“James Magee (McKee)”


The singer, sentenced to New South Wales, gives his name as James Magee. An orphan brought up by his grandmother, his aunt brings charges against him to gain his inheritance. He laments for his wife and children, and curses the aunt


[The] Morton-Ulster text makes this a religious conflict. The aunt "married an Orangeman"; the last verse is

Once I had a well furnished house no room could it afford,

To enter in an Orangeman, when he'd be on record,

But if a Ribbonman would call that way, well treated he would be,

Ah but now there does not dwell a man where dwelt young James Magee.

Morton-Ulster: "No doubt, especially since the famine, land and the possession of it has been to the Irish what cocaine must be to the drug-addict. The more he got the more he wanted. No doubt avarice got the better of many and they used the politico-religious situation for their own gain."

Zimmermann p. 19: "In some parts of Ulster, Protestant and Catholic tenants were mingled and contended for the land; the peasantry was thus divided into two camps, each having its oath-bound association. This led to a sort of religious war. At the end of the eighteenth century the Catholic "Defenders" were opposed to the Protestant "Peep o'Day Boys" or "Orangemen." The "Defenders" were succeeded by the "Ribbonmen," (song [Zimmermann] 39). - BS

Sean O'Boyle lists this as the same tune as "Henry Joy (McCracken)." The two are indeed nearly identical in meter, but I would not call them the same, though they are close. - RBW


  1. SHenry H136, p. 125, "James Magee" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Morton-Ulster 40, "James Magee" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Morton-Maguire 51, pp. 146-147,175, "James Magee" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #2492
  5. BI, HHH136


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1926 (Sam Henry collection)
Found in: Ireland