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Ireland and Napoleon Bonaparte (1897)
(By Isidore, in the Shan Van Vocht, December, 1897.)

'In the era of General Hoche and General Bonaparte,' writes Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, in his "Young Ireland,"
"France had been the asylum of banished Irish insurgents, and the reproach of belonging to a French party in
Ireland meant to imply a party conspiring for a foreign invasion ; and though, in truth, the hope of French,
assistance had for nearly a generation died out of practical politics or dwindled into a vague tradition,
'Boney' was still a pleasant and familiar sound to the ears of an Irish peasant." Those who were not acquainted with
the old people who have passed away--those massive old men in great frieze coats and knee breeches--cannot fully
appreciate the truth of these words. The first version of the "Shan Van Vocht" I ever heard was from an old man who
has long since gone to a better world. One verse ran as follows:--

Boney's on the shore,
Says the Shan Van Vocht ;
Boney's on the shore,
Says the Shan Van Van Vocht ;
Boney's on the shore,
I hear his cannons roar, There'll be Orangemen no more,
Says the Shan Van Vocht.

The Ulster variant of the "Wearing of the Green" has pretty much the same kind of faith in "Boney." The poor Irish
exile, after going down to Belfast "to see that seaport gay," and also to take farewell of his aged parents, goes
on to tell of his voyage to Paris : --

'Twas early the next morning
Our gallant ship set sail,
Kind Heaven did protect her
With a pleasant Irish gale.
We landed safe in Paris,
Where victualling was cheap--
They knew we were United,
We wore Green on the cape !

We wore Green on the cape,
We Avore Green on the cape !
They treated us like brothers,
For the Green on the cape !

Then forward stepped young Boney,
And took me by the hand,
Saying, "How is old Ireland,
And how does she stand?"
"It's as poor distressed a nation
As ever you have seen ;
They are hanging men and women
For the wearing of the Green !"

" Boney," according to the balladist, does not put the poor Croppy off with a sore heart, for he gives him good
encouragement; tells him he will send an army with him who will make his enemies " curse and 'rue the day that
e'er they saw the Green." The ballad then concludes as follows :--

Oh, may the winds of Freedom
Soon send young Boney o'er,
And we'll plant the Tree of Liberty
Upon our Shamrock shore ;
Oh, we'll plant it with our weapons
While the English tyrants gape,
To see their bloody flag tore down
To the Green on the cape !

Oh, the wearing the Green !
Oh, the wearing the Green !
God grant us soon to see that day,
And freely wear the green !

General Hoche, who was a real and sincere friend of Ireland, is never mentioned in any popular ballad of the
period, while "Boney" is the theme of several. This is ever and always the way. Great men dwarf all their
contemporaries. Buonaparte deserted the Irish cause at the supreme moment, and left the Irish rebels to their
fate. The best and clearest account I can find of the third and last French expedition to Ireland and its
failure is that given by Thomas Darcy Magee in his "History of Ireland."


From the Sydney journal Freeman's Journal 22 Jan 1898 p. 5.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory