A young man is to be hanged. His family and a clergyman contrive a few minutes delay by each asking for a last word. Just before the boy is to be hanged, his true love arrives with a royal pardon and he is saved


Kennedy, following Barry, speculates that this was based on an incident during the 1798 Irish rebellion. The only real supporting evidence is a reference to King George (which, for all it directly proves, could date it to the 1916 rebellion; in any case, Britain had a King named George every year from 1714 to 1839), and in any case the reference to King George in not found in many versions, where it is the Queen who offers the pardon.

Barry et all state unequivocally that the song is Irish. This is likely enough, but there are only a handful of Irish collections (Sam Henry's, and Sarah Makem sang it); the rest are all North American. It's just possible that the song originated in North America and crossed back.

All agree that this was inspired by "The Maid Freed from the Gallows," but the form clearly makes it a separate ballad.

Peter Kennedy lists the Sam Henry version of this piece as from 1924, but it was not published until 1937. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Laws L11, "Gallows"
  2. Bronson 95, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (68 versions, but the last four, given in an appendix, are this song)
  3. BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 389-393, 483, "The Gallows Tree" (2 texts plus a fragment, 2 tunes); p. 483 (1 tune) {Bronson's #67, #68; the tune in the addenda is Bronson's #66}
  4. Flanders-Ancient3, pp. 15-41, "The Maid Freed from the Gallows" (8 texts plus a fragment, 8 tunes, but of the texts, only "A," "B1," and "B2" are 'The Maid Freed" [Child 95]; the remaining six are "Gallows") {G=Bronson's #65}
  5. Kennedy 316, "Derry Gaol" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. SHenry H705, p. 132, "The Dreary Gallows" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  7. Creighton/Senior, pp. 109-112, "Gallows" (3 texts plus 1 fragment, 1 tune)
  8. Leach-Labrador 27, "Sweet Ann O'Neill" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. DT 571, HANGMAN4
  10. Roud #896
  11. BI, LL11


Alternate titles: “Streets of Derry”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1929 (Barry, Ecksotm, Smyth)
Keywords: execution reprieve
Found in: US(NE) Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland