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Brennan on the Moor

Roud #476

Probably of Irish origin, this broadside ballad tells the story of folk hero and highwayman Willie Brennan, who was tried and hanged in Clonmel in 1904. Some versions of this song place Brennan in the mountains near Limerick; other versions depict Brennan on the highways of North Cork and South Tipperary.

Patsy Judge’s version references the Comeragh Mountains, perhaps a nod to the ancestry of the people of the Cape Shore, whose origins were mainly in Ireland’s southeast.

Listen to Patsy Judge sing “Brennan on the moor,” view an annotated transcript, and download your own copy of the words.

Brennan on the moor / Patsy Judge

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Brennan on the moor / Patsy Judge

Brennan on the moor, song (It's of a fearless highwayman the truth to you I'll tell …) Probably of Irish origin, this broadside ballad tells the story of folk hero and highwayman Willie Brennan, who was tried and hanged in Clonmel in 1804. Some versions of this song place Brennan in the mountains near Limerick; other versions depict Brennan on the highways of North Cork and South Tipperary.  Patsy Judge’s version references the Comeragh Mountains, perhaps a nod to the ancestry of the people of the Cape Shore, whose origins were mainly in Ireland’s southeast.


Patsy Judge's version of “Brennan on the moor”

Oh [its] is of a fearless highwayman the truth to ye I'll tell,
Concerning Willie Brennan in old Ireland he did dwell.
It was on the Camrick[1] Mountains he began his wild career,
Where many the wealthy gentlemen, before him shook with fear.
Singing Brennan on the moor, oh Brennan on the moor,
Bold and undaunted stood young Brennan on the moor.

One day upon the mountain high as Willie he sat down,
And he met the mayor Cashin[2] bound, about a mile outside the town.
The mayor he knowing his features well and this to him did say,
'Oh your name is Willie Brennan, you may come along with me.'
Singing Brennan on the moor, oh Brennan on the moor,
Bold and undaunted stood young Brennan on the moor.

Oh Willie's wife she being in town, provisions for to buy,
And when she saw her Willie she began to weep and cry.
He asked her for a ten-penny, and just as Willie spoke,
She handed him a blunderbuss, from underneath her coat.
Singing Brennan on the moor, oh Brennan on the moor,
Bold and undaunted stood young Brennan on the moor.

Now it was with the loaded blunderbuss, the truth I will unfold,
Willie made the mayor tremble and he robbed him of his gold.
One hundred pounds he counted down in apprehension there,
And Willie with horse and saddle to the mountains did repair.
Singing Brennan on the moor, oh Brennan on the moor,
Bold and undaunted stood young Brennan on the moor.

Now Willie he's a highwayman up on the mountains high,
The infantry and camerie[3] for to take him they did try.
He laughed at them with scorn till at length to them did say,
'Twas a false-hearted woman did so busily me betray.'
Singing Brennan on the moor, oh Brennan on the moor,
Bold and undaunted stood young Brennan on the moor.


[1] Editor's note: Comeragh.
[2] Editor's note: Cashel.
[3] Editor's note: Cavalry.