McDermott Roe heads the Roscommon Defenders but is taken, tried and convicted. He is taken to Dublin to hang in spite of his parents' wealth. "To back the poor against the rich with them did not agree, And so McDermott Roe must die in shame and misery"
Bold McDermott Roe Partial text(s) *** A *** Bold M'Dermott From James N. Healy, ed., The Mercier Book of Old Irish Street Ballads, Volume Two (1969), #13, pp. 50-51. Source not indicated. Come all you wild young gentlemen so reckless and so bold, My hardships and my miseries I'm going to unfold. M'Dermott is my name, a gentleman of birth well known, And by my wicked follies to wicked curses I was prone. I headed the Defenders, became their captain it is truth, In the county of Roscommon I was called the undaunted youth. One thousand men at my command no rent or taxes should be paid, For to face an army I was brought, and of them I was not afraid. (5 additional stanzas)
In the late eighteenth century, as more legitimate Irish nationalists combined to form the United Irishmen, a more extreme branch went on to form the Defenders, devoted to defending Catholicism against the Protestants, notably in Ulster.
The Defenders, though they started mostly by demonstrating against the Protestant Peep o' Day Boys, eventually attacked a group of the latter -- who, though outnumbered, were victorious and eventually turned into the Orange Society.
The precipitating event was the so-called Battle of the Diamond, a riot "won" by the Protestants in September 1795 (see Robert Kee, _The Most Distressful Country_, being Volume I of _The Green Flag_, p. 71).
The Defenders, poor and Catholic, continued to grow after this, and the British, with their brilliant ability to always do the wrong thing in Ireland, cracked down ever harder. This song no doubt tells of one of the victims of that oppression -- though one suspects that McDermott Roe was probably guilty of more than just politics; the Defenders engaged in quite a bit of looting and burning.
For another song on the battles between these two groups, see "The Noble Ribbon Boys." For the Battle of the Diamond itself, see "The Battle of the Diamond." - RBW