The Fairy Tree

 All night around the thorn tree, the little people play,

And men and women passing will turn their heads away.

They’ll tell you dead men hung there, its black and bitter fruit,

To guard the buried treasure round which it twines its root.

They’ll tell you Cromwell hung them, but that could never be,

He’d be in dread like others to touch the Fairy Tree.


But Katie Ryan who saw there in some sweet dream she had,

The Blessed Son of Mary and all his face was sad.

She dreamt she heard him say “Why should they be afraid?”

When from a branch of thorn tree the crown I wore was made.


By moonlight round the thorn tree the little people play

And men and women passing will turn their heads away.

But if your hearts a child’s heart and if your eyes are clean,

You’ll never fear the Thorn tree that grows beyond Clogheen.


 Of all the Irish songs recorded by the celebrated Irish tenor Count John McCormack, perhaps the best loved, in Ireland at any rate, is ‘The Fairy Tree’. Katie Ryan who lived just outside Clogheen (Co. Tipperary) for most of her 87 years, provided the inspiration for the author of this song, Temple Lane – the pen-name of Isabel Leslie, daughter of the Rev. Canon Leslie, who at one time ministered at St. Paul’s Church of Ireland in Clogheen, and later in Lismore where he is buried. She took her name from the Temple Lane that ran near her former home in Clonmel.



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