"Star of the County Down" is an Irish ballad set near Banbridge in County Down, in Northern Ireland. The words are by Cathal MacGarvey (1866–1927) from Ramelton, County Donegal. The tune is traditional, and may be known as "Dives and Lazarus" or (as a hymn tune) "Kingsfold".
The melody was also used in an Irish folk song called "My Love Nell". The lyrics of "My Love Nell" tell the story of a young man who courts a girl but loses her when she emigrates to America. The only real similarity with "Star of the County Down" is that Nell too comes from County Down. This may have inspired MacGarvey to place the heroine of his new song in Down as well. MacGarvey was from Donegal.
"The Star of the County Down" uses a tight rhyme scheme. Each stanza is a double quatrain, and the first and third lines of each quatrain have an internal rhyme on the second and fourth feet: [aa]b[cc]b. The refrain is a single quatrain with the same rhyming pattern.
The song is sung from the point of view of a young man who chances to meet a charming lady by the name of Rose (or Rosie) McCann, referred to as the "star of the County Down". From a brief encounter the writer's infatuation grows until, by the end of the ballad, he imagines himself marrying the girl.
The song usually begins with the opening verse:
Near Banbridge town, in the County Down,
One morning last July
Down a boreen green came a sweet cailín,
And she smiled as she passed me by