The Fenians of Cahirciveen


The historical setting for these ballads is once again the 1867 Fenian Rising. Cahirciveen and its surrounding area was one of the few areas that attempted a rising, moving to Killarney to join the Fenians there when the attempt was doomed to fail in Iveragh. The date for an uprising was set for February 12th 1867 and it aimed to overthrow the British and declare independence for Ireland. Colonel O Connor ‘did command’ the Iveragh Fenians with orders given to the three groups in the area: the Cahirciveen group to take over the Irish Constabulary Barracks; the Valentia Fenians to take over the Cable Station and destroy the communications system; and the Filemore group, who were instructed to seize and arm themselves with the weapons from the coastguard station in Kells. Despite the Irish flag being raised to the top of Ballycarbery Castle, the intention to destroy the cable station on Valentia Island and take over the Constabulary barracks in Cahirciveen never came to fruition. Owing to the presence of the HMS Gladiator in Valentia Harbour, all plans had to be abandoned. Colonel O’ Connor advised instead that his group should join the band of men in Kells and go to Killarney where the ultimate Kerry battle was to take place. Reports suggest that there were ‘between sixty and eighty men’ at Kells and that they were not made aware that the rising had by that stage been abandoned.
As in the Ballad of Johnny Golden, there is reference made in The Fenians of Cahirciveen to the shooting of a policeman by a South Kerry Fenian named Conway. The song also makes reference to a Father Meegan who gave his blessing to the men. Reports show that the South Kerry Fenians moved on Killarney. The police had been informed, however, of the attempted uprising and were ready and prepared. ‘Some were shot, others arrested, and many of them successfully escaped into the mountains.’ Colonel O’ Connor managed to escape and reportedly hid in caves while waiting his ship to America, dying three years after.

Source: The Fenian Rising 1867, The Old Barracks, Cahirciveen..

Sinéad Joy

I am a bold Fenian from Cahirciveen,
that late took my gun for to fight for the green;
o'er mountains and woodlands I wandered along
now I leave it alone and commence up my song.

We marched to Kells station that lies near the strand
where the sea rushes in with wild waves to the land;
and then you may say we had courage go leor
when Kells station was taken by the boys of Filemore.

We were proud of our country, and our heroes so brave,
and we spurned the false counsel that's given by the slave,
who would sell his own country for comfort and gold,
who would spy on his brothers the Fenians so bold.

But the warm hand of friendship forever is seen
in the soldiers of Ireland, who fight for the green,
who scorn, 'fore the tyrants their heads to bend low,
who strike dumb with terror the false Saxon foe.

We spurned all their jails, and their turnkeys as well,
as to turncoat informers, we'd sure give them hell,
for we feared neither jail not the scaffold on high,
and we'd sworn for ould Ireland to conquer or die;

as to buckshot and powder, we'd plenty in store,
and in deep, secret places, munitions go leor,
there were no men more feared by the troops of the Queen,
then the bold hearted Fenians of Cahirciveen.

We were loved by young women, both buxom and strong,
in their red-flannel petticoats singing a song,
in their shawls and their bodices neatly arrayed,
with their beautiful forms so correctly displayed,

who would stir any man to great exploits of fame,
to win for Ould Ireland a true honoured name,
to fight for their honour before any Queen,
like the true-hearted Fenians of Cahirciveen.

We marched all along and our guns we did load
we then met a policeman, on horse-back he rode
we asked him to surrender but the answer was 'No',
and a ball from young Conway soon levelled him low,

away we marched on and our guns did reload
we met Father Meegan and for him low we bowed,
he gave us his blessing saying 'God be your friend
in the battle of Freedom on which you are bent.'

Come shoulder your arms, come march and obey,
but alas! We were beaten all on the next day
our plans were found out by some dirty old spy
and on Captain Moriarty they did cast an eye.

Moriarty came in on the mail car next day
to lead all our brave boys to join in the fray,
to our greatest surprise he was marched into jail,
which left us in sorrow our loss to bewail.

'Gainst their grape shot and cannon we fought to the last,
'spite their bayonets and red coats we stuck to our mast,
tho' the peelers may march with their battering ram,
for their batons and law, sure we don't give a damn!

And their bailiffs may come, hedged around by cold steel,
but one charge from our boys would make traitor heads reel,
for the cleanest of fighters that ever were seen,
were the true-hearted Fenians of Cahirciveen.

Then it's off thro' the mountains we all took our course,
our stomachs being slack and we had but bad clothes,
we were in a number about sixty strong,
surrounded by red coats for something went wrong,

then hurrah for the Fenians of Cahirciveen,
no bolder nor braver in Erin was seen;
no soldiers more true to the banner of green
than the true-hearted Fenians of Cahirciveen.