“Billy Byrne of Ballymanus”


In (17)99, United commander Billy Byrne is caught in Dublin and brought to Wicklow jail. Informers Dixon, Doyle, Davis, and Doolin swear he fought at Mount Pleasant, Carrigrue and Arklow. He is hanged. The devil has a warm corner for the informers


Knowing the subject of this song is a bit tricky; it appears that there were *two* Irish rebels from the 1798 rising named William Byrne, both of Wicklow, and both ending their lives on the scaffold. This Billy Bryrne is, in terms of the history of the rebellion, the lesser-known; if you read a history of the 1798 Rebellion, you're more likely to encounter the other:

William Byrne was the son of Garrett Byrne, a Catholic squire. He was a United Irish delegate from Wicklow, and a colonel in the United army around the time of New Ross.

He was taken to Dublin for trial in the summer of 1798.

According to Thomas Pakenham's _The Year of Liberty_, p. 287, the chief witness against him was Thomas Reynolds, a paid informant. Byrne was one of the few delegates whose guilt was so obvious that the government felt sure it could convict him.

Pakenham date his execution to the end of July 1798. It was one of a series of five, and it encouraged the 80 or so other United leaders in custody to agree to tell all in return for emigrating to the United States. (Their alternative, of course, was being tried and, probably, hanged.) Among those who took that deal was Thomas Addis Emmet, the brother of Robert. - RBW

Apparently broadside Bodleian, Harding B 40(12), "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus" ("Come all you loyal heroes, pay attention to my song"), J.F. Nugent and Co.? (Dublin?), 1850-1899 is this song but I could not download and verify it.

OLochlainn-More: "An authentic 1798 ballad still popular after more than 160 years." - BS

Historical references

  • September 26, 1799 - Billy Byrne executed in Wicklow Town. (source: Moylan)

Cross references

  • cf. "The Wicklow Mountains High" (subject)


  1. OLochlainn-More 15, "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Zimmermann 12, "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus" (3 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Moylan 124, "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Healy-OISBv2, pp. 68-71, "Billy Byrne of Ballymanus (1) (2)" (2 texts; 1 tune on pp. 21-22)
  5. Roud #2376
  6. BI, OLcM015


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1798 (OLochlainn-More)
Found in: Ireland