“Bachelor's Walk”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1914 (OLochlainn)
Keywords: Ireland rebellion death
Found in: Ireland

Description

The singer describes "the murderous outrage that took place in Dublin Town." Armed Irish rebels came to Dublin, and disturbances followed. In the confusion, the King's Own Scottish regiment kills three people

Notes

This song illustrates clearly the sad state of Anglo-Irish relations in the early twentieth century. The British troops (who, according to George Danderfield's _The Damnable Question_, p. 121, were not trained in riot work) were doing their best to keep order -- but the Irish called them "cowards" and "murderers."

The massacre came about as a result of rising tensions in Ireland. Many in Britain were ready to grant the Irish Home Rule (internal self government; see, e.g., "Home Rule for Ireland") -- but the folk of Ulster feared the Catholics so much that they formed paramilitary forces and began smuggling in guns. The rest of the Irish also started to organize armies.

The British were in an uncomfortable situation; they had to put more soldiers in the streets. Unfortunately, the soldiers were met by catcallers and stone throwers.

The Bachelor's Walk massacre was the result of just such a provocation. According to Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being volume II of _The Green Flag_, pp. 214-215, the soldiers had been sent out to try to stop some arms-runners. They failed -- sort of. The British law of the time was peculiar: Owning firearms was permitted, but importing them was not. Had the British caught the arms coming in, they could have impounded them. But by the time the soldiers arrived, the arms (some 15,000 rifles and 100,000 rounds of ammunition, according to Ulick O'Connor, _Michael Collins & The Troubles_, p. 60) had been distributed and therefore legal. Besides, the Irish Volunteers scattered when they saw the soldiers. But in the process, the soldiers loaded their guns, and did not unload. (Or so it was reconstructed later.)

So the soldiers started back, to be greeted by a jeering mob. An officer told the troops to face the crowd; he wanted to address the demonstrators. The report is that he did not know the soldier's guns were loaded. He held up his hand for silence. Someone apparently took this as a signal to fire, and the rest of the troops, who were being severely goaded, joined in.

The net toll of the "massacre," according to Kee, was three Irish dead (none of them among the thousand or so soldiers who provoked the riots) and 38 wounded (O'Connor claims four killed and 38 wounded) -- but the British troops (King's Own Scottish Borderers), though they suffered no fatalities, also took their share of injuries.

This is not to say that the British were entirely without fault. Calton Younger, in _Ireland's Civil War_, p. 23, notes that both Nationalists and Unionists were running guns. The British hadn't done much when the Ulster Volunteers had marched earlier in the week, but they watched the Irish Volunteers closely, resulting in the tragedy.

For some reason, Galvin spells the name of this song "Batchelor's Walk," which I followed in the first version of the Index because it was the only version I'd seen. But the first four genuine histories I checked -- Younger, Dangerfield, O'Connor, and Kee -- prefer the more normal spelling "Bachelor's Walk." - RBW

Historical references

References

  1. PGalvin, pp. 55-56, "Batchelor's Walk" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. OLochlainn 100, "Bachelor's Walk: Mournful Lines on the Military Outrage in Dublin" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #3049
  4. BI, PGa055