Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Poem.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Father Riley’s Horse
by [?]

‘Twas the horse thief, Andy Regan, that was hunted like a dog
By the troopers of the Upper Murray side,
They had searched in every gully — they had looked in every log,
But never sight or track of him they spied,
Till the priest at Kiley’s Crossing heard a knocking very late
And a whisper ‘Father Riley — come across!’
So his Rev’rence in pyjamas trotted softly to the gate
And admitted Andy Regan — and a horse!

‘Now, it’s listen, Father Riley, to the words I’ve got to say,
For its close upon my death I am to-night.
With the troopers hard behind me I’ve been hiding all the day
In the gullies keeping close and out of sight.
But they’re watching all the ranges till there’s not a bird could fly,
And I’m fairly worn to pieces with the strife,
So I’m taking no more trouble, but I’m going home to die,
‘Tis the only way I see to save my life.

‘Yes, I’m making home to mother’s, and I’ll die o’ Tuesday next
An’ be buried on the Thursday — and, of course,
I’m prepared to meet my penance, but with one thing I’m perplexed
And it’s — Father, it’s this jewel of a horse!
He was never bought nor paid for, and there’s not a man can swear
To his owner or his breeder, but I know,
That his sire was by Pedantic from the Old Pretender mare
And his dam was close related to The Roe.

‘And there’s nothing in the district that can race him for a step,
He could canter while they’re going at their top:
He’s the king of all the leppers that was ever seen to lep,
A five-foot fence — he’d clear it in a hop!
So I’ll leave him with you, Father, till the dead shall rise again,
‘Tis yourself that knows a good ‘un; and, of course,
You can say he’s got by Moonlight out of Paddy Murphy’s plain
If you’re ever asked the breeding of the horse!

‘But it’s getting on to daylight and it’s time to say good-bye,
For the stars above the East are growing pale.
And I’m making home to mother — and it’s hard for me to die!
But it’s harder still, is keeping out of gaol!
You can ride the old horse over to my grave across the dip
Where the wattle bloom is waving overhead.
Sure he’ll jump them fences easy — you must never raise the whip
Or he’ll rush ’em! — now, good-bye!’ and he had fled!

So they buried Andy Regan, and they buried him to rights,
In the graveyard at the back of Kiley’s Hill;
There were five-and-twenty mourners who had five-and-twenty fights
Till the very boldest fighters had their fill.
There were fifty horses racing from the graveyard to the pub,
And their riders flogged each other all the while.
And the lashins of the liquor! And the lavins of the grub!
Oh, poor Andy went to rest in proper style.

Then the races came to Kiley’s — with a steeplechase and all,
For the folk were mostly Irish round about,
And it takes an Irish rider to be fearless of a fall,
They were training morning in and morning out.
But they never started training till the sun was on the course
For a superstitious story kept ’em back,
That the ghost of Andy Regan on a slashing chestnut horse,
Had been training by the starlight on the track.

And they read the nominations for the races with surprise
And amusement at the Father’s little joke,
For a novice had been entered for the steeplechasing prize,
And they found that it was Father Riley’s moke!
He was neat enough to gallop, he was strong enough to stay!
But his owner’s views of training were immense,
For the Reverend Father Riley used to ride him every day,
And he never saw a hurdle nor a fence.