Come Home Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Song Lyrics and Background

Percy French, holding the sheet musing calling out to Paddy Reilly, in the centre of Ballyjamesduff.
© Bernd Biege 2015

Come home, Paddy Reilly, to Ballyjamesduff - a well-known song in Ireland, full of sentimental lyrics. But who was Paddy? And why was the village of Ballyjamesduff worth coming back to? If you visit Ballyjamesduff, a small town in County Cavan, you are bound to discover that as homey as it can be, there is nothing particularly notable about it. Even when folksy poet Percy French passed through, it was a remarkably unremarkable place. Not one to need much external inspiration French set down to compose some poetry about the town. Or, rather, since there was little of note in the town, he used it to add a bit of local flavor to his work, name-checking Finea and Cootehill in the progress.

The song became a bestseller and French is still remembered by a charming statue in Ballyjamesduff's modest town center.

By the way - as French forgot to secure the US copyright, he never received any payments from across the water. Despite the immense popularity that his little song enjoyed over there.

Come Home Paddy Reilly - the Lyrics

The Garden of Eden has vanished, they say
But I know the lie of it still;
Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea
And stop when halfway to Cootehill.
'Tis there I will find it,
I know sure enough
When fortune has come to me call,
Oh the grass it is green around Ballyjamesduff
And the blue sky is over it all.
And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff
Are whispering over the sea,
"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me".

My mother once told me that when I was born
The day that I first saw the light,
I looked down the street on that very first morn
And gave a great crow of delight.
Now most newborn babies appear in a huff,
And start with a sorrowful squall,
But I knew I was born in Ballyjamesduff
And that's why I smiled on them all.
The baby's a man, now he's toil-worn and tough
Still, whispers come over the sea,
"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me".

The night that we danced by the light of the moon,
Wid Phil to the fore wid his flute,
When Phil threw his lip over "Come Again Soon",
He's dance the foot out o' yer boot!
The day that I took long Magee by the scruff
For slanderin' Rosie Kilrain,
Then, marchin' him straight out of Ballyjamesduff,
Assisted him into a drain.
Oh, sweet are the dreams, as the dudeen I puff,
Of whisperings over the sea,
"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me".

I've loved the young women of every land,
That always came easy to me;
Just barrin' the belles of the Black-a-moor brand
And the chocolate shapes of Feegee.
But that sort of love is a moonshiny stuff,
And never will addle me brain,
For the bells will be ringin' in Ballyjamesduff
For me and me Rosie Kilrain!
And through all their glamour, their gas and their guff
A whisper comes over the sea,
"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me".

I've struck oil at last!
I've struck work, and I vow
I've struck some remarkable clothes,
I've struck a policeman for sayin' that now,
I'd go back to my beautiful Rose.
The belles they may blarney,
the boys they may bluff
But this I will always maintain,
No place in the world like Ballyjamesduff
No girl like Rosie Kilrain.
I've paid for my passage, the sea may be rough
But borne on each breeze there will be,
"Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff
Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me".

Who Was Percy French?

William Percy French was born May 1st, 1854 and died January 24th, 1920. He is regarded as one of Ireland's leading songwriters of his period. French was a Trinity College graduate and civil engineer by trade, and was employed by the Board of Works in County Cavan (where Ballyjamesduff is found), with the exciting title of "Inspector of Drains". When the Board of Works cut staff, French became the editor of "The Jarvey", a weekly offering light entertainment. After this venture failed, French turned to a full-time (and successful) career as songwriter and entertainer. Percy French became a household name for composing and singing mostly comic songs, and often name-checking towns around Ireland - his maybe best-known song being "The Mountains of Mourne".

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