Rory O’More, Traditional Irish Tune

One of my favorites! This traditional song is a perfect rendition of the pull-and-tug between a courting couple: a man who’s madly in love, and a woman who’s trying to ‘play it cool’. You can find a version of it by the inimitable Wolfe Tones here.



Young Rory O’More courted Kathleen bawn.
He was bold as a hawk and she soft as the dawn.
He wished in his heart pretty Kathleen to please,
And he thought the best way to do that was to tease.
“Now, Rory, be easy,” sweet Kathleen would cry,
Reproof on her lip but a smile in her eye.
“With your tricks I don’t know in troth what I’m about.
Faith, you’ve teased ’til I’ve put on my cloak inside out!”

“Oh, jewel,” says Rory, “that same is the way
You’ve treated my heart for this many a day.
And ’tis pleased that I am and why not, to be sure?
For ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.
“Indeed then,” says Kathleen, “don’t think of the like,
For I half gave a promise to soothering Mike.
The ground that I walk on he loves, I’ll be bound.”
“Faith,” says Rory, “I’d rather love you than the ground.”

“Now, Rory, I’ll cry if you don’t let me go;
Sure I dream every night that I’m hating you so.”
“Oh,” says Rory, “that same I’m delighted to hear,
For dreams always go by contrairies my dear.
Oh, jewel, keep dreaming that same till you die,
And bright morning will give dirty night the black lie.
And ’tis pleased that I am and why not, to be sure?
Since ’tis all for good luck,” says bold Rory O’More.

“Arrah, Kathleen, my darling you’ve teased me enough!
Sure I’ve thrashed for your sake Dinny Grimes and Jim Duff.
And I’ve made myself drinking your health quite a beast,
So I think after that I may talk to the priest.”
Then Rory, the rogue, stole his arm round her neck,
So soft and so white without freckle or speck,
And he looked in her eyes that were beaming with light,
And he kissed her sweet lips – don’t you think he was right?

“Now, Rory, leave off sir, you’ll hug me no more;
That’s eight times today and you’ve kissed me before!”
“Then here goes another,” says he, “to make sure,
For there’s luck in odd numbers!” says Rory O’More.

O’Donnell Abu!

#amwriting #amsinging #irishmusic

One of the best of the rebel songs, O’Donnell Abu! was written by Michael Joseph McCann in 1843. “Abu!”, as I understand it, is similar to “Hurrah!”  I recognized this song on the bagpipes long before I knew the words (or even knew it had words!) I subsequently have asked many Irish singers for the song, and found but few of them also know there are words. A version by tenor Michael O’Duffy can be found here.


O’Donnell Abu!

Proudly the note of the trumpet is sounding,
Loudly the war cries arise on the gale,
Fleetly the steed by Lough Swilly is bounding,
To join the thick squadrons in Saimer’s green vale.

On every mountaineer, strangers to flight or fear,
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh!
Bonnaught and Gallowglass, throng from each mountain pass,
Onward for Erin, O’Donnell Abu!

Princely O’Neill to our aid is advancing
With many a chieftain and warrior clan.
A thousand proud steeds in his vanguard are prancing
‘Neath the borderers brave from the Banks of the Bann.

Many a heart shall quail under its coat of mail.
Deeply the merciless foeman shall rue,
When on his ears shall ring, bourne on the breeze’s wing
Tyr Connail’s dread war cry, O’Donnell Abu!

Sacred the cause that Clan Connell’s defending,
The altars we kneel at, the homes of our sires.
Ruthless the ruin the foe is extending,
Midnight is red with the plunderer’s fires.

On with O’Donnell then, fight the old fight again,
Sons of Tyr Connail all valiant and true!
Make the proud saxon feel Erin’s avenging steel
Strike for your country, O’Donnell Abu!


Wildly o’er Desmond the war wolf is howling,
Fearless the eagle sweeps over the plain,
The fox in the streets of the city is prowling,
And all who would scare them are banished or slain!

On every mountaineer, strangers to flight or fear,
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh!
Bonnaught and Gallowglass, throng from each mountain pass,
Onward for Erin, O’Donnell Abu!


Special thanks to Stair Na Héireann Blog for this article about Hugh O’Neill and Red Hugh O’Donnell that reminded me of this song.

Wayfaring Stranger

#amwriting #amsinging #folkmusic

This song’s roots are open to discussion. Some say it dates from the 18th century, some say the 19th; some credit it to North Carolina, some the Appalachians in general, while still others believe it was originally an African-American spiritual. Regardless of who’s right (or close to right), it’s a beautiful song, and there’s a beautiful version of it by Emmylou Harris here.

Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Come traveling through this world of woe.
Yet there’s no sickness, toil nor danger
In that fair land to which I go.

I’m going there to see my Father,
He said he’d meet me when I go.
I’m only going over Jordan,
I’m only going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather ‘round me,
I know my way is rough and steep,
But golden fields lie just before me
Where the redeemed shall ever sleep.

I’m going there to see my mother,
She said she’d meet me when I come.
I’m only going over Jordan,
I’m only going over home.

Sweet Betsy From Pike

#amwriting #amsinging #folkmusic

This traditional American folk song about the California Gold Rush of the 1850s is sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”, which in turn may date from the 17th century. The refrain after each verse is probably a bastardization of the original Gaelic words. I learned this song as a child from a Burl Ives album, and you can hear him singing his version here. 

Sweet Betsy From Pike

Oh, don’t you remember sweet Betsy from Pike
Who crossed the big mountains with her lover Ike,
And two yoke of cattle, a large yellow dog,
A tall, shanghai rooster, and one spotted hog?

Refrain after each verse:
Ooldooldang foldedeido ooldooldang foldedidey

One evening quite early they camped on the Platte,
‘Twas near by the road on a green shady flat;
Where Betsy, quite tired, lay down to repose,
While with wonder Ike gazed on his Pike County rose.

They soon reached the desert, where Betsy gave out,
And down in the sand she lay rolling about;
While Ike in great terror looked on in surprise,
Saying “Betsy, get up, you’ll get sand in your eyes.”

Sweet Betsy got up in a great deal of pain
And declared she’d go back to Pike County again;
Then Ike heaved a sigh and they fondly embraced,
And she traveled along with his arm around her waist.

The wagon tipped over with a terrible crash,
And out on the prairie rolled all sorts of trash;
A few little baby clothes done up with care
Looked rather suspicious, though ’twas all on the square.

The shanghai ran off and the cattle all died,
The last piece of bacon that morning was fried;
Poor Ike got discouraged, and Betsy got mad,
The dog wagged his tail and looked wonderfully sad.

One morning they climbed up a very high hill,
And with wonder looked down into old Placerville;
Ike shouted and said, as he cast his eyes down,
“Sweet Betsy, my darling, we’ve got to Hangtown.”

Long Ike and Sweet Betsy attended a dance,
Where Ike wore a pair of his Pike County pants;
Sweet Betsy was covered with ribbons and rings.
Quoth Ike, “You’re an angel, but where are your wings?”

A miner said, “Betsy, will you dance with me?”
“I will that, old hoss, if you don’t make too free;
But don’t dance me hard. Do you want to know why?
Doggone ye, I’m chock full of strong alkali.”

Long Ike and sweet Betsy got married of course,
But Ike getting jealous obtained a divorce;
And Betsy, well satisfied, said with a shout,
“Good-bye, you big lummax, I’m glad you backed out.”

The Valley of Knockanure

#irishmusic #irishhistory #amwriting

Stemming from an incident in Gortagleanna during the War of Indepence (1921), there are several versions of this song extant. These lyrics are based on a poem by Bryan MacMahon, which in turn is based on oral histories and older poems, some of which are lost today. A haunting version of this song is presented by Mary O’Dowd here.


You may sing and speak about Easter Week
And the heroes of Ninety Eight,
Or bold Fenian Men who roamed the glen
In victory or defeat.
Their names on history’s pages told,
Their memories will endure,
Not a song is sung of our darling sons,
In the Valley of Knockanure.

There was Walsh and Lyons and the Dalton boy,
They were young and in their prime.
They rambled to a lonely spot
Where the Black and Tans did hide.
The Republic bold they did uphold,
Tho’ outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they fought and died
In the Valley of Knockanure.

It was on a neighbouring hillside,
We listened in hushed dismay.
In every house, in every town,
A young girl knelt to pray.
They’re closing in around them now,
With rifle fire so sure,
And Lyons is dead and young Dalton’s down
In the Valley of Knockanure.

But ere the guns could seal his fate,
Young Walsh had spoken thro’.
With a prayer to God he spurned the sod,
As against the hill he flew.
The bullets tore his flesh in two,
Yet he cried with voice so sure,
“Revenge I’ll get for my comrade’s death,
In the Valley of Knockanure.”

The summer sun is sinking low
Behind the field and lea.
The pale moonlight is shining bright
Far off beyond Tralee.
The dismus star and clouds afar
Are darkening o’er the moor,
And the banshee cried when young Dalton died,
In the Valley of Knockanure.

May God guard and keep the place they sleep
In the Valley of Knockanure.

The Cowboy’s Dream

#amwriting #cowboysongs

A common theme in cowboy songs is the hope of heaven. This particular song is sung to a Scottish air virtually everyone is familiar with: My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. A very early (1935) and abbreviated recording of the song by The Sons of the Pioneers features Roy Rogers on vocals and yodel. It can be heard here.

The Cowboy’s Dream

Last night as I lay on the prairie,
And gazed at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy
Would drift to that sweet by and by.

CHORUS: Roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on, roll on,
Roll on, roll on;
Roll on, little dogies, roll on.

The road to that bright, happy region
Is a dim, narrow trail, so they say;
But the broad one that leads to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

They say there will be a great round-up,
And cowboys, like dogies, will stand,
To be marked by the Riders of Judgment
Who are posted and know every brand.


I know there’s many a stray cowboy
Who’ll be lost at the great, final sale,
When he might have gone in the green pastures
Had he known of the dim, narrow trail.

I wonder if ever a cowboy
Stood ready for that Judgment Day,
And could say to the Boss of the Riders,
“I’m ready, come drive me away.”


For they, like the cows that are locoed,
Stampede at the sight of a hand,
Are dragged with a rope to the round-up,
Or get marked with some crooked man’s brand.

And I’m scared that I’ll be a stray yearling,
A maverick, unbranded on high,
And get cut in the bunch with the “rusties”
When the Boss of the Riders goes by.


They tell of another big owner
Whose ne’er overstocked, so they say,
But who always makes room for the sinner
Who drifts from the straight, narrow way.

They say he will never forget you,
That he knows every action and look;
So, for safety, you’d better get branded,
Have your name in the great Tally Book.

Note: if you’re interested in seeing more traditional cowboy songs, John A. Lomax anthologized many of the lyrics in Cowboy Songs & Other Frontier Ballads, published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1938. It’s available for download from the University of Nebraska.

The Colorado Trail

#cowboymusic #amwriting

Here’s a wonderful cowboy song with one of most popular themes, the girl he left behind. There are several versions out there, some with more or different verses, but my favorite is this short and sweet one by the Norman Luboff Choir. You can listen to it here.

The Colorado Trail

Eyes like the morning star,
Cheeks like a rose,
Laura was a pretty girl,
God almighty knows.

Weep all ye little rains,
Wail, wind, wail,
All along, along, along
The Colorado trail.

Stars fading in the sky,
Day’s gonna break.
Sun will be arisin’ soon,
Everything will wake.


Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!


A sassy little ditty with advice for unmarried women. Listen to a recording by The Dubliners here.

Maids, When You’re Young Never Wed an Old Man!

An old man came courting me, hey ding dooram ay!
An old man came courting me, me being young
An old man came courting me, all for to marry me;
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!


For he’s got no faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay
For he’s got no faloorum, fadidleday
He’s got no faloorum, he’s lost his ding doorum
So maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!

Now when we went to the church, hey ding dooram ay!
When we went to the church, me being young,
When we went to the church, he left me in the lurch.
Maids when you’re young, never wed an old man!


Now when we went to our bed, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when we went to our bed, me being young,
When we went to our bed, he lay like he was dead!
Maids when you’re young never wed an old man!


Now when he went to sleep, hey ding dooram ay!
Now when he went to sleep, me being young,
When he went to sleep, out of bed I did creep,
Into the arms of a handsome young man!


And I found his faloorum, fadidledo doorum ay!
I found his faloorum, fadidleday,
I found his faloorum, he got my dingdoorum!
So, maids, when you’re young never wed an old man!

Jessie, The Flow’r of Dunblane

Though this song is of Scottish origin, it’s been adopted into the Irish litany of music. I like it especially because the heroine of my novel WHISPERS IN THE CANYON is named Jesse. You can hear a lovely version by a harpist here.

Jessie, The Flow’r Of Dunblane

The sun has gone down o’er the lofty Ben Lomond
And left the red clouds to reside o’er the scene,
While lonely I stray in the calm summer gloamin’
To muse on sweet Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane.
How sweet is the brier with its soft folding blossom,
And sweet is the birk with its mantle of green.
But sweeter and fairer and dear to this bosom
Is charming young Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane
Is charming young Jessie, is charming young Jessie,
Is charming young Jessie, the flow’r o’ Dunblane.

She’s modest as any and blythe as she’s bonnie
For guileless simplicity makes her its aim.
And far be the villain, divested of feeling,
Who’d blight in its bloom, the sweet flow’r of Dunblane.
Sing on, thou sweet mavis, thy hymn to the evening,
Thou’r’t dear to the echoes of Calderwood glen,
So dear to this bosom, so artless and winning,
Is charming young Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane.
Is charming young Jessie, is charming young Jessie,
Is charming young Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane.

How lost were my days till I met with my Jessie;
The sports of the city seemed foolish and vain.
I ne’er saw a nymph I would call my dear lassie
Till charmed with sweet Jessie, the flow’r of Dublane.
Though mine were the station of loftiest grandeur,
Amidst its profusion I’d languish in pain,
And reckon as nothing, the height of its splendor
If wanting sweet Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane.
If wanting sweet Jessie, if wanting sweet Jessie,
If wanting sweet Jessie, the flow’r of Dunblane.

If I Were a Blackbird

Our song today comes with both male and female verses. Though they are often sung apart, the occasional duet is most beautiful. You can hear a version of it by Silly Wizard here.

If I Were a Blackbird

Begins with the man’s part:

I am a young sailor, my story is sad
For once I was carefree and a bold sailor lad.
I courted a lassie by night and by day,
But now she has left me and gone far away.

Refrain: Oh if I were a blackbird, I’d whistle and sing,
I’d follow the vessel my true love sails in
And in the top rigging, I’d there build my nest
And I’d flutter my wings o’er her lily-white breast.

Or if I were a scholar and could handle a pen,
One secret love letter to my true love I’d send.
And I’d tell of my sorrow, my grief and my pain,
Since she’s gone and left me in yon flowery glen.


I sailed o’er the ocean, my fortune to seek,
Though I missed her caress and her kiss on my cheek.
I returned and I told her my love was still warm,
But she turned away lightly and great was her scorn.


I offered to take her to Donnybrook Fair.
And to buy her fine ribbons to tie up her hair.
I offered to marry and to stay by her side,
But she said in the morning she sailed with the tide.


My parents they chide me, and will not agree,
Say that me and my false love married should never be.
Ah but let them deprive me, let them do as they will,
While there’s breath in my body, she’s the one I love still.



Proceeds to the woman’s part:

I am a young maiden and my story is sad
For once I was courted by a brave sailor lad.
He courted me strongly by night and by day
But now my dear sailor is gone far away.

Refrain: If I were a blackbird I’d whistle and sing
And I’d follow the ship That my true love sails in,
And on the top rigging I’d there build my nest,
And I’d pillow my head on his snowy-white breast.

He promised to take me to Donnybrook fair,
To buy me red ribbons to tie up my hair.
And when he’d return from the ocean so wide,
He’d take me and make me his own loving bride.


His parents they slight me and will not agree
That I and my sailor boy married should be.
But when he comes home I will greet him with joy,
And I’ll take to my bosom my dear sailor boy.