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"McCafferty" is a traditional song which originated as a street-ballad about Patrick McCaffrey, executed in 1862 for the killing of two of his officers. It is particularly popular in Ireland, where McCaffrey came from, and was recorded by The Dubliners. In the British army it was believed that to sing the song was a chargeable offence.
Patrick McCaffery was born in County Kildare, Ireland in October 1842. Mrs. McCaffery sent him to England to stay with a friend, Mrs. Murphy of Mossley near Manchester, where, at the age of 12, he started work in the mill. On 10 October 1860, aged 19, he took the Queen's shilling and enlisted in the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry). After enlistment he was sent to Fulwood Barracks to train with 11 Depot Battalion and then posted to 12 Coy, the 32nd Regiment.
While at the depot, on sentry duty, McCaffery had a disagreement with his captain, Captain Hanham, who sentenced him to fourteen days confinement to barracks. Later that day Capt. Hanham and the commanding officer of the Fulwood depot, Col. Hugh Crofton, were walking across the barracks square when McCaffery loaded his musket and fired at them, at a distance of 65 yards (59.4 m), causing both to stagger and fall. A bullet passed right through Col. Crofton’s lungs then through the chest of his companion and one of his lungs and lodged in his back. After firing the shot McCaffery quietly handed his weapon to a comrade and was led, unresisting, away. Col. Crofton died instantly and Capt. Hanham a few days later.
McCaffrey's trial was set for the Liverpool Assizes, where he appeared in December. The result was a foregone conclusion. The sentence was carried out on Saturday, 11 January 1862, in front of Kirkdale Gaol, at Liverpool. The sympathies of the crowd were with McCaffery, while Captain Hanham's final departure was ignominious - the crowd turned their backs on his coffin. The street ballad that was written sometime afterwards found the popular ear amongst the large Catholic Irish population of the North West of England.
- A partial discography:
- The Dubliners
- Martin Winsor - "Troubadour"
- Roy Palmer
- Dave Burland
- A.L. Lloyd: Folksongs Of England (1967).