“The Kerry Recruit”


A Kerry lad enlists in the army and is introduced to the wonders of coats, guns, and horses. In some accounts he spends a quiet term in the service; in others, he loses a leg in the Crimea and returns home to live off his pension


The fullest version of this song I have seen includes explicit references to several events in the Crimean War:

"Balaclave" - The city of Balaclava, which gave its name to the battle of October 25, 1854

Alma - The river by which the British and French landed, and where the first battle of the Allied war with the Russians was fought on September 20, 1854

"Innerman" = Inkerman, a town on the Chernaya River which gave its name to the final field battle of the war (November 5, 1854)

Redan - One of the major defensive works around Sevastopol, assaulted by the British on June 18, 1855. The British suffered 25% casualties in the attack, and their French allies to the north did no better. From that time onward, the Allies settled down to besiege Sevastopol rather than trying to take it by storm. - RBW

O'Conor's version refers to "Vinegar Hill" (Irish convicts break out of Castle Hill Barracks in New South Wales, trying to reach Sydney harbor to seize ships and escape to Ireland, March 5, 1804. Source: Holyrood NSW site re 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Vinegar Hill) and "Ballinamuck" (Humbert with the French and Irish are defeated on September 8, 1798. Source: Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area site re The Battle of Ballinamuck). So, Kerry Recruit, whose "father and mother were two Kerry men," has been fighting the Irish around the world. "Now war is all over and peace is come in, I'm paid all my wages, and God save the King! I'm nine years in glory, and glad it's not ten, And now I'm back diggin' praties agin."

Of the Bodleian broadsides the "Paddy's Rambles" versions are pre-Crimean war and are in line with O'Conor; the "Kerry's Recruit" versions refer to the Crimean War.

For a study of the history of this and related songs see Roly Brown, _Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade No. 5: The Kerry Recruit_, 2003 at the Musical Traditions site among the articles. - BS

Historical references

  • 1853-1856 - Crimean War (Britain and France actively at war with Russia 1854-1855)

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 25(1454), "Paddy's Ramble" ("About nine years ago, I was digging of land"), J. Kendrew (York), 1803-1848; also Harding B 25(1456), Harding B 28(218), "Paddy's Ramble"; Harding B 19(83), 2806 b.9(240), Firth c.14(115), "The Kerry Recruit"


  1. Laws J8, "The True Paddy's Song (The Kerry Recruit)"
  2. FSCatskills 11, "[The Kerry Recruit]" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Randolph 477, "'Twas Nine Years Ago" (1 text, rather eroded with time -- e.g. the soldier runs without losing a leg)
  4. Fowke/MacMillan 73, "Nine Years a Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Creighton-Maritime, p. 162, "Pat and the War"; p. 163, "Paddy Enlisted" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  6. O'Conor, pp. 95-96, "The Kerry Recruit" (1 text)
  7. OLochlainn 1, "The Kerry Recruit" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Munnelly/Deasy-Lenihan 42, "The Kerry Recruit" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Silber-FSWB, p. 274, "The Kerry Recruit" (1 text)
  10. DT 393, KERRYRCT
  11. Roud #520
  12. BI, LJ08


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1849 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 25(1454))
Keywords: war soldier humorous
Found in: US(Ap,MA,MW) Canada(Mar,Ont) Ireland