Boolavogue (song)

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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 against 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 of 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 Slieve Coilte our pikes were reeking
With the crimson blood 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 a rack.

God grant you glory, brave Father Murphy
And open Heaven to all your men,
The cause that called you may call tomorrow
In another fight for the Green again.

"Boolavogue" is a famous Irish ballad commemorating the Irish Rebellion of 1798. It was composed by Patrick Joseph McCall in 1898, for the centenary of the Rebellion issued Irish Noíníns (Dublin 1894).[1]

Father John Murphy of the town of Boolavogue in County Wexford led his parishioners in routing the Camolin Cavalry on 26 May 1798. The Wexford insurgents were eventually defeated at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on 21 June and Father Murphy and the other rebel leaders were hanged.

McCall, who also composed the popular Irish ballads "Kelly the Boy from Killanne" and "Follow Me up to Carlow", wrote "Boolavogue" to the old Irish air "Eochaill" ("Youghal Harbour"). The tune had previously been used in the Australian traditional song "Moreton Bay", about an Irish convict's travails in Australia, and was also used by Seán Ó Riada as part of the film score for Mise Éire (1959). The song is inspired by songs contemporary to the events of 1798 such as Come All You Warriors.

Liam Gaul [2] describes how Boolavogue is the song most closely associated with P J McCall and has become an anthem for County Wexford. Gaul points out that Boolavogue was not published in any of McCall’s literary works and was first printed in the Irish Independent on 18 June 1898 under the title of, Fr Murphy of the County Wexford.

This same title was still being used when it appeared in the 1922 edition of Padraig Breathnach’s Songs of the Gael. It was only later that it became more widely known as Boolavogue.

McCall was from Dublin but often visited Wexford and was familiar with its history and geography. Boolavogue contains several references to local characters and places that played a major part in the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Father Murphy was a local priest who at first tried to persuade people not to take part in the rebellion. He changed his opinion and became a reluctant rebel leader after soldiers burnt down the homes of some of his parishioners while searching for rebels. The main antagonist of the song, Lieutenant Thomas Bookey, was the leader of the Yeoman Cavalry in the Boolavogue area.


  1. ^ P. J. McCall
  2. ^ Glory O! Glory O! The Life of PJ McCall by Liam Gaul, The History Press Ireland, 2011

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