O'Hanlon Folklore

Hanlon Folklore

O'Hanlons and Hanlons appear in Irish folklore, e.g. songs, as well as more international sayings. The majority of the songs relate to Redmond O'Hanlon, a famous seventeenth century rapparee (outlaw); see the Hanlon History page for more details about him.

I was in some doubt as to whether to include two rebel songs which refer to Leo O'Hanlon, an IRA volunteer who died in 1973. In the end, I believe this website is no place for politics. It is dedicated to the history and genealogy of ALL descendants of the Ua'h-Anluain sept, so it would be wrong to start censoring parts of it. The inclusion of the songs below is NOT a political comment.



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O'Hanlon boar facing right Hanlon Songs O'Hanlon boar facing left

  • Song: Ballad of Douglas Bridge
    (by Francis Carlin, 1881-1945)
    from Padraic Colum's (1881-1972)
    Anthology of Irish Verse, 1922.

    On Douglas Bridge I met a man
    Who lived adjacent to Strabane,
    Before the English hung him high
    For riding with O’Hanlon.

    The eyes of him were just as fresh
    As when they burned within the flesh;
    And his boot-legs were wide apart
    From riding with O’Hanlon.

    God save you, Sir, I said with fear,
    You seem to be a stranger here.
    Not I, said he, nor any man
    Who rides with Count O’Hanlon.

    I know each glen from North Tyrone
    To Monaghan, and I’ve been known
    By every clan and parish, since
    I rode with Count O’Hanlon.

    Before that time, said he to me,
    My fathers owned the land you see;
    But they are now among the moors
    A-riding with O’Hanlon.

    Before that time, said he with pride,
    My fathers rode where now they ride
    As Rapparees, before the time
    Of trouble and O’Hanlon.

    Good night to you, and God be with
    The tellers of the tale and myth,
    For they are of the spirit-stuff
    That rides with Count O’Hanlon.

    Good night to you, said I, and God
    Be with the chargers, fairy-shod,
    That bear the Ulster heroes forth
    To ride with Count O’Hanlon.

    On Douglas Bridge we parted, but
    The Gap o’ Dreams is never shut,
    To one whose saddled soul to-night
    Rides out with Count O’Hanlon.

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  • Song: Redmond O'Hanlon
    (by P. J. McCall, 1861-1919)

    A shepherd that lives on Slieve Gullion
    Came down to the County Tyrone,
    And told us how Redmond O'Hanlon
    Won't let the rich Saxons alone!
    He rides over moorland and mountain,
    By night, till a stranger is found,
    Saying, 'Take your own choice for a lodging:
    Right over or under the ground!'

    If you whistle out 'Whoo!' like a native
    He leaves you the way to go clear;
    If you squeeze out a 'Hew!' like a Scotsman,
    You'll pay him a guinea a year.
    But if you cry 'Haw!' like a Saxon,
    Och, then, 'tis your life or your gold!
    By stages Count Redmond O'Hanlon
    Gets back what they plundered of old!

    Old Coote of Cootehill is heartbroken;
    And Johnston beyond in the Fews
    Has wasted eight barrels of powder
    Upon him, but all to no use!
    Although there's four hundred pounds sterling
    If Redmond you'd put out of sight;
    Mind, if the heart's dark in your body,
    'Tis Redmond will let in the light.

    The great Duke of Ormond is frantic -
    His soldiers get up with the lark
    To catch this bold Redmond by daylight;
    But Redmond caught them in the dark.
    Says he, when he stripped them and bound them.
    Take back my best thanks to his Grace
    For all the fine pistols and powder
    He sent to this desolate place!'

    Then, here's to you, Redmond O'Hanlon!
    Long may your Excellency reign
    High ranger of woods and of rivers,
    Surveyor of mountain and plain!
    Examiner-in-Chief of all traitors!
    Protector of all that are true.
    Henceforward, King Charlie of England
    May take what he gets, after you.

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  • Song: Redmond O'Hanlon
    (by Tommy Makem)

    There was a man lived in the north, a hero brave and bold
    Who robbed the wealthy landlords of their silver and their gold
    He gave the money to the poor, to pay their rent and fee
    For Count Redmond O'Hanlon was a gallant rapparee

    Then hurrah for Count O'Hanlon
    Redmond O'Hanlon
    Hurrah for Count O'Hanlon
    The gallant rapparee

    He had a noble big, black horse that was his joy and pride
    A brace of loaded pistols, he carried by his side
    He roamed the hills and valleys with a spirit wild and free
    Count Redmond O'Hanlon, the gallant rapparee


    'Twas high upon Slieve Gullion that he used to ply his trade
    And Squire Johnson from the fews, this handsome offer made
    He said "I'll give four hundred pounds to hang him from a tree"
    But, not a man in all the land would sell the rapparee


    They sent the soldiers after him to try and bring him back
    O'Hanlon only laughed at them upon the mountain track
    And while the soldiers slept that night among the mountain gorse
    He stole their guns and rode away upon his noble horse


    'Twas back in 1681 that Count O'Hanlon died
    And still along Slieve Gullion's slopes, they speak of him with pride
    And anyone will tell you from Rathfriland to Forkhill
    That in the silence of the night, you'll hear him riding still


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  • Song: The Patriot Game
    (by Dominic Behan, 1929-1989)

    Come all ye young rebels, and list while I sing
    For the love of one's country is a terrible thing
    It banishes fear with the speed of a flame
    And it makes us all part of the patriot game

    My name is O'Hanlon, and I've just turned sixteen
    My home is in Monaghan, and where I was weaned
    I learned all my life cruel England's to blame
    So now I am part of the patriot game

    It's nearly two years since I wandered away
    With the local battalion of the bold IRA
    I learned of our heroes, and wanted the same
    To play my own part of the Patriot game

    This island of ours has too long been half free
    Six counties lie under John Bull's tyranny
    So I gave up my boyhood to drill and to train
    And that made me a part of the Patriot game

    They told me how Connolly was shot in his chair
    His wounds from the fighting all bloody and bare
    His fine body twisted, all battered and lame
    They soon made me part of the patriot game

    But now as I lie here, my body all holes
    I think of those traitors who bargained in souls
    And I wish that my rifle had given the same
    To those Quislings who sold out the patriot game

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  • Song: Sean South of Garryowen
    (author unknown)

    It was on a dreary New Year's Eve
    as the shades of night came down.
    A lorry load of volunteers
    approached a border town.
    There were men from Dublin and from Cork,
    Fermanagh and Tyrone,
    but the leader was a Limerick man,
    Sean South of Garryowen.

    And as they marched along the street
    up to the barracks door,
    they scorned the dangers they would face,
    their fate that lay in store.
    They were fighting for Old Ireland's cause
    to claim their very own,
    and the foremost of that gallant band
    was Sean South of Garryowen.

    But the sergeant foiled their daring plan,
    he spied them through the door.
    Then the sten guns and the rifles
    a hail of death did pour,
    and when that awful night was past
    two men lay cold as stone.
    There was one from near the border
    and one from Garryowen.

    No more he will hear the seagulls cry
    or the murmuring Shannon tide,
    for he fell beneath a northern sky,
    brave O'Hanlon by his side.
    They have gone to join that gallant band
    of Plunkett, Pearse and Tone,
    another martyr for Old Ireland,
    Sean South of Garryowen

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  • Song: The Hurling Match of Bavan Meadow, Omeath, 1750
    (by Niall Óg Mac Murchaidh Ró Chan; translated by Peadar Ó Dubhda )

    'Twas on Bavan-meadow Green that our lads a choice sixteen
    Of Omeath's athletic team, were football playing,
    Where, from noon the game went on 'til old Sol was set and gone,
    Yet no score, not even one, by either claiming.
    Two well matched teams in action full of dash and fearless tacklin'
    In their pace no gale of March-wind could o'ertake them,
    And of all those maidens fair who came just to stand and stare,
    None but felt a heart-beat quare, in admiration.

    Now to mention every name and each man, in this great game
    I should like to do that same, with much affection,
    Young O'Neill would be the first, for the ball he never missed,
    With his foot or fist he'd shoot in true direction,
    Then big Sár Ma' Cuarta tall see him jumpin' for the ball!
    Head and shoulders over all, like Fionn the giant;
    And the two O'Murley Boys, swift as swallows in the skies,
    With O'Hagan brothers vying to outshine them.

    Standing ready in the goals is wee O'Duffy on his toes,
    Like Setanta facing foes on Eamain Macha;
    While O'Morgan and O'Hare, two full backs beyond compare,
    Overthrow all daring efforts to get past them.
    And the boys up in the ruck O'Hanlon, Cassley and O'Ruarc
    Where the tussle for possession is a hard one,
    Till O'Conn'ly's quick snatch grips the ball and in a flash
    Sends it soaring high and far across the Bavan.

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O'Hanlon boar facing right Hanlon Sayings O'Hanlon boar facing left

  • O'Hanlon's breech
    A 16th century saying, documented in 1596 in the book "A View of the Present State of Ireland" written by the poet Edmund Spenser:
    "Chomh Gaelic le Toin Ui hAnluain" (in Gaelic), or
    "As Irish as O'Hanlon's breech" (in English)

    Note: Although Mr. Spenser was effectively acknowledging O'Hanlon superiority in the area around Tandragee, it should be noted that he was vehemently anti-Irish and his comments were not meant to be complimentary. Tandragee's name in Gaelic is "Toin re gaoth", or "back to the wind", in reference to the castle's location atop a windy hill. The word Toin can also be translated as backside, so the Gaelic quote is a sarcastic play on words. Gaelic folk would understand "as Irish as O'Hanlon's arse", whilst English speakers would only hear "Toin" and assume it meant town.

  • Hanlon's Razor
    A saying, currently championed by computer hackers (often found embedded as secret signature code in programs):
    "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity"

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Annemarie Bruinsma Hanlon

Last updated 2 Aug 2005
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