Boolavogue (song)

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Boolavogue is an Irish ballad commemorating the campaign of Father John Murphy and his army in Wexford during the 1798 Rising.. It was composed by Patrick Joseph McCall in 1898, the centenary of the Rebellion, issued by Irish Noíníns (Dublin 1894).[1]

The ballad covers the victories of Father John Murphy of the town of Boolavogue in County Wexford as he led his parishioners in routing the Camolin Cavalry on 26 May 1798, to defeat the British at Oulart Hill, as well as at Enniscorthy. The Wexford insurgents fought bravely against professional troops, and were eventually defeated at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on 21 June. Father Murphy and the other leaders were hanged.

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

Liam Gaul [2] states that Boolavogue is the song most closely associated with PJ McCall, and has become an anthem for Wexford. Gaul notes 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 Fr Murphy of the County Wexford. This 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 the song became widely known as Boolavogue.

McCall was from Dublin, but often visited Wexford, and was familiar with its history and geography. Boolavogue contains references to people and places that played a major part in the 1798 Rising.

Father Murphy was a 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 burned down the homes of his parishioners they suspected of rebellion. The Lieutenant Thomas Bookey whose 'regiment' is mentioned in the song 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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