The Ballad of Patrick Murphy

One hundred and three years ago today, the fisherman Patrick Murphy of Passage West Co. Cork was shot by a local bailiff.  To commemorate the 100th anniversary in 2011, Cork singer/songwriter John Spillane composed this ballad.  At first the song was about hatred and blame, but as Spillane describes, he worked through that in the writing, and in the end the song is about peace and reconciliation.

The Ballad of Patrick Murphy.

They lived beside the river
At the turning of the tide
They lived beside the river
By the river they lived and they died

Patrick Murphy was a fisherman, and a gentleman, and a good man,
In the town of Passage West,
With a wife and seven children,
And he tended to his nets.

In nineteen and eleven,
On a lovely night in May,
He rowed with three companions,
Across to French’s Bay.

A fishing for a living,
Like their fathers did before,
They were dreaming of the salmon,
As they waited on the shore.


But a bailiff’s boat came down the Lee,
The dreaded Murricawn,
They sneaked down from Blackrock Castle,
They sailed up past the Moocawn,

For the bailliffs they were gangsters,
In the service of the crown,
They came down with revolvers,
And they shot Pat Murphy down.


‘Bring in that man who shot me,
Before you and I must part,
I hold no grudge against him,
I forgive him from my heart’

But the people still remember
That justice was not done,
For the killing of Pat Murphy,
By the bullet from a bailliff’s gun

Final Chorus and Coda:
Ah they lived beside the river,
At the turning of the tide,
They lived beside the river,
By the river they laughed and they cried,
By the river they dreamed and they sighed,
By the river they lived and they died.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s