The Bard of Armagh

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The Bard of Armagh is an Irish ballad. It is often attributed to Patrick Donnelly. He was made Bishop of Dromore in 1697, the same year as the enactment of the Bishops Banishment Act. Donnelly is believed to have taken the name of the travelling harper Phelim Brady.[1]

The song itself, like many heroic, rebel outlaw ballads, dates from the mid 19th century, when it was printed as a broadside ballad in Dublin.[2] The same melody is used in the songs "Príosún Chluain Meala" - (The Jail of Clonmel), "The Sailor Cut Down in his Prime" and "The Streets of Laredo".


Oh list' to the lay of a poor Irish harper,
And scorn not the strings in his old withered hands,
But remember those fingers, they once could move sharper,
To raise up the strains of his dear native land.

It was long before the shamrock, dear Isle's lovely emblem,
Was crushed in its beauty by the Saxon's lion paw,
And all the pretty colleens around me would gather,
Called me their bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh.

How I love to muse on the days of my boyhood,
Though four score and three years have fled by since then.
Still it gives sweet reflection, as every young joys should,
For the merry-hearted boys make the best of old men.

At a fair or a wake I would twist my shillelagh,
And trip through a dance with my brogues tied with straw.
There all the pretty maidens around me would gather,
Called me their bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh.

In truth I have wandered this wide world over,
Yet Ireland's my home and a dwelling for me.
And, oh, let the turf that my old bones shall cover
Be cut from the land that is trod by the free.

And when Sergeant Death in his cold arms doth embrace me,
And lulls me to sleep with old 'Erin-go-Bragh',
By the side of my Kathleen, my dear pride, oh, place me,
Then forget Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh.



  1. ^ Patrick Donnelly
  2. ^ Bodleian Ballads