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 Pat O’Brien
(Laws P39; Roud 1919
Tom Lenihan
Knockbrack, Miltown Malbay
Recorded in singer's home, July 1976

Carroll Mackenzie Collection 

Tom Lenihan

This young man’s name was Pat O’Brien, a carpenter by trade,
Both day and night he took delight in courting this fair maid.
She being young and innocent and always to the fore,
Oh, but little was her notion that he’d prove her overthrown.

She wrote to him a love letter and an answer to it came;
Saying: ‘Nancy, lovely Nancy, oh, I hope you’ll not me blame,
For I’ve been working all this time and could not see you o’er,
But I hope to have your company this evening at the grove.’

When she read those few lines they enticed her for to go,
She dressed herself in private, I mean to let you know.
The night was bright with thy moonlight which caused her for to go;
But little was her notion that she never would come back home.

When he saw her coming, it was then he went to hide.
The words he said unto himself: ‘You’ll never be my bride.
For I have heard for certain oh, that you have me deceived
And this very night, to take your life, a butcher I will be.’

It was then he stepped up to her and then his colour changed.
She says: ‘Patsy, lovely Patsy, oh what makes you look so pale?’
I want no talk at all from you, but kneel down there and pray,
For there is not a woman breathing will ever deceive me.’

He caught her by the yellow locks and drew her to the ground.
‘Twas with a knife he stabbed her, and gave her the deadly wound.
Her last dying words was: ‘Pat O’Brien, you do not feel the pain!’
And ‘twas with a spade he made her grave and then went home by train.

This girl was but three days buried, to her mother she did appear.
The mother spoke to her, oh, without a dread or fear.
She says: ‘Mother, loving mother, oh, you’ll never see me more,
For Pat O’Brien has murdered me and laid me in my gore.’

‘Go down to John Keating’s grove, be sure make no delay,
There you’ll find my body buried, and covered with the clay.
You’ll find the blood spilled on the spot – the place he murdered me –
Oh so go and get him taken and hung he’ll be surely.’

The night before his trial came on, to him she did appear,
With her baby in her arms, which filled his heart with fear.
She says: ‘'Tis often times you vowed to me that I would be your bride.
And the gallows high, you now will die for taking away my life.’


“Despite the popularity of the theme: betrayal, murder and supernatural visitation, this particular ballad has not often found its way into print, though it has a strong similarity to other ballads such as ‘The Bloody Miller’, ‘The Bloody Gardener’, ‘Oxford City’, etc. The note in ‘The New Green Mountain Songster’ states that it is definitely of Irish origin and suggests that it went to America in the 1860s ‘when draft-exempt labor was at a premium’ in the logging woods of New Hampshire where it was noted down. It was collected from a Mrs E. M. Sullivan, who insisted that ‘The Sorrowful Lamentation of Pat O’Brine’ was about a murder which had occurred near her old home in County Cork. She said she knew a postman who ‘saw Pat O’Brine coming over the stile’ near the big house, ‘White Gates’, and his testimony during the trial incriminated the guilty man. Tom’s version came from his father, though he said the ballad 'had been in the family with 50 years'."

New Green Mountain Songster, Helen Hartness Flanders, Elizabeth Flanders Ballard, George Brown and Phillips Barry, Yale Uni. Press, 1939.
Jim Carroll

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