“The Wearing of the Green (I)”


The singer tells of the dreadful fate of Ireland, the "most distressful country," where "they are hanging men and women for the wearing of the green." The singer bids defiance, and notes that the grass on the martyrs' graves grows green.


Probably originally associated with the 1798 rebellion, although topical versions have emerged on occasion in Irish history. An 1802 printing of "The Green Upon My Cape" is clearly related but not really the same song.

The "Napper Tandy" of some versions is an Irish patriot, James Napper Tandy (c. 1737-1803), one of the few Dublin members of the United Irishmen to escape capture. Tandy is one of those irritatingly complex figures so common in Irish history (as well as a patriot, he has been called a drunk, and after campaigning for reforms in 1784, he fled to the United States in 1793, then to France in 1797, which is how he ended up involved with the whole invasion fiasco).

Tandy apparently wasn't easy to get along with; he and Wolfe Tone had major disagreements while in France, which doubtless hurt their chances to accomplish anything. Still, he eventually managed to convince the French to give him a single ship, the _Anacreon_, and a force of about 275 soldiers; he was given arms and ammunition for many more -- he had, after all, declared that, if the French would just take him to Ireland, his presence would cause 30,000 men to rally to him.

On September 16, 1798, he landed with a company of Frenchmen in Donegal. He apparently expected to coordinate with General Humbert, but that invasion had ended a week earlier (see "The Men of the West"), and the expected rising in Mayo had fizzled.

Upon confirming the news, Tandy got drunk with some local friends in Rutland, and was carried back to the _Anacreon_ unconcious. The ship went home, and the last French invasion of Ireland was over.

Tandy was arrested (one might well say "hijacked") in neutral Hamburg late in 1798, sentenced to death, but turned over to France in 1802, where he died soon after.

A final French expedition, with Wolfe Tone aboard, was also a failure, never even making it to shore; see the notes on "The Shan Van Vogt."

The charge that the English were "hanging men and women for the wearing of the green" is the sort of half-truth that often is heard during wars. Wearing green was not a crime and wouldn't result in execution by itself -- but green was a recognized revolutionary token; wearing it would certainly get the government's attention. Which could lead to trouble.

And, of course, ordinary soldiers, especially militia, were likely to be that much harder on possible enemies. It seems likely enough that a few people died for wearing green -- but not due to official policy. And anyone who wore green in those times was definitely asking for trouble. - RBW

The note to the Bodleian broadside cited is "Sung by T.H. Glenny, at Niblo's Theatre in the Great Sensation Play of 'Arrah-na-Pogue'"

Dion Boucicault (1820-1890) was an Irish playwright. He wrote and acted in the 1865 hit Arrah-na-Pogue. "This, and his admirable creation of Con in his play The Shaugraun (first produced at Drury Lane in 1875), won him the reputation of being the best stage Irishman of his time". Source: "Dion Boucicalt" quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition Volume IV on the Theatre History site.

Sparling: [The Wearing of the Green (I)] "was a hash-up by Boucicault of an old variant [Zimmermann 21B], using most of the old words ... [in which] the land of refuge it is written from is France, and not America."

Zimmermann: "Boucicault is said to have written this version at the suggestion of his mother, who remembered some lines of the older version. (Townshend Walsh _The Career of Dion Boucicault_, p. 144)"

Hoagland: Boucicault's main change was to add a verse about the possibility of emigration to "a country that lies beyond the sea, Where rich and poor stand equal in the light of freedom's day."

There are other songs with the same title, including O'Conor p. 40 ("Farewell, for I must leave thee, my own, my native shore...") and O'Conor p. 130 by H.G. Curran ("One blessing on my native isle! One curse upon her foes..."). [The latter being indexed as "The Wearing of the Green (II)." - RBW]

The "old variant" includes specifically anti-Union sentiment dropped by Boucicault: "I care not for the Thistle [Scotland], and I care not for the Rose [England]."

Moylan 33 is the Zimmermann 21B "old variant"; Moylan 35 is Boucicault's "hash-up."

More from Moylan about Napper Tandy: "Napper Tandy was the secretary of the first Dublin Society of United Irishmen. He made his way to Hamburg after the failure of the rising but was arrested there at the instigation of the British representative, Imprisoned for two years, he was released in 1801 on condition that he left Ireland. He went into exile in France where he died, at Bordeaux, in 1803."

Broadside LOCSinging as114610: "The following is the celebrated song which created such intense excitement throughout Great Britain, and for the incorporation of which in his piece, Mr. Bourcicault' play of 'Arrah na Pogue,' had to be withdrawn."

Tunney-StoneFiddle fragment has the singer start with the Napper Tandy/hanging men and women verse, followed by

So shoulder high your hurleys boys and grasp your rifles tight

The mangy bulldog let him bark; he's got no teeth to bite

When English law can paint the moon and put the Hun to flight

Then we'll shed our rebel coats and put the hurleys out of sight

"'I learned that verse in America', he told me." - BS

Which sounds very much as if it comes from the First World War period, probably before the Easter Rebellion. - RBW

Broadside Harding B 18(476): 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

Same tune

  • The Rising of the Moon (File: PGa035)
  • Benny Havens (File: R232)
  • The Drought (File: MCB158)
  • Magilligan (File: HHH052a)
  • A Knot of Blue and Gray (File: RcAKOBAG)
  • John McBride's Brigade (File: Zimm092)
  • The Man Behind (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 86)
  • Nearly Sae Will We Yet (per broadside Bodleian 2806 c.15(254))

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 18(476), "The Wearing of the Green" ("O Paddy dear, and did you hear the news that's going round?"), H. De Marsan (New York), 1864-1878; also 2806 c.16(209), 2806 b.10(215), 2806 c.15(254), "Wearing of the Green" ("O Kitty dear ...")
  • LOCSinging, as115040, "The Wearing of the Green" ("Oh, Paddy dear, then did you hear"), unknown, 19C; also as114610, "The Wearing of the Green"


  • John McCormack, "Wearin' o' the "Green" (HMV [UK] DA-322, n.d.)
  • J. W. Myers, "Wearing of the Green" (Columbia 194, 1901) (Victor 4274, 1905)


  1. O'Conor, p. 69, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text)
  2. PGalvin, pp. 84-85, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text)
  3. Zimmermann 21B, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Moylan 33, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text, 1 tune); 35, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Tunney-StoneFiddle, p. 17, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 fragment)
  6. Dean, pp. 97-98, "Wearing of the Green" (1 text)
  7. Silber-FSWB, p. 323, "Wearing Of The Green" (1 text)
  8. Fuld-WFM, pp. 628-630, "The Wearin' o' the Green"
  10. ADDITIONAL: Charles Sullivan, ed., Ireland in Poetry, p. 111, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text)
  11. Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 300-301, "The Wearin' of the Green" (1 text plus a portion of the Boucicault version)
  12. H. Halliday Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (London, 1888), pp. 515-516, "The Wearing of the Green"
  13. ADDITIONAL: Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), pp. 257-258, "The Wearing of the Green" (1 text)
  14. Roud #3278
  15. BI, PGa084


Author: some versions by Dion Boucicault (per O'Conor)
Earliest date: c.1800 (Zimmermann but see the notes re: Zimmermann and Sparling to accomodate the Boucicault claim); 1865 (copyrights)
Found in: Ireland US(MW)