The Minstrel Boy

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This article is about the song. For the novel by A. J. Cronin, see The Minstrel Boy.

"The Minstrel Boy" is an Irish patriotic song written by Thomas Moore (1779–1852) who set it to the melody of The Moreen, an old Irish air. It is widely believed that Moore composed the song in remembrance of a number of his friends,[1] whom he met while studying at Trinity College, Dublin and who had participated in (and were killed during) the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

The song gained widespread popularity and became a favourite of many Irishmen who fought during the American Civil War and gained even more popularity after World War I. The song is notably associated with organisations that historically had a heavy representation of Irish-Americans, in particular the police and fire departments of New York, Boston and Chicago and those of various other major US metropolitan areas, even after those organisations have ceased to have a substantial over-representation of personnel of Irish ancestry. The melody is frequently played at funerals of members and/or officers of such organisations who have died or been killed in service, typically on bagpipes. Unsurprisingly, given its lyrics, it is also associated with the Irish Army and with traditionally Irish regiments in the armies of the United Kingdom and the United States as well as other armies of the world.


The original lyrics are as follows:

A concentrated, single verse version exists:

During the American Civil War a third verse was written by an unknown author, and is sometimes included in renditions of the song:

Notable performances and recordings[edit]

References in film and television[edit]

  • The song's first verse was sung by the character Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded" (air date 28 January 1991). O'Brien later became a main character in The Next Generation's successor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; the song's melody was used on several occasions in that series as a leitmotif for the character. A notable example is in the final episode "What You Leave Behind", in which it is heard when O'Brien is looking at his empty quarters and recalling his life aboard Deep Space 9.[2]
  • The song is played by a lone piper preceding the cortege at the funeral of Bobby Sands in the Terry George film Some Mother's Son (1996).
  • The song is also heard in the movie The Departed, during a graduation ceremony of police cadets.
  • The song is played (in instrumental form) in the film Gettysburg as General Winfield Scott Hancock watches the Irish Brigade receive Fr. Corby's blessing prior to the battle.
  • The tune is incorporated into the score of the episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode "London, May 1916".
  • A clip from this film was used in the show Warehouse 13 episode "Secret Santa"
  • The song is used as G Troop's troop song in John Milius's TNT film, Rough Riders.
  • The song is both sung and used in Max Steiner's score in John Ford's The Informer (1935).
  • In the Sam Peckinpah film Major Dundee (1965), the song is briefly sung by Captain Tyreen (Richard Harris) as he teaches it to a young boy. It is also played instrumentally throughout the movie's soundtrack.
  • The song appears in the film Breaker Morant.
  • The melody, combined with a bell ringing effect image, was the main series title of the awarding 1965 TV series Profiles in Courage, based on the book by President John F. Kennedy, music composed by Nelson Riddle.
  • It was used as background music in the Ken Burns documentaries Lewis and Clark, The Civil War and Baseball.
  • A version of the song, performed by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros is heard during the closing credits of the film Black Hawk Down.
  • The song, including a choral version in a spiritual style forms much of the theme of the PBS documentary "For Love of Liberty: the story of America's Black Patriots" which chronicles the history of Black troops in the US military from the revolutionary period to the present.
  • The song appears in both the opening and closing credits of the Sarah Palin biography "The Undefeated" and is sung by the performer Amanda.
  • The first two lines of the song are quoted by the character Lechmere in Benjamin Britten's pacifist opera 'Owen Wingrave' (1971, commissioned for BBC TV), as he is singing the glories of war.
  • An instrumental version of the song is used as recurrent background music in the Korean television drama series Pasta.
  • The song is used on an episode of TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (Nov. 1964) called "Long Live the King." Carroll O'Connor as "Old Jim" plays it on the penny whistle and sings it to help inspire a young boy who is inheriting a throne.
  • A part of the song is sung at the end of the episode "Kupu'eu" (Fallen Hero) of the TV series Hawaii Five-O, which aired 25 October 2013 on CBS. It was sung after the funeral of Billy Harrington, a retired Navy Seal.
  • This song is featured in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squid on Strike". It is played in the background when Squidward initiates the strike.
  • The song is played on the bagpipes during the ceremony attended by Captain Cragen during the season 1 episode "The Blue Wall" of "Law & Order" in June 1991


  1. ^ Romer, Megan. "The Minstrel Boy". World Music, Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  2. ^ "The Minstrel Boy". Memory Alpha. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 

External links[edit]