Ballad of Pat O'Donnell


My name is Pat O’Donnell
And I come from Donegal
l am, you know, a dangerous foe
To traitors one and all
For the shooting of James Carey
I’ve been tried in London town
And now upon the gallows high
My life I must lay down

I sailed aboard the Montrose
In August ‘eighty-three
And on my voyage to Capetown
He was made known to me
When I heard he was James Carey
We had angry words and blows
And the villain, he strove to take my life
On board of the Montrose

I stood up to defend myself
And fight before I’d die
My pocket pistol, I drew forth
And at him I did fly
We fired until the second round
When I shot him through the heart
And I gave him the third revolver shot
Before he did depart

Oh! Carey’s wife and child came to
The cabin where he lay
And seeing him lying in his gore
It filled them with dismay
“O’Donnell, you’ve shot my husband”
Mrs. Carey loud did cry
“Oh, yes I did, in self-defence
Madam” then said I

The captain had me handcuffed
And guarded iron-bound
And I was kept a prisoner
’till we landed in Capetown
I was then brought back to England
When my trial it came on
And the prosecutors for the Crown
Were Carey’s wife and son

The jury found me guilty
And the judge made this replay
“For the murder of James Carey
O’Donnell, you must die
On the twenty-third of December
And on the gallows high
So the Lord have mercy on your soul
For your hour is drawing nigh”


Patrick O’Donnell (1835 – 17 December 1883) was an Irish republican, executed in 1883 for murdering James Carey on board a ship bound for Capetown, South Africa.

James Carey was leader of the plot to assassinate Thomas Burke, a Catholic who was helping to administer British rule from Dublin Castle. The new Chief Secretary of Ireland, Lord Cavendish, was not an intended victim, but was out walking with Burke in the Phoenix Park at the time of the attack. Carey was the prime suspect for the double murder. Following his arrest, he turned Queen’s evidence and testified against his co-accused. Five men were hanged at Kilmainham Jail for the Phoenix Park murders. Carey was given a new identity and safe passage to South Africa. He travelled under the assumed name of “James Power” with his wife and seven children.

Republican Patrick O’Donnell was travelling on the same ship. The ship’s barman became aware of Carey’s real identity, and informed O’Donnell. Shots were exchanged and Carey was hit in the neck and twice more in the back as he staggered away. It was suggested that O’Donnell was sent by republicans to exact revenge upon the traitor, but the prevailing opinion is that he discovered Carey’s true identity while on board. O’Donnell was arrested and sent back to London to stand trial at the Old Bailey. He was executed at Newgate prison on 17 December 1883 . He was 48 years old.

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Fenian Rising