Glen of Aherlow

The Glen of Aherlow is a traditional Irish song, published for the first time on 7 October 1857 in The Kilkenny Journal. It originated as a ballad, written by the Irish republican Charles Kickham, under the pseudonym Darby Ryan Junior. The ballad was meant as a protest against the treatment of Patrick Sheehan. 

Patrick Sheehan came from The Glen of Aherlow, a quiet country valley in Ireland, south of the heritage town of Tipperary. He joined the English in the Crimean War (1854-1856). After the failed Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 against the English, Ireland regarded the war with a sense of desinterest. Therefor, and due to the Irish feeling against England, joining the English was not appreciated by his own countrymen. Yet it is not shure that he joined the troups voluntarily: at that time, all one had to do, was to take a drink from a sergeant, or the police, or the army. They put a shilling into one of the glasses and the minute you drank from the glass with the shilling, you were enlisted in the army.
It is also a fact that there was no work, there was nothing at that time. So it might be possible that Sheehan joined the army to get himself a living.
Anyhow, Patrick Sheehan fought with the allies (the French, the Ottoman and the British) at the Siege of Sevastopol, which lasted from September 1854 until September 1855, during the Crimean War. He was there when they landed at Eupatoria on September 1854. Everybody was persuaded that they would make a triumphal march to Sevastopol, the capital of Crimea, but the fight for the 56 kilometre (35 miles) traverse took a year of fighting against the Russians. In that fight Sheehan got blinded and he returned back home, but he stayed in Dublin, as he dare not face the people he knew, the people from The Glen of Aherlow.
For nine months Sheehan got a pension from the British, but the moment that finished, he no longer had an income. So he wandered the streets, begging for food and whatever he could get. For this begging Sheehan got arrested and he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Dublin.

As the
 ballad "Glen of Aherlow", telling Sheehan's story was published, it quickly became popular throughout Ireland, as the people did understand he had to do something in order to earn his living. Due to the publicity arising from this case, the English government granted his release and they awarded him with a lifelong pension of one shilling a day. 

Click the link to hear Glen of Aherlow on accordeon
The song has some minor variants in spelling of names and places, depending on where it was sung, but this is one version of the lyrics:

My name is Patrick Sheehan, and my years are thirty-four;
Tipperary is my native place, not far from Galtymore;
I came of honest parents, but now they're lying low;
Though' many's the pleasant days we spent in the Glen of Aherlow.

My father died; I closed his eyes, outside the cabin door;
For the landlord and the sheriff too, were there the day before,
And then my lovin' mother, and my sisters three, also,
Were forced to go with broken hearts, from the Glen of Aherlow

For three long months, in search of work, I wandered far and near;
I then went to the poorhouse to see my mother dear;
The news I heard near broke my heart, but still in all my woe,
I blessed the friends who made their graves in the Glen of Aherlow.

Bereft of home and kith and kin, with plenty all around,
I starved within my cabin, and slept upon the ground;
But cruel as my lot was, I never did hardship know,
Till I joined the English army, far away from Aherlow.

Rouse up there," cried the corporal, "Ya lazy Irish hound!
Why don't you hear the bugle, its call to arms to sound?"
I found I had been dreaming of the days long, long ago,
And I woke upon Sebastopol, and not in Aherlow

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

A poor neglected mendicant, I wander Dublin's streets
My nine months' pension it being out, I beg from all I meet;
As I joined my country's tyrants, my face I can never show,
Amongst my dear old neighbors in the Glen of Aherlow.

So Irish youths, dear countrymen, take heed in what I say;
For if you join the English ranks, you'll surely rue the day
And whenever you're tempted, a-soldiering to go.

Remember poor blind Sheehan from the Glen of Aherlow

Back to previous page