Pat O’Donnell

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  • Teideal (Title): Pat O’Donnell.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850502.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 2794.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Patrick O’Donnell.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

My name is Pat O’Donnell, I come from Donegal
I am, you know, a treacherous foe to traitors one and all
For the shooting of James Carey I’m tried in London town
And high upon the gallows tree my life I will lay down.

I went on board the ship Melrose in August ‘Forty-Three1
Before we landed in Cape Town, Carey came known to me
When I saw he was James Carey, we had angry words and blows
The villain thought to take my life upon the ship Melrose.

I stood up to defend myself, to fight before I’d die
A pocket pistol I drew forth, and at him I let fly
I gave him the second revolver-shot, which pierced him through the heart
And I let him have the third one, boys, before I did depart.

When Carey’s wife and son came to the cabin where he lay
To find him there all in his gore, it caused them great dismay
‘O’Donnell, you shot my husband!’ Mrs Carey she did cry
‘Oh yes, I did – in self-defence, kind madam’ then said I.

I was sent off back to London in irons firmly bound
The prosecutors for the Crown was Carey’s wife and son
The jury found me guilty; the judge made this reply:
‘For the shooting of James Carey, O’Donnell, you must die.’

Here’s a health to Donegal, the place where I was born
And also to Americay, to which I show no scorn
And to the Virgin Mary on my bended knees I call
To pray for poor O’Donnell from the town of Donegal.

I wish I was a free man and could live another year
I’d make all those informers tremble, oh, with fear
As St Patrick banished the serpent from our blessed, holy ground
I’d make them fly before me like a hare before the hound.

Good Christians all, on you I call! This is my dying day
They say I am an Irishman; kind Christians, for me pray
My grave is ready and open, and I’m ready for to die
May the Lord have mercy on my soul whilst in my grave I lie.


1. Joe has the date wrong by forty years; it should be Eighty-Three.

The Fenian hero, Patrick O’Donnell, famously assassinated the informer James Carey, who had become notorious in Ireland for turning Queen’s evidence and enabling the successful prosecution of those responsible for the Phoenix Park murders in May, 1882.

A full discussion of the song may be found in Georges Denis Zimmermann, Songs of Irish Rebellion (Dublin 2002). Joe sang it for a student with the same name as the hero of the ballad.

The sound quality of this recording is very poor, and the performance is uninspired, but it is included here for completeness.