Pat Reilly, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
© Item in copyright  (contact for information on re-use)
Downloads: PDF |  Metadata (Dublin Core)


Oh, as I went a-walking one morning in May
I met sergeant Johnston along the highway.

Says the sergeant to Pat Reilly, – You are a clever young man,
Will you go to John Kelly’s where we’ll have a dram?

Then as we sat smoking and drinking our dram
Says the sergeant to Pat Reilly, – you are a handsome young man,

Oh, would you list, take the shilling, and then come with me
To the sweet county Longford, strange faces you’ll see.

Oh, I took the shilling and the reckoning was paid,
The ribbons were bought and we hoist the cockade.

Oh, but early next morning sure we all had to stand
Up before our grand general with our hats in our hand.

He says to Pat Reilly, – You are a shade rather low,
Unto some other regiment I’m afraid you must go.

– Oh, let me go where I will, sure I’ve got no one to mourn
For my mother she is dead and will never return.

My father got married and fetched a stepmother home,
She fairly denies me and does me disown.

Oh, had my father a-been honest and learnt me my trade
I never would have listed nor hoist the cockade.


Older versions add an uncle to the sergeant, general, stepmother and father who successively contribute to this Irishman’s grudge against the world. Broadsides named him ‘Johnny Golicher’ but an oral tradition adopted an even commoner Irish name. Pat Reilly is an endearing specimen of a character-type of folk song: the unfortunate recruit. An English broadside, English and Canadian oral versions, and traces of the text in Australia show that the song had wide currency. It is a product of the nineteenth-century Irish popular press; the road to Newry is the opening scene in most versions.