“Carey's Disguise”


Carey's friends advise him that the best disguise would be to "dress as a lady and pass as Miss Grady." His wife shaves his every hair and glues on a wig. He dons a "chimese," etc. His wife wears his suit and moustache and smokes "a mild Havannah"


The description follows broadside Bodleian Harding B 26(89).

Speculation only: This may be a sarcastic reference to James Carey's "disguise" trying to escape into exile. If so, this is another reference to the Phoenix Park murders of May 1882 and the subsequent arrest, trial and executions in 1883. Carey was the Crown's key witness/informer and was assassinated by Patrick O'Donnell in July 1883 on board the "Melrose Castle." (There is more information, and references to other ballads on the subject, at "The Murder of the Double-Dyed Informer James Carey.") [Also, for the full list, "The Phoenix Park Tragedy" - RBW.]

"The Assassination of Carey", _The Times_, Aug 2, 1883, p. 7, Issue 30888 column E, Copyright 1883, _The Times_, Article CS118408450, Copyright 2002 The Gale Group: the article mentions Carey's disguise before the "Melrose Castle' assassination but does not explain the nature of the disguise. On the Melrose Castle Carey boarded as J Power with 2 of his children, and his wife boarded as Mrs Power with 5 children.

Tom Corfe, _The Phoenix Park Murders_ (London, 1968) says that Carey simply shaved off his beard as a "disguise" but that he spoke so freely that he was identified out of his own mouth by O'Donnell, who just happened to be on board (p. 258). There is no mention of a disguise for his wife and children, beyond the assumption of aliases. - BS

Cross references

  • cf. "The Phoenix Park Tragedy" (possible subject: the Phoenix Park murders) and references there


  • Bodleian, Harding B 26(89), "A new song on Carey's disguise" ("Before he could go from his head to his toe"), unknown, no date


Author: unknown