Brennan on the Moor

TITLE: Brennan on the Moor
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: outlaw, rambling, execution
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: before 1862 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(3014))
HISTORICAL REFERENCES: 1804 – Hanging of William Brennan, a highwayman who worked in County Cork

From the silent Irish film, Brennan of the Moor
From the silent Irish film, Brennan of the Moor

“…Willie Brennan was an Irish Robin Hood/Rob Roy figure in the late 1700s.  He was a Waterford man, but carried out most of his exploits in either the Kilworth Mountains, Cork or in Co. Tipperary.  He was betrayed by a comrade for the price on his head.  Willie was executed in Clonmel Gaol and buried in Kilcrumper between Kilworth and Fermoy.  His grave was not marked…”  It is believed that he was hanged in 1804. (According to the scotsindependent.org) 

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • Bold Brennan on the Moor
  • Brannen on the Moor
  • Brennan’s on the Moor

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Brennan On The Moor

‘Tis of a brave young highwayman, this story I will tell.
His name was Willie Brennan and in Ireland he did dwell.
It was on the Kilwood Mountain he commenced his wild career.
And many a wealthy nobleman before him shook with fear.

Oh it’s Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

A brace of loaded pistols, he carried night and day.
He never robb’d a poor man upon the King’s highway.
But what he’s taken from the rich, like Turpin and Black Bess,
He always did divide it with the widow in distress.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

One night, he robbed a packman, his name was Pedlar Bawn.
They travelled on together, ’til day began to dawn.
The pedlar, seeing his money gone, likewise his watch and chain,
He at once encountered Brennan and robbed him back again.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

When Brennan saw the pedlar was as good a man as he,
He took him on the highway, his companion for to be.
The pedlar threw away his pack without any more delay,
And proved a faithful comrade until his dying day.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

One day upon the highway, as young Willie, he went down,
He met the mayor of Cashiell a mile outside of town.
The mayor he knew his features and he said, “Young man,” said he,
“Your name is Willie Brennan & you must come along with me.”

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

Now, Brennan’s wife had gone to town, provisions for to buy.
And when she saw her Willie, she commenced to weep and cry;
He said, “Hand to me that tenpence,” and as soon as Willie spoke,
She handed him a blunderbuss from underneath her cloak.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

Now, with this loaded blunderbuss – the truth I will unfold –
He made the mayor tremble and he robbed him of his gold.
One hundred pounds was offered for his apprehension there.
So, he, with horse and saddle to the mountains did repair.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

Now, Brennan being an outlaw upon the mountains high.
With cavalry and infantry to take him they did try.
He laughed at them with scorn until at last ’twas said
By a false-hearted young woman he was cruelly betrayed.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

In the County of Tipperary, in a place they call Clonmore,
Willie Brennan and his comrade that day did suffer sore.
He lay among the fern which was thick upon the field,
And nine wounds he had received before that they did yield.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

Then Brennan and his companion knowing they were betrayed,
He with the mounted cavalry a noble battle made.
He lost his foremost finger, which was shot off by a ball;
So, Brennan and his comrades they were taken after all.

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

So, they were taken prisoners, in irons they were bound
And conveyed to Clonmel jail, strong walls did them surround.
They were tried and found guilty, the judge made this reply.
“For robbing on the King’s Highway you are both condemned to die.”

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

“Farewell unto my wife, and to my children three,
Likewise my poor father, he may shed tears for me.
And to my loving mother, who tore her gray locks and cried,
Saying ‘I wish, Willie Brennan, in your cradle you had died’.”

Brennan on the moor, Brennan on the moor.
Bold, brave undaunted was young Brennan on the moor.

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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