The Ballad Of Charlie McCoy

Here’s the Ballad Of Charlie McCoy. This is our first Cripple Oak studio recording.

Last September (2014) I was at the impressive ancient Celtic site of Glendalough, co. Wicklow. Looking for old undocumented Irish songs, a local man, John Holden, told me about the late Charlie McCoy, who was the local forester and a poet. John told me that Charlie had written many songs to honour his dear friends and when I found out that nobody ever wrote a song about Charlie, I offered John to give it a try and write one to his honour. It wasn’t too difficult to get inspiration from this impressive place with its early Medieval remains of Saint Kevin’s monastery and after a pleasant chat with Charlie’s son Noel and his wife Caroline, I went back home with copies of his poems and loads of details about his long life, spanning nearly the entire 20th century, including two World Wars. No surprise I couldn’t write a short song! Here it is and I hope you like it.



1. Deep in the valley of Wicklow’s fine mountains
The deer heard the cry of a sweet little boy
The rippling stream of Glendasan River
A playground for rabbits and Charlie McCoy

2. The lead for the bullets that killed o so many
Was brought to the surface not far from his home
A World War was raging and Ireland was rising
But here there was music from Fiddlers Row*

Chorus 1:
He planted the trees that would shore up the workings**
The forest was made by Charlie McCoy
At the end of the day down in Glendalough Tavern
To cheer with his comrades was his ultimate joy

3. Young Charlie enlisted the Free State Army
In Dublin he saw Bridget’s beautiful eyes
His dream was to bring her to Glendasan valley
And settle fore’er in his green paradise

4. Well-dressed in suit and tie Charlie recited
The poems he wrote about causes and life
He’d criticise issues and honour his dear ones
And he’d spit on his shoes to make sure they shone bright

Chorus 2:
He planted a thousand or maybe a million
The forest was made by Charlie McCoy
At the end of the day down in Glendalough Tavern
Good beer and good comrades, his ultimate joy

5. They lived among rabbits and hunted with ferrets
The grayhounds couldn’t keep the gamekeepers away***
He quickly hid the ferret in a pot near the fire
Just one of his tricks we still talk of today

6. When he’s come home late to his Bridie there waiting
He’d give her a fiver for the wrong he had done
For he loved her so dearly from the deeps of his heart
But next day he’d puzzle where the fiver had gone

Chorus 2

7. One day he recycled a washing machine
Turned the drum into a flowerpot with a colourful paint
And you’d never believe what he made with the motor
A grinder that roared like a turboprop plane

Instrumental verse + chorus

8. As Charlie grew older he saw the world changing
He lost his dear wife and his friends one by one
The rise and demise of Glendalough’s labour
Now the last survivor of the valley has gone

9. His grave is right under the trees he belongs to
May good old Saint Kevin take care of his soul
We cherish the memories by reading his poems
This Charlie McCoy played a wonderful role!

Chorus 2 x2 back up tempo


* Fiddler’s Row was a demolished row of seven houses built for the miners, close to the mines. He was born in one of those houses. It got the name, because in every house there lived a fiddler.

** Charlie was a forester and his main job was to plant trees and protect them from the deer. The new forest was needed to provide the wooden supports for in the mines.

*** They used to earn some money from the rabbit hunt, at which grayhounds and ferrets were deployed, but after the devastating rabbit desease myxomatosis, deliberately introduced in 1954, the rabbit population was nearly gone completely, so the hunt was forbidden. The government at one time sent gamekeepers to the houses to check if they didn’t hunt the rabbits.

A big thank you to my reviewers Martin Ryan and Frank Callery and to the McCoy family for their highly valued input and feedback.


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