Some songs get remade over, revised and re-told like old tribal tales whiskey in the jar is one of them Truth is it really isn’t any ones original song. The core of the lyrics can be directly linked to a contemporary broadside ballad “Patrick Fleming” (also called “Patrick Flemmen he was a Valiant Soldier”) about an Irish highwayman executed in 1650. But many parts of the tale told in song goes as far back as 55BC which started the main occupation of Britain by the Romans.
“Whiskey in the Jar” is the tale of a highwayman or footpad who, after robbing a military or government official, is betrayed by a woman; whether she is his wife or sweetheart is not made clear. Various versions of the song take place in Kerry, Kilmoganny, Cork, Sligo Town, and other locales throughout Ireland. It is also sometimes placed in the American South, in various places among the Ozarks or Appalachians, possibly due to Irish settlement in these places. Names in the song change, and the official can be a Captain or a Colonel, called Farrell or Pepper among other names. The protagonist’s wife or lover is sometimes called Molly, Jenny, or Ginny among various other names. The details of the betrayal are also different, being either betraying him to the person he robbed and replacing his ammunition with sand or water, or not, resulting in his killing the person.
So no matter what version you like or perhaps read about know some stories handed down over the years survive in one form or another. But like the game of telephone some of the details change for the times or perhaps by the storyteller to maximize their goal. Whiskey in the Jar is a fantastic tale and a great song.