Purchase Rosemary Lawton's music at Citadel House

Person list

Words and tune:

  • Traditional

Locations associated with this song:

About Rosemary's version:

The song was originally known as ‘Sweet Ann O'Neil’ however, nowhere in the song is the word ‘Sweet’ used. The only time the heroine's name is mentioned is when they call her ‘Brave’ so I changed the title of the song to ‘Brave Ann O'Neil.’ This song was originally sung by Ned Odell from Pinware in 1960, and I found it in Leach: Folk Ballads and Songs of the Lower Labrador Coast, where I was immediately drawn to it because of the strong heroine in the story. It is one of a number of songs in this book that feature stories of empowered women. Go Labrador!

Rosemary Lawton
© Rosemary Lawton. Used with permission.

Rosemary's lyrics:

My love he is one of the finest young men,
Ever nature formed and the sun to shine on
And tomorrow morning the noble prosecutor
Sentenced Chris on the gallows to be hung.

And as he rode through the streets of Derry,
He rode so bold and undaunted seemed
And he looked more like a man whose heart was broken
Than any young man was condemned to die.

“O hang him up,” said the bloody sheriff,
The sheriff and clerk were standing by,
“Hold on, hold on, you bold prosecutor,
I’ll let you know he’s not fit to die.”

“You must hold on for half an hour
Until confession with me is done,
And after that, you bold prosecutor,
He can go off to the setting sun.”

As he went up the first step on the gallows,
His beloved sister he chanced to see;
“Step up, step up, my beloved sister,
I have a word to exchange with thee.”

And taking a gold ring from off his finger,
He wrapped it up in silk so fine.
“Take this, take this my beloved sister,
And keep your dear brother close in your mind.”

As he went up the next step on the gallows,
His beloved brother he chanced to see,
“Step up, step up, my beloved brother;
I have a word to exchange with thee.”

“Where is my jewel, where is my darling?
She don’t come here for to visit me,
Do she think it’s a shame or a scandal
That I must die on the gallows tree?”

As he went up the last step on the gallows,
His beloved sweetheart he chanced to see,
As she came riding on her weary gelding,
She rode so fast, as fast as could be.

“Come down, come down from that weary gallows.
I have your freedom from George our king.
In spite of all those bold prosecutors,
I’ll have you crowned in the blooming spring.”

Now lads and lasses, fill up your glasses,
Fill them up and never fail;
You lads and lasses toss up your glasses,
And drink a health to brave Ann O’Neill.
© Rosemary Lawton. Used with permission.

See lyrics on a page by themselves