The Ballad of Willie Nelson. A song by Randall Stephen Hall ©2012 https://soundc…

The Ballad of Willie Nelson.
A song by Randall Stephen Hall ©2012

Oh Willie Nelson
What can you do?
They’ve captured your world.
They’ve done captured you.
For taking some horses
Up Donegore Hill.
Looks like you will die in the morning.

Old Carrickfergus
Was where he was sent.
To lie in the jail
To say his ahmens.
But the morning is coming.
He’s ringin’ his bell.
And Death’s on his way
With some stories to tell.


Oh Willie, Oh Willie Nelson.
Oh Willie, Willie my boy.
Come to me all of my children.
Won’t you come to me,
Won’t you come to me.
Come to me now.

Over the hedgerow
And over the river.
A misty old morning
To make a boy cold.
They’re making the gallows
From your family tree.
To play there once more
So your mother can see.


More songs at

Video clips at


I live in East Antrim. I have lived not far from Balycarry for about twenty four years. I grew up in Belfast and lived there for thirty two years. That makes me almost 56. So I have lived 40 years longer than young Willie, the subject of my song.

I was doing some research in the Linenhall Library when I happened to come across his story. Ireland was a totally different place in 1798 when young Willie, only 16, took some horses to rebels, gathering on Donegore Hill for the Battle of Antrim.

When he was tried the judge decided that he would make an example of Willie Nelson. So it was decided that he would be hung from the family tree, outside his mother’s house in Ballycarry.

I was aware that the Presbyterian church in Ballycarry, on the site of an ancient monastery, (the townland of the weir) is the first Presbyterian church in Ireland, 1613. How ironic it seems that so many Presbyterians, took up arms from East Antrim, to fight for a different Ireland just like Willie Nelson.

How sad it is that a different Ireland has never emerged amongst us. All because (as Jonathan Swift conceived) we can’t agree which end we crack an egg.

On a misty morning, recently, I went back to Templecorran ruins in Ballycarry, unaware that I would be led to the graveside of this martyr. When I found the gravestone, I was quite surprised.

I was really angry when I came across this story. The injustice of it burned in me until I had written and recorded the song. My band, the Moon Shed, played a Spring Gig in the Linenhall Library this year, and in the audience was Hector Nelson and his wife Alison. We played the Ballad of Willie Nelson and Hector listened. A living relative of Willie. Some awareness brought to his story.

How the world turns.

The Ballad of Willie Nelson.
Willie Nelson was a young man caught up in the 1798 Rebellion, County Antrim, Ireland. He lived in Ballycarry and I believe his mother was a teach…