"Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" as written by and Brennan Kelly....
When on the road to sweet Athy,
Hurroo Hurroo
When on the road to sweet Athy,
Hurroo Hurroo
When on the road to sweet Athy
A stick in the hand, a drop in the eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry
"Johnny, I hardly knew ya"

Where are the eyes that looked so mild,
Hurroo Hurroo
Where are the eyes that looked so mild,
Hurroo Hurroo
Where are the eyes that looked so mild
When my poor heart you first beguiled
Why did ya run from me and the child
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy never slew ya
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

Where are the legs with which you run,
Hurroo Hurroo
Where are the legs with which you run,
Hurroo Hurroo
Where are the legs with which you run,
When first you went to carry a gun
Indeed your dancing days are done
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy never slew ya
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

You hadn't an arm, you hadn't a leg,
Hurroo Hurroo
You hadn't an arm, you hadn't a leg,
Hurroo Hurroo
You hadn't an arm, you hadn't a leg
You're a spinless, boneless, chickenless egg
You'll have to be put with the bowl to beg
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy never slew ya
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

I'm happy for to see ya home,
Hurroo Hurroo
I'm happy for to see ya home,
Hurroo Hurroo
I'm happy for to see ya home
From the isle of Ceylon
Johnny, I hardly knew ya

We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns,
Hurroo Hurroo
We had guns and drums and drums and guns
The enemy never slew ya
Johnny, I hardly knew ya


Lyrics submitted by gatsby14

"Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya" as written by Tim Brennan Al Barr

Lyrics © MEMORY LANE MUSIC GROUP

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Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya song meanings
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13 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentI like Dropkick Murphys very much so I thought it's gonna be my favourite cover of this beautiful song. Much to my surprise it turned out it was the worst version I've ever heard!
    First of all they performed the very sad and full of sorrow song as if it was lively an gay Johny comming marching home again (I'm referring to the US Army's cover).
    I must admit that they seem not to get the message of this song by mismatching lyrics which IMHO is uncoherent and partially without any sense.
    IMO Johny has got only one leg (he's going home with a stick in his hand) - not both legs. He's got an eye missing so he's eyeless not spineless. If you listened to the version by Benjamin Luxon (99% perfect one), you'd get realised what I'm talking about.
    The song is about Johny's very bad condition (he's supposed to be put with a bowl out to beg) as if the enemy NEARLY slew him - not about that he's so strong and brave so the enemy could NEVER slay him.
    I'm the opinion that it was not Johnny's will to skedaddle from his woman and the child, which is when you are draughted, I mean.
    JackPLon April 26, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me, it sounds like its about an army guy named Johnny that went to war and came back with missing limbs, but thats just me
    Jonny2on May 13, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentactually that's basically what this song is about. its concerning the young men (generically named johnny) who when to war in Ireland. it originated in the 19th century when Irish troops served the British East India Company. they were used mostly as fodder troops. that's what serving the British got our ancestors.
    Pyro_man09on May 22, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentanti-war song I think, also the line "the enemy never slew ya", possibly about "friendly fires"? either way, exellent take on the tune
    elliotbwfcon September 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentelliot: 'the enemy never slew ya' refers to the soldier missing limbs. 'friendly fires', whatever that means, have nothing to do with it.
    Infinitly Surrealon October 30, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"that's what serving the British got our ancestors."

    Which is why mine fought in the revolutionary war on the american side. :D

    GO Dunns!!!
    guitarchick133on February 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a war song describing the story of a guy name Johnny that went off to war but when he came back he wasn't the man he used to be, including missing limbs. It constatly describes that he is disfigured with the lyrics: "You hadn't an arm You hadn't a leg" and "Where are the legs with which you run". Similar to the plot of Metallica's "One" if you think about it. By the way I think the lyrics for the chorus is: "THEY had guns and drums and drums and guns." Though I could be mistaken. Thats what I keep hearing. Maybe he alternates between the two
    Scorpionsphynxon March 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    Song Meaningthis is a traditional Irish anti-war song -- originated in early 19th century.
    eyewtkason April 02, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentPyro_man 099 is correct in the origin of the song. However, if yo listen to the lyrics you will see they paint a different picture than Johnny being a simple victim of British imperialism. In the song Johnny joins the army to run away from his pregnant girlfriend: "Why did ye run from me and the child?" "Where are the legs with which ye run?"

    Johnny, missing arms, legs, and eyes, is welcomed home by his former lover who calls him a coward ("spineless") and mocks his predicament ("you'll have to be put in a bowl to beg."). I don't think this is a happy homecoming and Johnny pays a heavy price for trying to escape his responsibilities.

    The Dropkick Murphys also sing out against father's who abandon their children in "Walk Away."
    Zolackon August 12, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti could very well be wrong since i am quite naive about irish culture, however, this brings to mind the book "Johnny Got His Gun." someone else mentioned metallica's song "One" which was about this book as well
    DeucalionAHon May 16, 2011   Link

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