“The Convict of Clonmel”


A convict, sentenced to be hanged, thinks of his past, playing at hurley and dancing. "No boy of the village Was ever yet milder." Now his horse is loose, his hurley at home, his ball is played with and the girls are dancing. He will be forgotten.


Clonmel is in County Tipperary, Ireland.

Hayes, after saying simply that he does not know the hero of the song, has a long note explaining the popularity of hurling and defending the game from English detractors.

Hayes's note on this is an exact quote from Duffy, who may in turn be quoting Callanan.

Duffy makes Callanan the translator from the Irish. - BS

According to _Granger's Index to Poetry_ (which cites this five times), the poem was not written by Callanan, but rather translated from an (unknown but modern) Irish source; this of course agrees with Duffy.

Hurling was said to be nearly extinct before being revived in 1870. Since it was played in only a few places before that, a good history of the sport might help us make a good guess as to the person referred to here. (Unless of course it's some petty criminal, but it doesn't sound that way.) The leaders of the 1848 rebellion were all spared the gallows, so it must refer to something earlier. Emmet's rebellion, maybe?

There is a certain amount of confusion about this author. Most sources list his name as James Joseph Callanan, but he is also sometimes listed under the name "Jeremiah" (and, yes, it is known that it is the same guy). Most sources agree that he was born in 1795, but his death date seemingly varies; Hoagland and MacDonagh/Robinson give 1829. He wrote some poetry of his own, but is probably best known for his translations from Gaelic. Works of his found in this index include "The Convict of Clonmel," "The Outlaw of Loch Lene," "Sweet Avondu," "The Virgin Mary's Bank," "Gougane Barra," and a translation of "Drimindown." - RBW

Cross references


  • Robert Cinnamond, "The Gaol of Clonmel" (on IRRCinnamond01) (fragment; only the first verse)
  • Liam Clancy, "The Convict of Clonmel" (on IRLClancy01)


  1. ADDITIONAL: Edward Hayes, The Ballads of Ireland (Boston, 1859), Vol I, pp. 342-343, "The Convict of Clonmell"
  2. Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 193-194, "The Convict of Clonmel" (1 text)
  3. Donagh MacDonagh and Lennox Robinson, _The Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1958, 1979), pp. 41-42, "The Convict of Clonmel" (1 text)
  4. Charles Gavan Duffy, editor, The Ballad Poetry of Ireland (1845), pp. 117-118, "TheConvict of Clonmell"
  5. H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 188-189, 496-497, "Convict of Clonmell"
  6. Roud #6993
  7. BI, RcConvCl


Author: English words by J.J. Callanan
Earliest date: 1845 (Duffy)
Found in: Ireland