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24 September 2014
Wars and Conflict - Rebel Songs

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The ballad maker has also recorded the atrocities of the Black and Tans. In many parts of the Republic of Ireland the traveler often comes across small roadside monuments commemorating an ambush or the death of a republican volunteer. If you were to investigate further you would probably discover that there was also a song written to commemorate the same event. In a field in Gortaglanna in County Kerry, there are three crosses bearing the names of Padraic Dalton, Padraic Walsh and Diarmuid Lyons, who were shot by the Black and Tans in the Valley of Knockanure. The song that commemorates their deaths is one of the finest examples of this type of narrative ballad.

The Valley of Knockanure

You may sing and speak about Easter week and the heroes of ninety eight.
Of Fenian men who roamed the glen in victory or defeat,
Of those who died on the scaffold high or outlawed on the moor,
But no word was said of our gallant dead in the Valley of Knockanure.

There was Padraic Dalton and Padraic Walsh they were known both far and wide,
In every house in every town they were always side by side,
A Republic bold they did uphold though outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they bravely died in the Valley of Knockanure.

‘The Treaty’ which was signed in London on 6th December 1921, established the ‘Irish Free State’. The republican members of the Dáil opposed it and the resulting Civil War saw old comrades who were previously united in their struggle against British rule now bitterly opposed to each other.

Many of the songs written during the civil war were written by and for those who fought on the republican side. They invariably dealt with the atrocities of the Free State troops and the betrayal of the republican ideal of a thirty-two county Ireland. The song Take It Down From the Mast captures the sense of betrayal felt by those who took up arms against the new state. It is perhaps surprising that one seldom hears a song in praise of the two most outstanding individuals of that time, Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera. Nor does one hear a song in praise of the Irish Free State.

Take it Down from the Mast

Take it down from the mast Irish traitors,
The flag we Republicans claim,
It can never belong to Free Staters,
You brought on it nothing but shame.

Then leave it to those who are willing,
To uphold it in war and in peace,
To those who intend to continue,
Until England’s cruel tyranny cease.
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