Kate Kearney
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This is a traditional Irish tune. The tune was written by Alexander Lee. The words appear in a broadside which was reprinted in Collection of eighty street ballads on forty sheets, mostly with a woodcut printed at London, the majority by J. Catnach (who printed 1820–1830).

The words are reportedly based on Sidney Morgan. Robert Owenson, her father, was an actor and manager in the theatre in Dublin. In London he fell in love with the daughter of a wealthy Eglishman who disowned their daughter when they married. Kate was born around 1777 (she refused to give the actual date) and lived in poverty. Kate beame a governess and authoress. Her story, The Wild Irish Girl, was very successful. She married Dr. Charles Morgan, a writer and entertainer who was later knighted. She was famous as "lively, interesting, indespensable woman of society; -eccentric, but full of charity and pleasant acts.*" She died in 1859, outlving her husband by sixteen years.

Oh have you not heard of Kate Kearney,
Who lives on the banks of Kilarney,
At the glance of her eye,
Shun danger and fly,
For fatal's the look of Kate Kearney.

While her eyes are so modestly beaming,
You'd ne'er think of mischief she's dreaming:
Yet oh, I can tell how fatal's the spell
That lurks in the eye of Kate Kearney.

O should you e'er meet this Kate Kearney,
Who lives on the banks of Kilarney,
Beware of her smile,
for many a wile,
Lies hid in the smile of Kate Kearney.

Tho' she looks so bewitchingly simple,
There's mischief in every dimple;
And who dares inhale
Her mouth's spicy gale,
Must die by the breath of Kate Kearney.
Related Links
  • Kate Kearney
    For the original words on the broadside. For the original words on the broadside. From Michael Hancher's University of Minnesota English Class.
  • Detailed Map of Ireland
    (Killarney is in County Kerry)

From Our National Songs
and *Our Familiar Songs and Those Who Sing Them
See Bibliography for full information.