Johnny Of Brady’s Lea

Oh, Johnny rose on a May morning, called for water to wash his hands,
Says “Bring to me my two grey dogs, lay bound in iron bands.”

When Johnny’s mother she heard of this, she wrung her hands full sore,
Says “Johnny, for your venison to the green woods do not go.”

“For there are seven foresters in Esselment, and this you know full well,
For one small drop of your heart’s blood they would ride to the gates of Hell.”

“Oh, there’s many men are my friends, Mother, Though many more are my foe.
And betide me well or betide me ill, A-hunting I will go.”

So Johnny has taken his good bent bow, his arrows one by one,
And he’s away to Mony Musk for to bring the dun deer down.

Oh, Johnny shot and the dun deer lept, he’s wounded her in the side.
And between the water and the woods, the two dogs laid her pride.

And they ate so much of the venison, they drank so much of the blood,
That Johnny and his two grey dogs fell asleep as if they had been dead.

And by there came a sly old man, a sly old man was he,
And he’s away to Esselment for to tell on young Johnny.

“As I came in by Mony Musk, and down among yon scroggs,
It was there I spied the bonniest dude lying sleeping between two dogs.”

“And the buttons that were on his coat were of the gold so good,
And the two grey dogs that he lay between, their mouths they were died
with blood.”

And up and spoke the first forester, he was headsman over them all,
“Can this be Johnny of Brady’s Lea? Unto him we will crawl.”

And the very first shot that the foresters fired, it wounded him in the thigh,
And the very next shot that the foresters fired, his heart’s blood blinded
his eye.

Then up woke Johnny from out of his sleep, an angry man was he.
He says “The wildest wolf in all this wood would not have done so by me.”

And he’s leaned his back against an oak, his foot against a stone,
And he has fired on the seven foresters, he’s killed them all but one.

And he’s broken seven of this man’s ribs, his arm and his collarbone,
And he has set him on to his horse, to bring the tidings home.

Johnny’s good bent bow is broke, and his two grey dogs are slain,
And his body lies in Mony Musk, and his hunting days are done.


“Johnny of Brady’s Lea” is Irvine’s version of “a famous Scottish ballad, usually called ‘Johnny O’Breadislee’. It has the drama of a Greek tragedy, Johnny’s fate being sealed from the outset.”

“This is a famous traditional ballad from Scotland that I’ve known for years. Johnny is evidently an outlaw or at least a man who pays little regard to the game-laws. Despite his mother’s warning , he sets out one day to ‘bring the dun deer down’. His dogs & himself feast on the deer to such an extent that they all fall asleep. The foresters are tipped off by an interfering old codger and wound Johnny mortally as he sleeps. Johnny wakes in a rage and kills six of them. The seventh one suffers multiple injuries and is put on his horse to ride out of the forest and tell the news. Johnny Moynihan sings a version called ‘Johnny O’Cocklesmuir’ where the hero kills six, wounds one and rides off unscathed.” – Andy Irvine


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