed by one that was a fool and knave,
He told me I should quit the place and show my face no more.

But as soon as he ejected me I thought ‘twas time that I should flee,
I stole away his ducks and geese and murdered all his drakes.
I knew I could no longer stand because he had the hounds at hand;
I tightened up my garters and then I was away.

But soon there was a great look-out by land and sea to find me out,
From Dublin Quay to Belfast Town, along the raging sea.
By telegraph they did insert this great reward for my arrest,
My figure, size and form, and my name without a doubt.

They wore their brogues, a thousand pair, this great reward for to obtain,
But still there was no tidings of me or my retreat.
They searched Tipp’rary o’er and o’er, the corn fields round Galtymore,
Then they went on to Wexford but there did not delay.

Through Ballyhale and Stranmore they searched the woods as they went on,
Until they got very hungry at the approach of day.
Now search the world far and near, the likes before you did not hear,
A fox to get away so clear as I did from the hounds.

They searched the rocks, the gulfs, the bays, the ships and liners at the quays,
The ferry-boats and steamers as they were going to sea.
Around the coast they took a steer from Poolbeg lighthouse to Cape Clear,
Killarney Town and sweet Tralee, and then crossed into Clare.

And when they landed on the shore they searched Kilrush from top to toe,
The bathing baths in Miltown, called otherwise Malbay.
And Galway being a place of fame they though it there I would remain,
But still their journey was in vain for I gave them leg-bail.

They searched the train in Oranmore as she was leaving for Athlone,
And every wagon, coach and cart that went along the road.
And Connemara being remote they thought it there I would resort,
They when they got weary they resolved to try Mayo.

In Ballinrobe they had to rest until the hounds were quite refreshed,
From thence they went to Westport and searched it high and low.
Through Castlebar they took a trot, they heard I was in Castlerock,
But still they were deluded, there I lodged the night before.

At Swinford’s town as I sat down I heard a dreadful cry of hounds,
I took another notion to retaliate the chase.
And I being weary from the road, I took a glass at half past four,
Then I was renovated while the hounds were getting weak.

The night being dark in Castlebar I knew not how to make my way,
I had neither den nor manger for to shield me from the cold.
But when the moon began to shine I said I’d make for a foreign clime,
I am in the Land of Liberty, and three cheers for Michael Hayes!


"As a young man, Tom Lenihan heard the ballad of ‘Farmer Michael Hayes’ sung by his father and by local ballad seller, Bully Nevin, but never knew more than a few verses. In 1972 he obtained a full text, adapted it to what he already knew and put it to a variation of the tune he had heard. We believe it to be one of the best narrative Irish ballads we have ever come across; Tom makes a magnificent job of it.

The story, based on real events, tells of how a farmer/land agent with a reputation for harshness is evicted from his land and takes his revenge on the landlord, in some cases by shooting him, and in Tom’s version by also killing off the landlord's livestock. He takes off in an epic flight, closely followed by police with hounds and is chased around the coast of Ireland as far as Mayo where he finally escapes to America. We worked out once that the reported chase is over five hundred miles of rough ground. Tradition has it that he eventually returned home to die in Ireland. As Georges Zimmerman points out, this ballad shows how a probably hateful character could become a gallant hero in the eyes of the oppressed peasants. It is a rare song in the tradition, but we know it was sung in Kerry in the 1930s; Caherciveen Traveller Mikeen McCarthy gave us just line of it:

'I am a bold “indaunted” fox that never was before on tramp,
My rents, rates and taxes I was willing for to pay.'

When he heard it sung in full in a London folk club he said, 'That’s just how my father sang it'."

Reference:
Songs of Irish Rebellion; Georges-Denis Zimmermann, 1967
.
Jim Carroll


See also

Farmer Michael Hayes sung by John Lyons


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