Highland Paddy

Sean McCarthy (1923 - 1990)  c. 1950


This example of "Highland Paddy" is performed by 3 Pints Gone on their album One More Round, available from the Chivalry Music store
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

Background notes

Sean McCarthy, born in Listowel, Co Kerry, was a prolific songwriter, singer and colorful character who for his many years hosted programs on RTE Radio 1.  His more well-known songs include Shanagolden, Red Haired Mary, Highland Paddy, Murphy's Volunteers, Step it out Mary, Mountain Tae (The Hills of Connemara) and In Shame Love, In Shame. He also wrote several volumes of poetry.  The Sean McCarthy Weekend festival, held at the beginning of August in Linuge, Co. Kerry celebrates his life and songs and includes concert, ceili and ballad competition.  www.finugeweekend.com

During the 1798 Rebellion, emigrant Irishmen returning from Scotland to fight  for Ireland were nicknamed 'Highland Paddy'.

In the songbook titled: The Road to Song: Sean McCarthy, His Songs, Their Music and Story, (pub Clo Duanaire, Cork Ireland, 1983) Sean wrote the following notes:

The hotel was rundown, seedy looking, and badly in need of a lick of paint. It catered mostly for transient labourers looking for work, dodging work or just plain shy of work. The beds were relics of the old English era of the spike and the workhouse, sagging, misshapen and sorely in need of airing. It was the hardest winter that England could remember.  The ground was iron hard, and all construction work was at a standstill. As the Cockney pub owner who employed me to sing songs six nights a week said: "Sorry mate, if the bleeding Paddy's can't work, they have no money; no money, they can't drink; no drink, they can't listen to your bleeding rebel songs, so mate I have to let you go."

The hotel library was a small dusty little closet of a room, with a few tattered magazines, and a mound of dog eared copies of Readers Digest. It was in one of those dirty fly specked books that I came across a writer named Ernest Deeling. Deeling's story was headed "Captain Brady and his Highland Paddy's. I read it carefully, lying on my cold rickety bed, and I promised myself, when times got better, I would journey to Kilkenny, and find some man or woman in a quiet pub, a man or woman who liked to relate stories of the long ago.

Times did get better, Jack Frost released his iron grip on the English landscape. McAlpine's men, and Murphy's men went back to their English dig. The Cockney pub owner took me back. We raised the rafters nightly with our rebel songs. I found my quiet pub a year later in Kilkenny town. I also found a grey haired, hard drinking historian named Daniel Keegan.

Between songs, fishing lies, political arguments, and spouts of poetry, Dan told me the story. I put the story into a song. The Wolfe Tones put it on record, that led to other recordings. A few years ago, at Listowel writers week, I met a tall Scandinavian lady in Mary Bs Hotel, I was singing a piece called Cloheen for my own one, she likes the words of that particular song.

When I finished my stave, the Scandinavian lady came with a request to our table. She had heard she said an Irish tourist sing a song called "Heeland Patty" in a pub in Sweden. Did I know it? I said I did. I sang it for her. Come to think of it now, she never offered to buy me a drink.

One evening fair as the sun was shining,
To Kilkenny I did ride,
I did meet with Captain Brady - 
a tall commander by his side.

Then you are welcome Highland Paddy,
By my side you'll surely stand, hear the people shout for freedom,
we'll rise in the morning with the Fenian band,
Rise in the morning with the Fenian band.

In the mornin' we rose early
Just before the break of dawn blackbirds singing in the bushes
Greetings to a smiling morn.
Gather round me men of Ireland
Gather Fenians gather round
Hand to hand with sword and musket
Spill the blood upon this holy ground.

There's a glen beside the river
Just outside Kilkenny Town
There we met this noble captin
Men lay dead upon the ground.


There's a grave beside the river
A mile outside Kilkenny Town
There we laid our noble captain
Birds were silent when this Fenian died
All my life I will remember
I'll remember night and day
That once I rode into Kilkenny
And I heard this noble captain say.