Niall Toner sings of the Last Wolf on The Mountain

Wolves were very common in Ireland, for at least 40,000 years, until in the early 17th century the country was even gained a nickname, ‘Wolf Land.’ Prior to that time the wolf population was high due to limited interference, since so few people lived there. Wolves thrived in the vast forests that dominated the country, and the abundance of food in the form of deer, boar, and rabbits that they found therein.

As the human population grew and farmers kept sheep that were easy prey to wolves, they badly affected the farmers’ businesses. As a consequence, legislation was introduced to rid the Ireland of the menace with a bounty of £3.00 per for each wolf that was killed. 

Later, in the Cromwellian-era, 1652 actually, the bounty for a female was set at £6.00 with lower sums for the male and younger members of the breed. 

Bounty hunters from Europe, many of whom were from England, came to find and kill the wolves for the cash rewards on offer. 

They were eventually wiped out totally, and the last wild wolf in Ireland was hunted down and killed in 1786 near Mount Leinster, which straddles the border between Counties Carlow and Wexford, in the province of Leinster.

Niall Toner has shared a performance video of the song Last Wolf on The Mountain, which he wrote with Paddy Kiernan, a young banjo player from Dublin. Toner tells the story of their demise from the final wolf’s perspective.

Toner cites the inspiration for the song as coming from, “a beautiful piece of writing by John McKenna, on RTE Radio One’s Sunday Miscellany.” 

The musicians on the recording are Niall Toner (guitar and vocals), Keith Sewell (mandolin and second guitar), Richard Gladney (bass), Johnny Gleeson (reso-guitar), Paddy Kiernan (banjo), and Keith Sewell (percussion). 

Tracking was at the Toolshed, Nashville, and the Orchard Studios, Enniscorthy, Ireland, with engineering by Keith Sewell and production by Niall Toner.

The video was shot, edited and directed by Fiaz Farrelly, with the filming on Mount Leinster.

Niall says that, “In the making of the film, very special thanks are due to Matt Byrne for the use of his drone and flying skills and to Peter Evers for the use of a second camera.”

This is the second single, following Myles Walter Keogh, from Toner’s new album, Between the Stone Fox and The Culm Crusher, on Avalon Records, that is due for release in March 2020. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.