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Billy Byrne of Ballymanus (1798)

With his cap off and his red muffler hanging across his coat, the ballad-singer is seated on a grassy ditch,
in a happy frame of mind. The last we hear him singing is a ballad of the Wexford insurrection of 1798:

Billy Byrne of Ballymanus was a man of high renown,
He was tried and hanged in Wicklow as a traitor to the Crown ;
He was taken in Dublin City, and brought to Wicklow Gaol,
And, to our great misfortune, for him they'd take no bail.

Now, when they had him taken they against him swore
That he a captain's title upon Mount Pleasant bore,
That he King George's army before all did subdue,
And with one piece of cannon marched on to Carrigua.

It would make your bosoms bleed how the traitors did explain
That Byrne well the cannon worked upon Arklow's bloody plain.
They swore he led the pikemen on with hearty right good will,
And on his retreat to Gorey three loyal men did kill.

God rest him, Billy Byrne ! May his fame for ever shine
Through Holland, France and Flanders, and all along the Rhine !
The Lord have mercy on his soul, and all such men as he
Who stand up straight for Ireland's cause and fight for liberty.

He himself does not know it, but he is one of an order that has kept the minds of the Irish people turned
towards insurrection, and breathes alive the eternal spirit of revolution.


From the NSW Newspaper the Catholic Press 19 Oct 1916 p. 6.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory