"Garryowen", also known as "Garyowen", "Garry Owen" and "Gary Owens", is an Irish tune for a quickstep dance. It was selected as a marching tune for Australian, British, Canadian, and American military formations, including General George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry Regiment and Australia's 2 Cav Regiment.


The word garryowen is derived from Irish, the proper name Eóin (an Irish form of John) and the word for garden garrai – thus "Eóin's Garden". A church dating to the 12th century by the Knights Templar, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is the source of the modern area of Garryowen in the city of Limerick, Ireland. Owen's Garden, overlooking the River Shannon was a fashionable retreat and recreational area for the citizens of Limerick.[1]

The song emerged during the late 18th century, when it was a drinking song of rich young roisterers in Limerick. An alternate title is "Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed".

Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join with me, each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:
chorus: Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garryowen in glory.
We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.
Our hearts so stout have got no fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.[2]

Sung to the tune "Auld Bessie", it obtained immediate popularity in the British Army through the 5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons.[citation needed]

It was published with additional lyrics in Thomas Moore's 1808 "Irish Melodies".[3] Beethoven composed two arrangements of the song during 1809–1810 (published 1814–1816 in W.o.O. 152 and W.o.O. 154) with the title, "From Garyone My Happy Home", with lyrics by T. Toms, on romantic themes. The arrangements were part of a large project by George Thomson to engage prominent composers of his time to write arrangements of the folk songs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.[4] The composer Mauro Giuliani arranged the tune in Arie Nazionali Irlandesi nr.1-6 Op.125 (Six Irish Airs). The Bohemian composer Ignaz Moscheles (1794 – 1870) included the tune in his op. 89 Souvenirs de l'Irlande, "Recollections of Ireland", for solo piano and orchestra.

British military unitsEdit

A very early reference to the tune appears in the publication The Life of the Duke of Wellington by Jocquim Hayward Stocqueler, published during 1853. He describes the defence of the town of Tarifa during the Peninsular War, late December 1811. General H. Gough, later Field Marshal Hugh Gough, 1st Viscount Gough, commanding officer of the 87th Regiment (Later the Royal Irish Fusiliers), under attack by French Grenadiers, drew his sword, tossed his scabbard, and called on his men to stand with him until the enemy should walk over their bodies. The troops responded with the "Garryowen".[5]

It was used as a march by the 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) during the Peninsular War.[5]

Garryowen was also a favourite during the Crimean War. The tune has also been associated with a number of British military units, and is the authorised regimental march of The Irish Regiment of Canada. It was the regimental march of the Liverpool Irish, British Army.[citation needed] It is the regimental march of the London Irish Rifles (now part of The London Regiment (TA)). It was also the regimental march of the 50th (Queen's Own) Foot until 1869. Garryowen is the Quick March and Canter March of the Welsh Horse Yeomanry, a civilian organisation based in South West Wales, who perform Cavalry and Living History Displays, including the Welsh Horse Musical Ride, in which the tune Garryowen features prominently. See www.welshhorse.co.uk

Garry Owen most recently was also the Regimental Quick March of The Ulster Defence Regiment CGS (UDR). When the UDR merged with The Royal Irish Rangers during 1992 to become The Royal Irish Regiment, Garry Owen was replaced by Killaloe.

US military unitsEdit

During early 1851 Irish citizens of New York City formed a militia regiment known locally as the Second Regiment of Irish Volunteers. The group selected "Garryowen" as their official regimental marching song. On 12 October 1851, the Regiment was accepted officially as part of the New York Militia and designated as 69th Infantry Regiment, New York Militia, (the famed "Fighting 69th" ). It is presently known officially as the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry and is part of the 42nd Infantry Division.[1] The song is hears several times throughout the Warner Bros. movie The Fighting 69th (1940), starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, and Alan Hale, Sr., which chronicles the World War I exploits of the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment, New York National Guard.

7th CavalryEdit

It later became the marching tune for the American 7th Cavalry Regiment during the late 19th century. The tune was brought to the 7th Cavalry by Brevet Colonel Myles W. Keogh and other officers with relations to the Fifth Royal Irish Lancers and the Papal Guard. As the story goes, it was the last song played for Custer's men as they left General Terry's column at the Powder River.[1] The 7th Cavalry became a part of the 1st Cavalry Division during 1921. The word "Garryowen" was used often during the Vietnam War by soldiers of First Cavalry as a password to identify each other. It became the official tune of the division during 1981.[6] The name of the tune has become a part of the regiment, the words Garry Owen are part of the regimental crest.

The tune became the name for bases established by the Cavalry in current conflicts. The most recent was Contingency Operating Station, (COS), Garry Owen in the Maysan Province of Iraq.[7] The base was near the city of Al Amarra and was established by the 2/7 CAV.[8] There is a Camp Garry Owen, north of Seoul, Korea, which houses part of the 4th Squadron of the First Cavalry regiment. There is also a currently operating Forward Operating Base, FOB Garryowen, within the Maysan province of Iraq. FOB Garryowen was established in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 8–10 in June 2008 by 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.

Theodore Roosevelt considered it "the greatest fighting tune in the world."[5] The Catholic Protectory Children's Home band from the Bronx played “Garry Owen” was played at his 1904 presidential inauguration.[9]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In They Died with their Boots On (1941), featuring Errol Flynn, the tune was played on a number of occasions during the movie.
  • In both Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, the song is sung by the cavalry troopers and is used as part of the score.
  • In The Long Gray Line (1956), starring Tyrone Power, the band company played it on the parade grounds at West Point, and its melody was integrated throughout the score as a love theme between the main character, Marty Maher, and his wife-to-be, Mary O'Donnell.
  • In John Ford's The Searchers (1956), it is played when the 7th Cavalry detachment appears partway through the film.
  • Little Big Man (1970), starring Dustin Hoffman, incorporated a fife instrumental version, played several times.
  • The air is whistled by Richard Dreyfuss' character in Always (1989).
  • In Son of the Morning Star (1992), starring Gary Cole as George Armstrong Custer, Custer's regiment whistles it whilst on the march, and it is played by a practising band.
  • The song is played in Gangs of New York at an American Nativist society celebration.
  • The first verse and chorus is sung by Indiana Jones and the American pilots on the way to Paris in "Chapter 12: Attack of the Hawkmen" of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
  • In the movie Rough Riders (1997), Elan Oberon, the wife of director John Milius, accompanied by a military band, sings the song to the Rough Riders as they depart San Antonio, Texas by rail on their way to Tampa, Florida.
  • A Native American version appears in the soundtrack of the film, Smoke Signals (1998), sung by the group Ulali, with a spoken-word commemoration of Native American life by singer Pura Fé.[10]
  • The forces of Skye use the song in Victor Milan's Mechwarrior novel, Flight of the Falcon. It is also sung, with slightly different lyrics.
  • The song is featured in the movie We Were Soldiers (2002), which dramatises the 1965 battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang valley.
  • Robert Emmet Dunlap set new lyrics to the melody for his song, "Mick Ryan's Lament" (1983), a fictional story about two Irish brothers who emigrate to America, one to die in the Civil War, the second at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Several people have recorded "Mick Ryan's Lament", including the American acoustic musician Tim O'Brien, on his CD Two Journeys (2001).
  • In Italy, the melody is known as "Era meglio morire da piccoli..." [We'd rather have died as children...] and is used as an unofficial marching tune by the Italian Army, especially during parades. This Italian use is limited to the verse tune of "Garryowen" (omitting the chorus), and it has several different sets of traditional lyrics – all starting with the title line – including some bawdy ones. It was popularised by its use at the end of the comedy film I pompieri (1985) and its sequel I pompieri 2: Missione eroica (1987), both about a team of comically inept firefighters from all over Italy (played by Lino Banfi from Apulia, Christian De Sica from Rome, Paolo Villaggio from Genoa, Massimo Boldi and Teo Teocoli – the last two both from Lombardy, although Teocoli was born in Taranto).[citation needed]
  • The Space: Above and Beyond episode "Pearly" features a tank driver named Sergeant Fox identified as being from the 7th Cavalry, who sings "Garryowen" in battle at the beginning of the episode.
  • Proper name of Slim Picken's (Louis Burton Lindley, Jr.) character in the Cheyenne episode 'Big Ghost Basin'.
  • In James Joyce's Ulysses, the Citizen's dog in the Cyclops episode at Kieran's pub was named Garryowen.
  • The final (third) movement of "D.W. Suite", Lindsay Buckingham's 1984 tribute to the Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson, featured the "Garryowen" chorus repeated in accelerando to close out the piece.
  • The tune is used briefly in the 1938 Disney musical cartoon Farmyard Symphony in the scene with the marching ganders.[11]


  1. ^ a b c "Garryowen", The 1st Cavalry Division Association
  2. ^ Traditional lyrics, Mudcat Café
  3. ^ "We May Roam Through This World", Library Ireland
  4. ^ "Beethoven: Folksong Settings" by Barry Cooper [1] Archived 19 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c "The Greatest Fighting Tune in the World", T.P.'s Weekly, Vol. 6, (Thomas Power O'Connor, Holbrook Jackson, eds.), Walbrook & Company, 1905  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ "The Legend of Gary Owen", The 7th U.S. Cavalry Association, June 27, 2016
  7. ^ Brown, Alan S., "Soldiers take lead in supporting COS Garry Owen", US Army
  8. ^ "Forward Operating Base (FOB) Garry Owen", U.S. Airforces Central Command
  9. ^ Munch, Janet Butler. "At Home in the Bronx: Children at the New York Catholic Protectory 1865-1938". The Bronx County Historical Society Journal. 52, 1/2 (Spring, 2015): 30-48
  10. ^ Ulali; Pura Fé. "All My Relations". YouTube. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Farmyard Symphony"


  • GlobalSecurity.org (2004) 4th Squadron 7th Cavalry Regiment Retrieved
  • Lewis Winstock, Songs & Music of the Redcoats, 1642–1902, (1970)
  • Walter Wood, The Romance of Regimental Marches, (1932)
  • 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers connection to the early history of Garryowen: Royal Irish Lancers
  • 1st Squadron 7th Cavalry (history, song, etc.): US Army site
  • 1st Cavalry Division (history): US Army site
  • General Information: (2004.03.17) The "American Soldier" blog, no name or expertise cited, but the information is well written, complete and meshes with other sources. Retrieved 2004.12.10.

External linksEdit