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Carol Keogh (aka The Wicc) : A Pair Of Packed Valises (before the Dunbrody​)​, 1849

by Bring Your Own Hammer presents

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‘A Pair of Packed Valises (before the Dunbrody), 1849’ offers a striking and rich re-imagining of the departure of two women, Catherine Keogh (aged 20) and Biddy Keogh (aged 25), from Ireland to the United States. It is inspired by a passenger list from the Dunbrody, a ship, that left from New Ross, Co. Wexford for New York in early 1849, in the latter years of the Great Irish Famine. The song is based primarily on the passenger list and the decision was taken not to conduct further research on the two women until after the song was written and recorded. This would allow for a more imaginative, open and perhaps hopeful re-creation of their departure at that particular historical moment rather than offering a complete and closed story. We then conducted further research on the women after the song was completed but this research proved inconclusive as it was difficult to trace their whereabouts after landing.

There are hints in the records that Catherine may have worked as a seamstress in Buffalo and that Biddy may have made her way to New Orleans. But these are simply hints. They may also have married and taken on new surnames and have become untraceable in the historical record. Whatever their fate in the United States or reasons for leaving Ireland, the traces they left in the historical record have inspired a complex and rich composition.

The listener may want to imagine themselves standing on the quays of New Ross, Co. Wexford on a spring morning in April 1849 or observing the passengers disembarking from the ship in New York, a few weeks later, on 4 May. We are particularly delighted to release this record in May 2023 – 174 years after the Keoghs first arrived in New York.

For more on this and other songs, see:


released May 5, 2023
Written, performed and mixed by Carol Keogh (aka The Wicc).
Publishing: Copyright Control
Sleeve concept and design: Paul Callanan and Richard Mc Mahon.


all rights reserved



Bring Your Own Hammer presents Limerick, Ireland

Bring Your Own Hammer is not a band, a group, an ensemble or even a collective. If anything, it is a faction but unlike nineteenth-century factions, who met, armed with sticks and wattles in fairs and markets, it is armed with voices and instruments and dedicated, as no faction before, to the re-interpretation of historical material in song form. ... more

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