“The Irish Patriot”


"On Africa's burning shore" an old Irishman says an English lord killed his wife and baby because he would not join the rebels. In the army in Africa, he kills the lord and hides. The singer takes the old man home; he is buried near his wife and baby


The singer considers the old man "a true [Irish] patriot" although his crime was killing an English lord who wanted him to "join the rebel horde." I suspect that a broadside source for this ballad might have a different story.

Ives-NewBrunswick begins "As I strayed below those lofty paths on India's burning shore, A-listening to a tiger's howl or a savage lion's roar." India, rather than Africa [see Dibblee/Dibblee], is the place to find tigers. On the other hand, even Ives-NewBrunswick has the action taking place in Africa: "And to fulfill the oath I took I revenged on him to be, I sailed in that same ship with him to the coast of Cape Colony. When I arrived at Capetown, I was chosen for to be Lieutenant in the army, his lone bodyguard to be." Ives-NewBrunswick makes more sense with the problem coming up when "that cruel rebellion came and we were forced to go To fight for home and liberty with a [hated Saxon foe]." However, the []-bracketed words were inserted by Ives.

Ives says that this song "doesn't show up much (only twice, in fact) in published collections, [but] is very much a part of the old lumbercamp tradition." Ives's two other sources are Edward D Ives, _Folksongs from Maine_, 1965, 18, "The Irish Patriot" (collected 1962) and Horace P Beck, _The Folklore of Maine_, 1957, pp 93-95. Ives notes "that the song seems to have been reasonably popular in the lumbercamps" (p. 81). [Ives apparently did not know] Dibblee/Dibblee.

Re "tigers" in Africa: From Captain James Riley, _Sufferings in Africa_, 2000 edition of book published in 1817, an account of the ordeal of Riley and his crew in North Africa in 1815: "... near watering places: some tigers also now and then made their appearance. Such is the great western desart, or Zahahrah...." p. 298. Is Captain Riley referring to leopards or other desert cats? Is "tiger" a generic term for "dangerous cat"? If so, how common was that usage? - BS

"Tiger" did indeed originally mean, broadly speaking, any big feline that isn't a lion. The word originated in Greek ("tigris,"), and seems to have come into use only around the time of Alexander (e.g. Aristotle uses it); it is possible that the first actual tiger to be seen in Europe was sent by Alexander's successors. This word then passed through Latin to Old French to English. There was apparently a time when leopards were thought to be hybrids of lions and something else, so "tiger" was the word for a non-lion bred in captivity. It does seem as if its use in this song is anachronistic. On the other hand, lions and tigers can interbreed (to produce ligers and tigrons).... - RBW


  1. Dibblee/Dibblee, pp. 90-91, "The Irish Emigrant" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 142-144, "The Irish Patriot" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #12486
  4. BI, Dib090


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1957 (Beck)
Found in: Canada(Mar)