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This ballad was created in the latter part of the 17th Century about a notorious roadside robber (a highwayman) named Patrick Fleming. Patrick was born into an Irish potato farming family in Athlone, Ireland in the mid 1600s. At age 13, he went into service with Elizabeth Nugent, Countess of Kildare, but was soon removed after he discovered the priest in the household sleeping in an obscene position which caused a scandal. Before leaving the household, Patrick stole over 200 pounds and fled to join a gang located around Dublin. In his time, he maimed and killed many in his robberies, mostly English elites, but because the Irish were at odds with English Patrick was somewhat romanticized. Most highwaymen, when caught, were hung on the spot and while that was the fate of Patrick and his band as well, this “romantic” version of the robber was very popular as an “Irish” pub song.
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