Glen of Aherlow, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Glen of Aherlow, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853903.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 983.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): J11.
  • 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): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/07/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, 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.

JH: Will I tell you a little bit about Patrick Sheehan? He came from Aherlow in Tipperary, and he joined- went to the Crimean War… and at the age of thirty-four he was blinded in the trenches. And because he joined the English, against his own countrymen, they had no time for him at home. He got nine months’ pension; and when that was finished, he wandered the streets, begging… This is true. The Crimean War lasted… couple or three years only, 1854 to 1856. And that’s when a lot of… people. All you had to do that time was take a drink off a sergeant, or the police, or the army, and they put a shilling into the glass, and the minute you drank out of that glass with the shilling in, that was your enlistment in the army… I’m not sure was Patrick Sheehan- I think Patrick Sheehan was in a position he had nowhere else to go, so he had to join the army. There was no work, nothing, there was- All his people had [been] thrown out of their land and died, and he had to get his living, so he joined the army.

LS: He fought with the English?

JH: He fought with the English in the Crimean War.

LS: Why did he go back home?

JH: Well he wanted to go home to see… to feel the place where he was born; he got lonely. And he knew he wouldn’t be welcome home, because he joined the British army, you see, so he wandered around like a mendicant, from place to place, begging his food. And he reckoned that if he came near where he was born and the people recognized him, you see, they wouldn’t have any time for him. He couldn’t anyway- He would be shamed to show his face there, because he let them down so much.

LS: So where was he?

JH: He was in England, going around from place to place.

LS: Oh, in England. I thought you said-

JH: No, I said, he was afraid to face home because he was blinded in the Crimea, was taken prisoner but eventually sent home to England, and was kept there. For nine months he got a pension, and after that, when that ran out he walked the streets, begging, here and there, whatever he got.

LS: Who do you remember singing this song?

JH: My father.

LS: Do a lot of the people sing it?

JH: Oh yeah. It’s a well known song around my area. I’m sure it’s a well-known song all over Ireland, but that’s the first time I heard of it, in my own home. Every man in the village had this particular song, because they thought the world- They were- felt so sorry for Patrick Sheehan first of all because they were evicted out of their home. When it came then to joining the British army, people understood he had to do something to earn his living, so they forgave him… But when a man is dying of hunger he’ll do a lot of things, you know… They was the one crowd that time, anyway, Ireland and England was the same that time, more or less, they had to do what England told them to do. But anyway, I’ll go on with the song. Right?

My name is Patrick Sheehan, my years are thirty-four
Tipperary is my native home, not far from Galtymore
I came of honest parents, but now they’re lying low
It’s many the happy day I spent in the Glen of Aherlow.

My father died – I closed his eyes – outside the cabin door
The landlord and the sheriff was there the day before;
And then my loving brothers, and sisters three also,
Were forced to go with a broken heart from the Glen of Aherlow.

For three long months in search of work I wandered far and near
I went into the poorhouse to see my mother dear
The news I had near broke my heart; but still in all my woe
I blessed the friends who made her grave in the Glen of Aherlow

Bereft of home, of kith and kin, with plenty all around
I starved within my cabin, and slept upon the ground;
But cruel as my lot was, I ne’er did hardship know
Til I joined the English army far away from Aherlow.

‘Rouse up, there,’ said the corporal, ‘you lazy Irish hound!
Why don’t you hear, you sleepy dog, the call to arms round?’
Alas, I had been dreaming of days of long ago;
I awoke before Sebastopol – but not in Aherlow.

I groped to find my musket, how dark I thought the night.
Oh, blessed God, it wasn’t night – it was the broad daylight!
And when I found that I was blind, my tears began to flow
I longed for even a pauper’s grave in the Glen of Aherlow.

A poor neglected mendicant I wander through the streets
My nine months’ pension now being out, I beg from all I meet
Since I joined my country’s tyrant, my face I’ll never show
Among the kind old neighbours in the Glen of Aherlow.

Oh, Blessed Virgin Mary, mine is a mournful tale
A poor blind prisoner here I am in Brixton’s dreary jail!
Struck blind within the trenches, where I’ll never fear the foe
And I’ll never see my friends again in the Glen of Aherlow.
Now Irish youth, dear countrymen, take heed of what I say
If you join the English ranks, you’ll surely to rue the day.
Whenever you are tempted a-soldiering to go
Remember Patrick Sheehan from the Glen of Aherlow.


This song, also known by the name Patrick Sheehan, was published in 1857 by Charles Kickham (1828-1882) specifically in protest at the treatment of Patrick Sheehan, who had been arrested and sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Dublin for begging in Grafton Street. The ballad rapidly became popular throughout the country, and the outcry is thought to have led the government to grant his release and award him a lifelong pension of a shilling per day. Note that, if these details are correct, the wounded soldier did not remain in England, but returned to Ireland – though not, seemingly, to the Glen of Aherlow. Joe tells Lucy that he learned the song from his father.

Joe uses the same air for ‘The Old Oak Tree;’ this is also the air associated with ‘Mná Deasa Bhaile Locha Riach’ (also known as Neilí Bhán) in Irish. He recorded it for Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger in 1963; seeThe Road from Conamara (2000). For further information, see Jim Carroll and Pat MacKenzie, Around the Hills of Clare (CD and booklet, Musical Traditions MTCD331-2, 2004) which includes a performance by Vincie Boyle; also Georges-Denis Zimmerman, Songs of Irish Rebellion (Dublin, 1967).