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O’Reilly from the County Kerry
(Roud 4720)
Martin Reidy
Tullaghaboy, Connolly
Recorded in singer's home, July 1980

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Reidy

As I roved out one summer morning
To view the sweet flowers of May;
I fell courting a pretty fair maid,
She appeared to me like the queen of May.

I asked her kindly would she marry,
Or would she be so as to be a sailor’s wife.
“Oh no, kind sir, I’d rather tarry
And choose the sweet single life.”

“Oh fairest creature, the pride of nature,
Why do you differ from all female kind?
For you are youthful, fair and handsome,
And to marry you I am most inclined.”

“Oh no, kind sir, I now must tell you,
I have promised these five years or more
To one O’Reilly from the County Kerry,
Which often fills my heart full sore.”

“Oh had I you in Phoenix Island,
One hundred miles from my native home;
Or in a valley where none would find us;
‘Tis there you’d consent love, to be my own.”

You have not me in Phoenix Island,
Or one hundred miles from my native home,
Or in a valley where none would find us,
So I’ll ne’er consent then to be your own.”

"However, you’re like the swan in th’ocean,
Making motion with both your wings.
Your snow-white breast love, would be a portion,
For a lord or a noble king.”

“For you are youthful, fair and handsome,
For you are fitting to be a queen.
I wish I’d lay on the battlefield wounded,
Before your beautiful face I’d seen.”

“For in the morning when I cannot see you,
My heart lies bleeding for you all day.
And in the evening when I can’t come near you,
For those that are bound love, they must obey.”

“And youth and folly make young men marry,
And leave them sorry another day.
But what can’t be cured must be endured love,
So farewell darling, I must go away.”


"Found throughout Ireland, this has been localised to a number of areas, the sailor given as being from Leitrim, Kerry, Limerick or Cavan. In Colm O Lochlainn's ‘Irish Street Ballads’ it appears as ‘O'Reilly from the County Kerry, or The Phoenix of Erin's Green Isle’. Containing several 'floater' verses, it is reminiscent of a number of other songs, particularly of the 'Broken Token' variety.
Martin learned it from neighbours as a young man; the tune he sang it to is the same as the one he used for his longest song, ‘The True Lover's Discussion’.
Other recordings: Tomás Ó Coisdealbha (Thomas Costello - Tom Pháidín Tom) of Spiddal, Connemara, ‘Traditional Songs and Singers’, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann cassette."

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.

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