Ned of the Hill

Here is an English version of Éamann na Chnoic, a reasonable well-known Irish song.  I love Seán Cannon‘s version, but many, many artsits have recorded this ballad in both the English and Irish versions.


The song concerns Éamonn Ó Riain, an Irish aristocrat who lived in County Tipperary at the turn of the 18th century, and led a bandit or rapparee gang.  The background to Ryan’s career was the confiscation of Irish Catholic land in the Act of Settlement 1652 after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland when many dispossessed landowners became outlaws, known as “tories” or “rapparees”. Their ranks were swelled after the Williamite War of 1689-91, when many of the defeated Catholic Jacobites turned to banditry. It is likely that Ryan himself served in the Jacobite army.
It is said that Ryan became a rapparee or outlaw after shooting a tax collector dead during a quarrel over the confiscation of a poor woman’s cow. Various other stories are told in which Ó Riain plays the role of the rebel hero who battles authority in the mode of Robin Hood and countless others.

Ned of the Hill

Oh who is without
That with passionate shout
Keeps beating my bolted door?
I am Ned of the Hill
Forspent wet and chill
From long trudging marsh and moor
My love, fond and true
What else could I do
But shield you from wind and from weather?
When the shots fall like hail
They us both shall assail
And mayhap we shall die together

Through frost and through snow
Tired and hunted I go
In fear both from friend and from neighbour
My horses run wild
My acres untilled
And all of them lost to my labour
But it grieves me far more
Than the loss of my store
That there’s no one would shield me from danger
So my fate it must be
To sail eastwards o’er sea
And languish amid the stranger


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