Theresa O’Connor

Star of the County Down — Irish History in Song

Among pub standards, Star of the County Down is one of the most lyrically poetic, filled with the intraline rhyme and accentual verse often found in Irish poetry. Appropriately, there are literally dozens of beautiful renditions of this song out there—see below for two I found on YouTube. I think my favorite recording of it is Van Morrison & The Chieftans, on their joint album Irish Heartbeat.

Admittedly, there’s nothing of explicit historical interest in this one, but it’s just so good! I couldn’t resist.

Near Banbridge Town in the County Down
One morning last July
Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen
And she smiled as she passed me by
She looked so sweet from her two bare feet
To the sheen of her nut-brown hair
Such a coaxing elf, sure I shook myself
For to see I was really there

From Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay
And from Galway to Dublin Town
No maid I’ve seen like the brown colleen
That I met in the County Down

As she onward sped, sure I scratched my head
And I looked with a feeling rare
So I said, said I, to a passer-by
“Who’s the maid with the nut-brown hair?”
Sure he smiled at me, and he says, says he
“That’s the gem of Ireland’s crown
Young Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann
She’s the star of the County Down”

At the harvest fair she’ll be surely there
And I’ll dress in my Sunday clothes
With my shoes shone bright and my hat cocked right
For a smile from my nut-brown Rose
No pipe I’ll smoke, no horse I’ll yoke
’Til my plow’s a rust-covered brown
’Til a smiling bride by my own fireside
Sits the star of the County Down