The Star of the County Down is a story of love at first sight involving a young man who sees a beautiful young girl while out walking.
He first sees her as she walks down a boreen – a small country lane – one summer morning.
She has bare feet so she is a poor girl but that doesn’t diminish her beauty.
In fact, she is so stunning that the singer has to shake himself to make sure he is actually standing there and not dreaming.
This girl is not just the Star of the County Down. She’s also considered to be the most beautiful girl in the whole of Ireland.
When the singer asks a passer-by about her, he’s told that she’s “Rosie McCann from the banks of the Bann” and that she’s “the gem of Ireland’s crown”.
The chorus emphasises this as it sweeps the four corners of Ireland from “Bantry Bay up to Derry Quay and from Galway to Dublin town”. In none of these places, or anywhere in between, is there anyone to compete with the Star of the County Down.
There are many images and metaphors that have been used by writers to express a woman’s beauty but the Star of the County Down must sure have one of the most colourful ever.
We’re told she has lovely nut brown hair and soft brown eye, a lily-white throat and smile like a rose in June. All very nice but nothing compared to the wonderful Irish, agricultural, unashamedly peasant imagery encapsulated in these two memorable lines:
“when her eyes she’d roll she’d coax, on my soul,
A spud from a hungry pig.”
The singer tells us that no woman has ever enchanted him as much as this barefoot girl with the nut brown hair. His heart is surrendered instantly to the “charms of young Rosie McCann”.
The singer doesn’t approach his newfound beauty despite being so smitten by her, or perhaps it’s because he is so smitten.
Instead, like many lovesick men before and since, he considers from afar how he might win her heart. He has our sympathy as he talks about going to the crossroads fair to impress her in his Sunday clothes. We can sympathise with him as he talks about making sheep’s eyes at her, but then he may lose us as he talks about telling her “deluding lies” to win her heart. Is that any way to treat such a beauty!