By Paul O’Reilly
(Air: “Clare’s Dragoons” by Thomas Davis)
From ‘God Save Ireland’ to ‘The Soldier’s Song’ to ‘Kelly, the Boy from Killanne’, many of the songs rendered by Volunteers in the run up to the 1916 Rising in Wexford were marching songs. Songs of chorus to rally and inspire, to drill to, to instil a sense of comradery and pride in the county’s long tradition of rebellion. Two songs made by Enniscorthy man Padraig Kehoe were sung to a thronged Athenaeum on March 1st, 1916, in the presence of Commandant P.H. Pearse, as were songs by O’Higgins, Davis, McCall, Kearney, Mangan and Rooney, and it was in the spirit of these vibrant songs of revolution that Paul’s song ‘The Rise of Wexford Volunteers’ was made. Put to the air of ‘Clare’s Dragoon’s’, ‘The Rise’ too is a marching song. Composed of six verses, with a chorus derived from the air’s original lyric, each line serves to paint a picture of the Rising-time in Enniscorthy, of when the town was proclaimed a Republic. And in the spirit of the orations and marching songs of old, it too is a song to be sung with gusto and volume as it attempts to rally the crowd by remembering the visionaries and heroes of a waking nation.
On an April day as Dublin flamed,
At Fingal’s Ashe, the peelers aimed,
When news rang out that the tide had changed,
In Wexford soon rose Volunteers.
As rebels shook that island town,
Their Slaney tide helped rise and drown,
An empire’s reign came tumbling down
From that gallant march of Volunteers.
Arise and go for Wexford’s wrong!
Arise and go for Ireland’s right!
Arise and go to battle throng,
‘Neath an Irish flag we vow to fight.
When Mellows camped on model hills,
To fianna boys and girls taught skills,
By sunburst flags they ran their drills,
For to trod the roads as Volunteers.
“For God and Ireland” was their cry,
To strike a blow, they’d not deny.
For far too long they had stood shy,
But soon would charge as Volunteers.
At dawn they rose and assembled to
Pat Keegan’s street house known to accrue
Munitions, pikes to fuel the coup,
So forward marched the Volunteers.
Up through the Market Square they came
Until the Athenaeum became
The fortress from where they’d proclaim
And salute the flag of the Volunteers.
As Rafter, Galligan, Brennan steered,
O’er Boro train lines soon were cleared,
The R.I.C. too disappeared
From the aim of Wexford Volunteers.
The mighty strength of Antwerp’s cause
Would guard the town, uphold new laws,
No looters, drunks or covert Yoes
Could provoke the Wexford Volunteers.
As Doyle, White, Moran from the Cumann core
Prepared a commissariat for war,
All arms were seized from door-to-door
As the ranks swelled in the Volunteers.
From Rathnure’s hills, bold Ferns, Clondaw,
From Oylegate, Ballindaggin they saw,
The flag of freedom was their draw
As they marched, those gallant Volunteers.
Alas, the Easter Rising reeled,
Though Enniscorthy would not yield,
Until from Pearse, a message sealed,
Could convince the Wexford Volunteers.
As Rangers tramped May morning dew,
As rebels, leaders bade adieu,
Though Frongoch bound they’d soon renew
The rise of Wexford Volunteers.