"At Boulavogue, as the sun was setting... A rebel hand set the heather blazing And brought the neighbors from far and near." Father Murphy's rebels for a time defeat the English, but at last are defeated and Murphy executed


Zimmermann pp. 65: "The ceremonies marking the centenary of the 1798 rebellion brought out a new flow of ballads, (the best was song [Zimmermann] 90)"

Zimmermann 90: "P.J. McCall most probably found the inspiration for this song in the old ballads "Come all you warriors" and "Some treat of David" (Songs [Zimmermann] 10 and 11), though he never borrowed more than half-a-line at a time." - BS

Boulavogue is a small town in County Wexford.

Although many parts of Ireland rose in rebellion in 1798, the revolts were uncoordinated and much too late; the leaders of the rebellion, for the most part, were already in British hands (the British authorities arrested most leaders of the United Irishmen in March 1798; the last major leader, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, was taken into custody, mortally wounded, on May 19. For more about him, see the notes to "Edward (III) (Edward Fitzgerald)").

The Irish had been waiting for foreign help, but it was not forthcoming (for the Bantry Bay fiasco and the Battle of Camperdown, see the notes on "The Shan Van Vogt").

What was left of the organization (which wasn't much, really; with the leaders gone, there was no way to coordinate a rebellion) decided to proceed with their planned attack Dublin on May 23. The idea was to pin down the British leaders. Unfortunately, the United Irishmen had nothing left in Dublin; all the forces there were dispersed.

In Ulster, rebellion did break out, but it was so uncoordinated that it really amounted to little more than rioting (with absolutely no coordination between Irish Catholics and Protestants, whose distrust of each other was heightened by events in Wexford), and was quickly put down.

As a result, only the Wexford uprising had any success. Led by the "Croppy Priest," Father John Murphy (for whom see especially "Father Murphy (I)"), the Catholics killed hundreds of Protestants at Vinegar Hill and other places and forced the English (who were already engaged in pacifying the county, as they feared a French invasion) to gather real forces to defeat them. But defeat them she did, with much violence -- and though the English government disclaimed the violence and offered more liberal terms, it was the violence that the Irish remembered.

The British, now led by Cornwallis, proceeded to offer generous amnesties -- only to have the French finally invade! (See "The Men of the West") - RBW

Historical references

  • May 26, 1798 - Beginning of the Wexford rebellion
  • May 27, 1798 - The Wexford rebels under Father John Murphy defeat the North Cork militia
  • June 5, 1798 - The Wexford rebels attack the small garrison (about 1400 men, many militia) at New Ross, but are repelled
  • June 21, 1798 - The rebel stronghold a Vinegar Hill is taken, and the Wexford rebellion effectively ended

Cross references


  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, "Boulavogue" (on IRClancyMakem03)
  • Davie Stewart, "Boulavogue" (on Voice08)


  1. PGalvin, pp. 28-29, "Boulavogue" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Zimmermann 90, "Father Murphy of the County Wexford" (1 text, 2 tunes)
  3. Moylan 58, "Boolavogue" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Roud #2356
  6. BI, PGa028


Author: P.J. McCall (1861-1919) (Source: Zimmermann)
Earliest date: 1898 ("First printed in the _Irish Weekly Independent_, 18th June, 1898," according to Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland Britain(Scotland(Aber))