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This article is about the song. For the novel by A. J. Cronin, see The Minstrel Boy (novel).

"The Minstrel Boy" is an Irish patriotic song written by Thomas Moore (1779–1852) who set it to the melody of The Moreen, an old Irish air. It is widely believed that Moore composed the song in remembrance of a number of his friends, whom he met while studying at Trinity College, Dublin and who had participated in (and were killed during) the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

However, the song gained widespread popularity and became a favourite of many Irishmen who fought during the United States Civil War and gained even more popularity after World War I. The song is notably associated with organizations that historically had a heavy representation of Irish-Americans, in particular the police and fire departments of New York, Boston and Chicago and those of various other major US metropolitan areas, even after those organizations have ceased to have a substantial over-representation of personnel of Irish ancestry. The melody is frequently played at funerals of members and/or officers of such organizations who have died or been killed in service, typically on bagpipes. Unsurprisingly, given its lyrics, it is also associated with the Irish Army and with traditionally Irish regiments in the British and other armies.


A concentrated, single verse version exists:

During the American Civil War a third verse was written by an unknown author, and is sometimes included in renditions of the song:

Notable performances and recordings[]

  • The song's popularity was substantially enhanced in the early 20th century by performances and recordings by John McCormack (1884–1945) a world-famous Irish tenor in the fields of opera and popular music – who performed successfully in many major live venues in the United States and Europe. McCormack was occasionally referred to as the "Minstrel Boy," (or alternately the Irish Minstrel) and this title has been applied to collections of his recordings.
  • It has also been widely recorded by many non-Irish performers, ranging from Paul Robeson to The Holy Modal Rounders.
  • The song is heard during the end credits of the film Black Hawk Down, attributed to Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, an 18 minute version of the song featuring as the final track on the album Global a Go-Go.
  • The song is performed by the Canadian band Enter the Haggis on their 2004 album, Casualties of Retail.
  • The song is performed by The Clancy Brothers (sung by Liam Clancy) on their 1959 album, The Rising of the Moon.
  • The song is covered by The Popes on the album The Rare Oul' Stuff.
  • An instrumental version of the song was recorded by The Corrs on their album Forgiven Not Forgotten.
  • Parts of the chorus are used in various songs, such as John McCutcheon's "Christmas in the Trenches" and in the World War I song, I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier.
  • A short but very lushly orchestrated version (the first four bars) was used by Wally (Angela Morley) Stott in several of the link scores for The Goon Show
  • A solo guitar arrangement of the tune, paired with "The Ash Grove," was recorded by Norman Blake on Whiskey Before Breakfast (1976).
  • The tune is used in the Black 47 song "Downtown Baghdad Blues" on their album Elvis Murphy's Green Suede Shoes.

References in popular culture[]

  • The song's first verse was sung by the character Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney) in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Wounded" (air date January 28, 1991). The tune is heard on several occasions during Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (usually in reference to O'Brien). It plays in the final episode "What You Leave Behind" when O'Brien is looking at his empty quarters and recalls his life aboard Deep Space 9.
  • The tune is used as the theme of John Huston's 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King but the lyrics are those of Reginald Heber's "The Son of God Goes Forth to War" from the Lutheran Songbook [1].
  • The song is also heard in the movie The Departed, during a graduation ceremony of police cadets.
  • The song is played (in instrumental form) in the film Gettysburg as General Winfield Scott Hancock watches the Irish Brigade receive Fr. Corby's blessing prior to the battle.
  • It was used as background music in the Ken Burns documentaries Lewis and Clark, The Civil War and Baseball.
  • The song is used as G Troop's troop song in John Milius's TNT film, Rough Riders.
  • The song is both sung and used in Max Steiner's score in John Ford's The Informer (1935).
  • The song appears in the film Breaker Morant.

External links[]

it:The Minstrel Boy