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1798 Ballads & Poems

The 1798 rebellion has inspired many of our most popular ballads and songs. Many of the best known ballads about the events of 1798 were not written until the second half of the 19th century. Among the most famous of these are “At Boolavogue” and “Kelly from Killanne” composed by P. J. McCall.

“At Boolavogue”

At Boolavogue as the sun was setting
O’er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier,
A rebel hand set the heather blazing
And brought the neighbours from far and near.
Then Father Murphy, from old Kilcormack,
Spurred up the rocks with a warning cry,
“Arm, Arm!” he cried, “for I’ve come to lead you,
For Ireland’s freedom we’ll fight or die.”
He led us on ’gainst the coming soldiers,
And the cowardly Yeomen we put to flight;
’Twas at the Harrow the boys of Wexford
Showed Bookey’s regiment how men could fight.
Look out for hirelings, King George of England,
Search every kingdom where breathes a slave.
For Father Murphy from the County Wexford
Sweeps o’er the land like a mighty wave
We took Camolin and Enniscorthy,
And Wexford storming drove out our foes;
‘Twas at Sliabh Coillte our pikes were
reeking with crimson stream of the beaten Yeos.
At Tubberneering and Ballyellis
Full many a Hessian lay in his gore,
Ah, Father Murphy, had aid come over
The green flag floated from shore to shore!
At Vinegar Hill, o’er the pleasant Slaney,
Our heroes vainly stood back to back,
And the Yeos at Tullow took Father Murphy
And burned his body upon the rack.
God grant you glory, brave Father Murphy,
And open heaven to all your men;
The cause that called you may call to-morrow
In another fight for the Green again.



“Kelly the boy of Killane”

What’s the news, what’s the news oh my bold Shelmalier
With your long barrelled guns from the sea
Say what wind from the south brings a messenger here
With the hymn of the dawn for the free
Goodly news, goodly news do I bring youth of Forth
Goodly news shall you hear Bargy man
For the boys march at dawn from the south to the north
Led by Kelly the boy from Killane
Tell me who is that giant with the gold curling hair
He who rides at the head of your band
Seven feet is his height with some inches to spare
And he looks like a king in command
Ah my boys that’s the pride of the bold Shelmaliers
‘Mongst greatest of hero’s a man
Fling your beavers aloft and give three ringing cheers
For John Kelly the boy from Killane
Enniscorthy’s in flames and old Wexford is won
And tomorrow the Barrow we will cross
On a hill o’er the town we have planted a gun
That will batter the gateway to Ross
All the Forth men and Bargy men will march o’er the heath
With brave Harvey to lead in the van
But the foremost of all in that grim gap of death
Will be Kelly the boy from Killane
But the gold sun of freedom grew darkened at Ross
And it set by the Slaney’s red waves
And poor Wexford stripped naked, hung high on a cross
With her heart pierced by traitors and slaves
Glory-o, glory-o to her brave sons who died
For the cause of long down trodden man
Glory-o to Mount Leinster’s own darling and pride
Dauntless Kelly the boy from Killane.



“The Rising of the Moon”

“O then, tell me Sean O’Farrell,
tell me why you hurry so?”
“Hush a bhuachaill, hush and listen”
And his cheeks were all aglow
“I bear orders from the Capt’n
Get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together
At the rising of the moon”
By the rising of the moon,
By the rising of the moon
For the pikes must be together
At the rising of the moon”
“O then tell me Sean O’Farrell
Where the gath’rin is to be?
In the old spot by the river,
Well known to you and me.
One more word for signal token,
Whistle up the marchin’ tune,
With your pike upon your shoulder,
By the rising of the moon.
By the rising of the moon,
By the rising of the moon
With your pike upon your shoulder,
By the rising of the moon.