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Farmer Michael Hayes
(Roud 5226)
John Lyons
Recorded in London, April, 1974

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

John Lyons

I am a bold undaunted fox that never was before in tramp.
My rent, rates and taxes I was willing for to pay;
I made my name in fine good land, between Tipp’rary and Knocklong,
Where my forefathers lived and died a thousand years or so.

Ah but then of late I was betrayed by one who was a fool I know,
He told me I should leave the place and show my face no more.
As soon as he evicted me, I thought it time that I should flee,
So late one night, I took his life and left him lying low.

But by telegraph they did insert the great reward for my arrest,
My figure, size and form, my name without mistake.
They broke their brogues, one thousand pair, this great reward for to obtain,
But still their search was all in vain, for farmer Michael Hayes.

They searched Tipp’rary o’er and o’er, the corn fields near Galtymore,
They went across to Wexford then, but did not long delay.
By Ballyhale and Stridemore strand, they searched the woods as they came on,
Then they were hungry, wet and cold at the approach of day.

And round the coast they made a steer from Poolbeg lighthouse to Cape Clear,
Killarney Town and sweet Tralee, they then crossed into Clare.
And when they landed on the shore, they searched Kilrush from top to toe,
The searched the baths near sweet Lisdoon, likewise Miltown Malbay.

And Connemara being remote they thought ‘twas there I might resort,
When they were getting weary, they resolved to try Mayo.
In Swinford town as I lay down, I heard a dreadful cry of hounds,
So I lay there in the manger till the approach of day.

Then to Dublin town I made my way, and then to Cobh and Americay,
And left the hounds to search away, for farmer Michael Hayes.
And as the moon began to shine, I thought I’d make a foreign clime,
Now I’m in the Land of Liberty, and fig for all my foes.

John Lyons spoke before singing the song:
"This song, I got the tune of it years ago, from Willie Clancy and I had the words all the time collected from an old scrapbook I had, but I didn’t actually hear the tune until later. The song was 'Farmer Michael Hayes'. It’s a song about a true incident about a tenant farmer who killed his landlord in a Tipperary hotel when he was evicted, and he went on the run and he finally escaped to America where, I believe, he was never caught."

"The story of this song, 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 Lenihan’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'."

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

See also

Farmer Michael Hayes sung by Tom Lenihan

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