“The Croppy Boy (I)”


The singer, a young Irish patriot, is arrested. A girl (his sister?) gives evidence against him, and he is sentenced to die. As he is waiting to be hanged, his father denies him, naming him "The Croppy Boy"


Zimmermann p. 39, fn. 18: "In the 1790's those who admired the Jacobin ideas began to crop their hair short on the back of the head, in what was said to be the new French fashion; in 1798 this was considered as an evidence of 'disaffection'."

Zimmermann 19: "In the American versions, the Croppy Boy is betrayed by his sister Mary [see, for example, broadsides LOCSinging as102550 and LOCSinging as200580 and Creighton-NovaScotia 85], or by some vindictive girl, and is sent to New Guinea [see Creighton-NovaScotia 85]." "New Guinea" is an apparent corruption of "New Geneva": "used as a prison and torture house in 1798 [Zimmermann, p. 165]." Being sent to New Guinea does not save the Croppy Boy from being hanged.

Notes to IRClare01 regarding Zimmermann's explaination of the term "Croppy": poet and playwright Patrick Galvin put forward a number of other, equally convincing explanations, which included the practice of punishing convicted felons by cutting off the tops of their ears, and a form of torture applied to rebels known as 'pitch cap'. He suggested that a true explanation probably lay in a combination of these." [For pitchcapping, see e.g. the notes to "The Union." Slitting the ears is mentioned several times in Irish sources, though I don't recall cutting off the tops of the ears being mentioned much. - RBW]

Laws cites O'Conor as a source. O'Conor p. 11, "The Croppy Boy" is not this ballad.

Zimmermann 19, text B, includes the verse

And as I walked down James Street

A pair of painters I chanc'd to meet

'Twas Jemmy O'Brien and Tom O'Neill

For one guinea they swore my life away."

For more about the informer Jemmy O'Brien see "The Major," "Jemmy O'Brien" and "Jemmy O'Brien's Minuet."

The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:

Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "Croppy Boy" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "1798 the First Year of Liberty," Hummingbird Records HBCD0014 (1998))

Broadside LOCSinging as102550: H. De Marsan dating per _Studying Nineteenth-Century Popular Song_ by Paul Charosh in American Music, Winter 1997, Vol 15.4, Table 1, available at FindArticles site. - BS

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 15(73a), "The Croppy Boy," J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Firth b.25(338), 2806 c.9(9), Harding B 11(1423), Firth b.25(508), Harding B 25(449), 2806 b.10(50), Harding B 11(1486), Firth b.26(45), Harding B 11(4389), Harding B 11(746), 2806 b.10(6), "The Croppy Boy"; Harding B 25(447), "The Cropie Laddie's Complaint," unknown, n.d.
  • LOCSinging, as102550, "The Croppy Boy," H. De Marsan (New York), 1859-1878; also as200580, "Croppy Boy"


  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, "The Croppy Boy" (on IRClancyMakem03)
  • Tom Lenihan, "Croppy Boy" (on IRClare01)
  • Delia Murphy, "The Croppy Boy" (HMV [Eire?] IM-820, n.d.)
  • Brigid Tunney, "Early, Early, All in the Spring" (on IRTunneyFamily01)


  1. Laws J14, "The Croppy Boy"
  2. Belden, pp. 283-284, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  3. Randolph 128, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  4. Dean, pp. 45-46,"The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  5. Creighton-NovaScotia 85, "Song of the Croppy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Creighton-Maritime, p. 163, "Early, Early in the Spring" (1 text, 1 tune)
  7. Sandburg, p. 35, "As I Was Walkin' Down Wexford Street" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  8. Hodgart, p. 203, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  9. PGalvin, pp. 23-24, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. OLochlainn-More 40, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  11. Zimmermann 19, "The Croppy Boy" (7 texts, 2 tunes)
  12. Moylan 95, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Huntington-Whalemen, pp. 188-190, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. Silber-FSWB, p. 318, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  15. DT 397, CROPPIE2* CROPPIE3*
  16. ADDITIONAL: H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 46-47, 511, "The Croppy Boy"
  17. Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), pp. 258-259, "The Croppy Boy" (1 text)
  18. Roud #1030
  19. BI, LJ14


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1798 (Zimmermann)
Keywords: rebellion execution
Found in: US(MW,So) Canada(Mar) Ireland