Three Huntsmen

It’s of three huntsmen brave and bold as I have heard them say
They took five hundred guineas all on one market day
And as they rode home together o’er the Wicklow mountains high
Oh it’s “Hold your horse!”, cries Johnson, “for I hear a woman cry”

“I will not stop”, says Wilson, “I will not stop”, says he
“And nor will I stop”, says Gilmore, “for robbed I am afraid we’ll be”
But Johnson getting off his horse and searching the woods all round
Till he found a naked woman with her hair pinned to the ground

“O woman dear, O woman dear! How came you here for to span?
Who’d had brought you here on this May morning with your hair pinned to the ground?”
“It was three bold and struggling men with swords keen in hand
Who’d had brought me here this May morning with my hair pinned to the ground”

“But my father he’s a wealthy man and your kindness he’ll repay
My life I place all in your hands; protect me, Sir, I pray!”
Well Johnson being a man of his own being valiant, brave and bold
He took off the coat from off his back for to keep her from the cold

And Johnson getting on his horse the woman got on behind
They rode down that lonesome valley their fortunes for to find
And as they rode on along the way as fast as they could ride
She threw her fingers to her lips and she gave three shivering cries

Out sprang three bold and struggling men with swords keen in hand
Who commanded him to tarry commanded him to stand
“Well, I will stand!” says Johnson “I’ll stand” then says he
“For I never was in all my life afraid of any three”

And Johnson killing two of them not minding the woman behind
As he was at the other one she stabbed him from behind
The day was free and a market day; the people all passing by
Could have seen this awful murder; could have seen poor Johnson die.


Traditional – New Words & Music by Andy Irvine

“Three Huntsmen”, a song (about a sinister murder) that Irvine learnt from Johnny Moynihan in the early sixties. It first appeared on Sweeney’s Men’s eponymous album under the name “Johnston” and set to a different tune from this recording, written by Irvine and reminiscent of a slowed-down version of “The Walls of Liscaroll”. This song also appears as entry H185 in Sam Henry’s Songs of the People but with a happy ending omitted here.


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