“Brian O'Lynn (Tom Boleyn)”


Vignettes about Brian/Tom. Each describes a situation he finds himself in and ends with his comment, e.g., "Tom Bolyn found a hollow tree / And very contented seemed to be / The wind did blow and the rain beat in / 'Better than no house,' said Tom Bolyn."


Sam Henry claims that Bryan O'Lynn (fl. 1770-1793) was an "apprizer" and grand juror in Cashel during the years specified. - RBW

Randolph-Legman offers good notes on sources to this ballad. - EC

A variant of the melody to this song is a popular fiddle tune in Ireland.

I'm wary of the "Complaynt of Scotland" (1549) citation until I see it. The title given, "Thom of Lyn," and the title "Ballet of Thomalyn," licensed 1558, are both perilously close to "Tam Lin," which is not only the name of a ballad (Child 39) but also a fiddle tune. And in our indexing of "Tam Lin", we note a reference from 1549 -- is that "Complaynt of Scotland"? The plot's getting thicker, says Brian O'Lynn. - PJS

Indeed, Dixon (notes to "Tam a Line," his version of "Tam Lin") cites the references from the _Complaynt of Scotland_; they are to the dance "thom of lyn" and the "tayl of the yong tamlene."

This obviously sounds more like "Tam Lin," but the tunes I've heard for "Tam Lin" are not very danceable. (Bronson's #1, from Ireland, might work as a dance tune, but it is nothing like any of the others.) "Brian O'Lynn" seems much more suitable for dancing.

To make the confusion worse, there are versions of this song beginning "Tom o' the Linn was a Scotsman born."

Plus there is the report that Charles Dibdin wrote a piece, "[Poor] Tom Bowling." Could this have given rise to the "Tom Boleyn" version? - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 25(307), "Bryan O'Lynn," Stephenson (Gateshead), 1821-1850; also 2806 b.11(217), Harding B 15(36a), Harding B 11(480), Firth c.26(41), Firth c.20(135), 2806 b.11(106), Harding B 26(80), "Bryan O'Lynn"; Harding B 11(445), "Brian O'Lynn"


  • Thomas Moran, "Brian-O-Linn" (on FSB10)
  • Tony Wales, "Bryan O'Lynn" (on TWales1)


  1. Randolph 471, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph-Legman I, pp. 155-157, "Brian O'Lynn" (2 fragmentary bawdy texts, 2 tunes)
  3. Belden, pp. 501-502, "Tom Bo-lin" (1 text)
  4. Flanders/Brown, pp. 178-179, "Old Tombolin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. SharpAp 151, "Tom Bolynn" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  6. Kennedy 290, "Brian-O-Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. SHenry H480a+b, pp. 52-53, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  8. OLochlainn 15, "Brian O Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Hodgart, p. 199, "Brian O Linn" (1 text)
  10. BrownII 189, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
  11. Leach-Labrador 109, "Brian O'Linn" (1 text, 1 tune)
  12. O'Conor, p. 64, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
  13. Opie-Oxford2 513, "Tommy o'Lin, and his wife, and wife's mother" (5 texts)
  14. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose, p. 149, note 34, "(Tommy O'Lin, and his wife, and his wife's mother)"; compare #228, p. 150, ("The two grey kits") (this mentions Tom Boleyn, and is the right form, but doesn't feel like it originated with the piece somehow)
  15. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 174, "(Tam o the linn came up to the gate)" (1 text)
  16. Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 35, "O'Brien O'Lin" (1 text)
  17. DSB2, p. 27, "Bryan O'Lynn" (1 text)
  19. ADDITIONAL: Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 252-254, "Brian O'Linn" (1 text)
  20. Roud #294
  21. BI, R471


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1849 (Halliwell, citing a book printed c. 1560; reputedly mentioned in The Complaynt of Scotland, 1548); Jonathan Lighter notes a mention of a bawdy song called Brian O'Lynn in Hugh Henry Brackenridge's 1793 _Modern Chivalry_, volume III, p. 214
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