The Valley of Knockanure

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Coordinates: 52°26′52″N 9°22′56″W / 52.447779°N 9.382135°W / 52.447779; -9.382135

The Valley of Knockanure is located in island of Ireland
Location in Ireland of massacre site.

The Valley of Knockanure is the name of several ballads commemorating an atrocity that occurred during the War of Independence at Gortaglanna (Gortagleanna) near Knockanure, County Kerry, Ireland. The best-known of these was written by teacher and poet Bryan MacMahon (d. 1997) at the request of a local schoolmaster, Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin.[1]

The ballads[edit]

A song with the same title was written by Timmy Leahy who worked as a railway signalman in Listowel, where he lived. His song begins:

It was in the year of twenty-one,
All in the month of May,
Some of our noble Column boys,
Were strolling on their way,
They came from Mass that morning,
Their souls were now secure,
But little they thought that they'd be shot,
In the Valley of Knockanure.[2]

Yet another was written by local folk poet and seanchaí (traditional storyteller) Paddy Drury (1865–1945) and published in the Shannonside Annual, in 1957 and 1960. He came from The Bog Lane, Carueragh (Carhooearagh) in Knockanure. His song began:

May the Lord have mercy on those youths,
Their hearts were loyal and pure,
That were caught and shot in that lonely spot,
The Fort near Knockanure.

A song written by a P. Collins of Drombeg, based on the same events, appears to be lost.[3]

The poem written by Bryan MacMahon follows (there are numerous versions of this song, depending on the area and due to the spread of the song by word of mouth). Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin supplied MacMahon with historical details, which may have included a poem written by James Kiely Ó Mahony of Athea, or the song by Paddy Drury, upon which MacMahon based his poem.

In Joe Heaney's preamble to his version of MacMahon's song, he has Con Dee as a messenger sent by the three others to seek help. In at least one other version of McMahon's song, it is 'Walsh' who flees, and no mention is made of Con Dee.[4]

In memory of Jeremiah Lyons, Patrick Dalton and Patrick Walsh, executed by Crown Forces at Gortagleanna.

You may sing and speak about Easter Week or the heroes of Ninety-Eight,
Of the Fenian men who roamed the glen in victory or defeat,
Their names are placed on history's page, their memory will endure,
Not a song is sung for our darling sons in the Valley of Knockanure.
Our hero boys they were bold and true, no counsel would they take,
They rambled to a lonely spot where the Black and Tans did wait,
The Republic bold they did uphold though outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they bravely died in the Valley of Knockanure.
There was Walsh and Lyons and Dalton, boys, they were young and in their pride,
In every house in every town they were always side by side,
The Republic bold they did uphold though outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they bravely died in the Valley of Knockanure.
In Gortagleanna's lovely glen, three gallant men took shade,
While in young wheat, full, soft and sweet the summer breezes played,
But 'twas not long till Lyons came on, saying "Time's not mine nor your",
But alas 'twas late and they met their fate in the Valley of Knockanure.
They took them then beside a fence to where the furze did bloom,
Like brothers so they faced the foe for to meet their dreadful doom,
When Dalton spoke his voice it broke with a passion proud and pure,
"For our land we die as we face the sky in the Valley of Knockanure."
'Twas on a neighbouring hillside we listened in calm dismay,
In every house in every town a maiden knelt to pray,
They're closing in around them now with rifle fire so sure,
And Dalton's dead and Lyons is down in the Valley of Knockanure.
But ere the guns could seal his fate Con Dee had broken through,
With a prayer to God he spurned the sod and against the hill he flew,
The bullets tore his flesh in two, yet he cried with passion pure,
"For my comrades' death, revenge I'll get, in the Valley of Knockanure."
There they lay on the hillside clay for the love of Ireland's cause,
Where the cowardly clan of the Black and Tan had showed them England's laws,
No more they'll feel the soft winds steal o'er uplands fair and sure,
For side by side our heroes died in the Valley of Knockanure.
I met with Dalton's mother and she to me did say,
"May God have mercy on his soul who fell in the glen today,
Could I but kiss his cold, cold lips, my aching heart 'twould cure,
And I'd gladly lay him down to rest in the Valley of Knockanure."
The golden sun is setting now behind the Feale and Lee,
The pale, pale moon is rising far out beyond Tralee,
The dismal stars and clouds afar are darkened o'er the moor,
And the banshee cried where our heroes died in the Valley of Knockanure.
Oh, Walsh and Lyons and Dalton brave, although your hearts are clay,
Yet in your stead we have true men yet to guard the gap today,
While grass is found on Ireland's ground your memory will endure,
So God guard and keep the place you sleep and the Valley of Knockanure

Historical background[edit]

On the 12 May 1921, a troop of Black and Tans were travelling out from Listowel towards Athea when they arrested four young unarmed men in Gortaglanna. Prior to this the barracks in Listowel had been burnt out and the troops, heavy with drink and bent on revenge decided to execute the young men. The first to be shot was Jerry Lyons. When this happened, Con (Cornelius) Dee decided, as he was going to be shot anyway, to make a run for it. He did, and almost immediately took a bullet in the thigh but managed to keep going. He ran for about three miles and survived. He was never recaptured but remained in hiding until the Truce.[5] Both of the other two men were shot on the spot. Today a memorial stands by the roadside where the three died during Ireland's struggle for independence.[1] A film about the events was made in 2009.[6]



  • Paddy Tunney, Where Songs do Thunder (1991)
  • Gabriel Fitzmaurice, The World of Bryan McMahon


  1. ^ a b Fitzmaurice, Gabriel (2007). "Where History Meets Poetry : "The Valley of Knockanure"". Essay. Moyvane. Retrieved 13 September 2009. 
  2. ^ Colm O'Lochlainn, More Irish Street Ballads, pp.84-85
  3. ^ Shannonside Annual, 1957, 1958, 1960
  4. ^ Pat Conway, The Very Best Irish Songs & Ballads, (Waltons, 1999)
  5. ^ Shannonside Annual, 1958
  6. ^ Website of film

External links[edit]