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Croppy Boy  (1)
(Laws J14; Roud 1030)
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer’s home, September 1977

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Tom Lenihan

'Twas early, early in the month of Spring,
When small birds whistled and sweetly did sing
Changing their notes from tree to tree,
And the song they sung was ‘Old Ireland Free.’

‘Twas early, early on a Thursday night,
The yeomen cavalry gave me a fright,
The yeomen cavalry was my downfall,
And taken I was by Lord Cornwall.

‘Twas in his guardhouse I was laid,
And in his parlour I was tried,
My sentence passed and my spirits low,
And to New Geneva I was forced to go.

As I was marching through Wexford streets,
The drums and fifes, they played so sweet;
The drums and fifes did so sweetly play,
And to New Geneva I was forced away.

As I was marching past my father’s door,
My brother Willie stood on the floor;
My aged father did grieve full sore,
And my tender mother, her hair she tore.

As I was marching o’er Wexford Hill,
Who would blame me to cry my fill?
I looked behind and I looked before,
But my tender mother I seen no more.

‘Twas for old Ireland this young man died,
And in old Ireland his body lies;
And ye young people that do pass by
Say, “The Lord have mercy on the croppy boy.”

Spoken: That’s the old version of ‘The Croppy Boy’ too, Jim: I got that from Willie Clancy’s old aunt,
Mrs. Jim Haren above at Clooneyogan, years and years ago when I was a young lad like Thomas there.


"The term ‘Croppy’ is popularly believed to refer to the custom, followed by participants of the 1798 Rebellion, of wearing their hair cut short to show support for The French Revolution. However, poet and playwright Patrick Galvin put forward a number of other, equally convincing explanations, which included the practice of punishing convicted felons by cutting off the tops of their ears, and a form of torture applied to rebels known as ‘pitch cap’. He suggested that a true explanation probably lay in a combination of these.
New Geneva was a military barracks near the village of Passage, Co. Waterford, which was used as a prison and torture-house during the rebellion. The name derives from an abortive project some fifteen years earlier, to build a city there for émigré intellectuals and watchmakers from Geneva.
Ref: ‘Irish Songs of Resistance’, Patrick Galvin, Pub. Workers Music Association, 1956"

The above commentary, lyrics and recording are taken from ‘Around the Hills of Clare: Songs and Recitations from the Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie Collection’ (2004) Musical Traditions Records MTCD331-2/Góilín Records 005-6.

See also:
The Croppy Boy (2) sung by Tom Lenihan

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