The Boys of Mullaghbawn

Traditional Ulster ballad


This example of "The Boys of Mullaghbawn" is performed by Len Graham on his album In Full Flight, available from the Chivalry Music store
This example of "The Boys of Mullaghbawn" is performed by Aidan Brennan (vocals and guitar) and Johnny B Connolly (button accordion). Recorded live with permission.

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sheet music (toggle as desired for printing)

Background notes

These two example recordings are slightly different :
Len sings it in a very traditional, unaccompanied style, as learnt in the area of  South Armagh where the songs comes from. Aidan has added a accompaniment and has given the melody a bit of a lift with tempo and ornaments.  He describes his interpretation as positive: that the message of this song is triumphing in adversity rather than just lamenting oppression.

Mullaghbawn is a tiny village in South Armagh with a colorful history much larger than itself. The name is spelled several ways; the Irish spelling is Mullach Ban, but it's also commonly written as Mullaghbawn,  Mullaghban, Mullachbawn and Mullachban. It's pronounced Mulla-bawn with the emphasis either on the first or second syllable, depending on your accent.   South Armagh tourism web site

Notes from Twenty Five Irish Songs (Unfortunately, I only have a photocopy of the song page, not the title page of the book, so the author and publication info is missing -- sorry! -Kate)
  In the eighteenth century, Mullaghbawn was was part of the Forkhill Estate, owned by Richard Jackson who was the local Squire. In an era of absentee landlordism, Jackson lived on his Estate, tilled his land and encouraged his tenants to do the same. In his will he provided for the poorest and oldest of his tenants, and to this day people in the district benefit from his bequests. He died in 1787, and his authority passed over to someone less acceptable to the people of Mullaghbawn.
   Four years after the death of Squire Jackson, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast by Wolfe Tone and "Trouble" broke out in South Armagh. The "heroes" mentioned in the song are popularly believed to have taken part in Wolfe Tone's struggle for the Rights of Man [Rising of 1798]  -- "the greatest happiness of the greatest number in this island". But in an article in Ceol (Vol III, No. 2. April 1968) Thomas Wall suggests that they may have been transported for the attempted abduction of an heiress.

On a Monday morning early
As my wand'ring steps did lead me,
Down by a farmer's station,
Of meadow and green lawn,
I heard great lamentation
That the wee birds they were makin'
Sayin' "We'll have no more engagements
With the boys of Mullaghbawn."

[additional verse from the singing of Len Graham]
I beg your pardon ladies
I ask you this one favor
I hope it is no treason
From you I now must go
I'm condoling late and early
My heart is nie for breaking
All for a noble lady
That lives near Mullaghbawn

Squire Jackson was unequaled
For honour or for reason,
He never turned a traitor
Or betrayed the rights of man,
But now we are endangered
By a vile deceiving stranger
Who has ordered deportation
For the Boys of Mullaghbawn.

As those heroes crossed the ocean
I'm told the ship in motion
Did stand in wild commotion
As if the seas ran dry,
The trout and salmon gaping
As the cuckoo left her station
Sayin', "Farewell to lovely Erin
And the hills of Mullaghbawn.

To end my lamentation
We are all in consternation
For the want of education
I here must end my song;
None cares for recreation
Since without consideration
We are sent for transportation
From the hills of Mullaghbawn.

To end my lamentation
We are all in consternation
None cares for recreation
Until the day do dawn
For without hesitation
We are charged with combination
And sent for transportation
From the hills of Mullaghbawn.

Repeat first verse, but end with: 
Sayin', "Farewell to lovely Erin
And the hills of Mullaghbawn.