Pádraig Mac Gailbhidhe

Pádraig Mac Gailbhidhe

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
A Phádraig Mhic Gailbhidhe ‘sé mo cheasnaí is m’amhgar O Pádraig Mac Gailbhidhe it is my affliction and my grief
Mar [a] fuarthas tú i leathluí cois geataí an teampaill. That you were found, lying on one side, beside the churchyard gate.
Fuil do chroí leat ina gcaisí ‘ge maisdínibh gallda Your heart’s blood flowing out of you, spilt by English curs
Is gurb é constábla an Chaimín [a] bhain díotsa do cheann geal. And it was the constable from Caimín who cut off your bright head.
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Mo chreach is mo ruaig bhocht nár bhuaileas-sa chuige It is my loss and my defeat that I did not meet him there,
Le haghaidh na huaire bhí an tua aige ar a chuislinn. At the very time he placed the axe against your veins.
M’fhocal go mór duit go mbuailfinn mo bhuille I swear to you that I would have struck such a blow
Is go mbeadh fhios ag an mbuachaill cé ‘gainn guala [a] bheadh briste. That boyo would have known just whose shoulder was broken.


This fragment of a lament for a young man called Pádraig Mac Gailbhidhe is all that is left to us of a longer song. We can only be grateful that Goodman preserved the haunting tune and powerful words as it does not, to my knowledge, exist in any other 19th century song collection.

It is impossible to be certain of the time or the place in which this song was composed but the circumstances mentioned in the text do give us some clues. Pádraig was killed by a ‘constable’ and the Irish Constabulary was established in 1822 so the song is not likely to be any earlier than that date. This is borne out by the language, which is very accessible.

The IC (it did not become ‘Royal’ until 1867 when it was rewarded with this title for putting down the Fenian rising) was, in its early days, notorious for its political partisanship and was composed almost exclusively of Orangemen:

” Major Richard Willcocks admitted to a parliamentary committee in May 1824 that soon after his appointment in late 1821 as head of the constabulary in that county [Co. Limerick], he had found it necessary to suppress the Orange system among his men,” (Captain Rock The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821-1824, James S. Donnelly Jr., Cork 2009).

The constabulary was involved in many bloody confrontations during the Tithe War (1831-1836) and had also been deployed against secret agrarian societies such as the Rockites in Limerick, Kerry, Cork and Tipperary from 1822. The incident in this song may well have taken place during this period.

I have not found a place called ‘Caimín’ in Munster although I have located a townland called Cill Chaimín and a lake called Loch Caimín, both in Co. Galway. The placename ‘Coimín,’ often anglicised ‘Commons,’ is found all over Munster and ‘Caimín’ may simply be an alternative pronunciation or an error.

There is a townland in Co. Limerick called Baile Choimín (Ballycummin) and another Baile Choimín (angl. Millbrook) in Co. Tipperary.  Limerick and Tipperary, along with counties Cork and Kerry were centres of  the agrarian struggle in the early 19th century but without further verses it is difficult to know any more about Pádraig Mac Gailbhidhe.