"At his Horslips and his emerald-green hair..."

Part of the Annotated Lyrics Horslips Pages

There was a country fiddler,
A jester, a riddler, a joker,
A singer of songs,
In every town he passed
He'd stop to help the dancing master
Entertain his straw-rope-foot throng
And from a green cloth on his back
He'd take his fiddle
And some goodbye snow
Now singing high, now murmuring low
Now in the middle with his magic bow
And all the people would know.

Mad Paddy's gone back on the road
A wire string fiddle is his only load,
He's kicking up turf everywhere he goes
And he's on his own.
From the houses all the people they stare
At his Horslips and his emerald-green hair
You know he keeps on moving
he just doesn't care
When he's on his own.

First he'll play a slow, slow air
So fair, to drive away your cares
And bring a magic sleep
Then the pace will quicken
As you burst out of your slumber
And find yourself up on your feet
But then his magic tune will change
To something strange, there's something wrong
What's going on.
And through the tears you cry
You'll look, you'll sigh, you'll feel like dying
Cos the fiddler's gone
Mad Paddy's moving on.

Mad Paddy's gone back on the road
A wire string fiddle is his only load
He's kicking up turf everywhere he goes
And he's on his own.
In the corner there's a smile on his face
His fancy is taking him to some distant place
You know his tunes keep changing
He can't keep the pace
And he's on his own

Recorded On:

  1. Dancehall Sweethearts
  2. Horslips Live
  3. Horslips, The Best of
  4. Roll Back

Source Tune:

How Much has She Got: also known as The Sprightly Widow, jig

Covered By:

  1. Horslypse - Tribute with a Capital T, Omagh

General Notes from Albums:

Novelist Patrick McCabe was a keen fan of Mad Pat's well arcane lyrics, and indeed devoted to entire chapters in his meisterwork The Dead School, to Horslips concerts. OK, each chapter is two pages long but you get the drift. And there's a name check for the group in his Horslips and his emerald-green hair.

Notes on Horslips, The Best of..., Edsel Records

Annotated Lyrics:

"He'd stop to help the dancing master"

Arthur Young was the first observer in eighteenth-century Ireland to mention the travelling dancing masters. It is likely that they emerged on the Irish scene shortly before Young arrived. They appear to have originated in Munster and were extremely popular in Kerry, where they worked in tandem with hedge schoolmasters.

Although flamboyant and pretentious at times, the dancing master considered himself to be a 'gentleman' and sought to instill this grandiose spirit in his pupils. Besides teaching dancing to all social classes, he also taught fencing and deportment to the children of the gentry. His arrival in a village or rural clachán was usually met with great delight. He stayed in a community for a six week 'quarter'. Generally, he would lodge in a farmer's house and have the use of a barn or kitchen to teach his steps. In return for the use of the facilities, he would not charge the children of the host farmer. Alternatively, pupils brought the dancing master home with them for the night, and vied with each other for the honour. At the end of the eighteenth century, the fee for a quarter was sixpence. A half century later, the fee had risen to ten shillings a quarter in Kerry — five shillings for the dancing master and five shillings for the musician who travelled with him.

Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, A Pocket History of Irish Traditional Music

"And some goodbye snow"

Dorie: I believe the phrase "goodbye snow" is referenced in an old pub sing-along classic heard in the Northeast from about Thanksgiving weekend through early March. Can't remember much of the verses, but the chorus goes:

And it's goodbye Rain and goodbye Snow and goodbye cold January
My ticket's paid and the baggage's checked, I'm leaving New York City
And now the plane is taking off, My rum drink's on the way
I'm bound for Key West Florida boys, one thousand miles away

(Naturally, I might have misheard those lyrics...)

S. Pam Templeton, Official Horslips Guestbook, Monday, 30 August 2004

I had always assumed that Goodbye Snow was a reference to Pat's fiddling (and indeed the warming power of music in general) having the ability to Drive the Cold Winter Away, as it were. Of course I could have misheard the voices in my head on that point.

Donnacha, Official Horslips Guestbook, Monday, 30 August 2004

"To the best of my recollection, a fiddler of O'Connor's acquaintance used to rosin his bow, tap it on the strings, and then blow away the resulting white dust with the words "Goodbye snow". All right, that's enough at the back. It's not arcane at all.

Locky Jim, Official Horslips Guestbook, Monday, 30 August 2004

"At his Horslips and his emerald-green hair"

So it's official. Self referential as well as self-reverential.

Notes on Horslips, The Best of..., Edsel Records

"Mad Paddy's gone back on the road"

Music is integral to all your books. It's not referenced in the story, but the first tune that came to mind when I read 'Winterwood' was 'Mad Pat' by Horslips. That song tapped into the archetype of a sinister travelling musician, storyteller and trickster in a way that Jethro Tull couldn’t.

They couldn't do it in the same way, you're absolutely right. They aped it or they mimicked it but they didn’t get it. But there were people before Horslips, like German Clock Winder, the Clancys would have got it. 'Weela Weela Waile' particularly – "There was an old woman who lived in the woods…She stuck the knife in the baby’s heart", the woods, all that stuff. It’s in American deep south literature: once the fiddler comes around, shit is going to happen!

Patrick McCabe, Dance McCabre, Interview by Peter Murphy in the New Review

"Pat! You're mad, do you know that!" she laughed.

Patrick McCabe, Emerald Germs of Ireland, New York: HarperCollins Inc, 2001.


Christy Moore's first album was Paddy on the Road, 1969, and featured a Dominic Behan song of that same name. It has not been re-released on CD.

First Posted: February 6, 2005
Last Revised: February 16, 2007