“Erin's Lovely Lee”


Singer leaves Queenstown for New York with the Fenian boys March 6, 1863. They are met by Yankees who ask about the Manchester three, Wolfe Tone's body, Captain Mackey and O'Dwyer. He thinks of going home "to float a Fenian boat down Erin's lovely Lee"


Many Irishmen fought on both sides of the American Civil War. Eventually the Fenian Brotherhood supported Civil War participation as "a training ground for the coming battle in Ireland." (source: _A Brief History of the Fenian Brotherhood_ at the Mike Ruddy site). See the notes to "Kelley's Irish Brigade," "Pat Murphy of the Irish Brigade" and "What Irish Boys Can Do" for more information.

Some of the references are anachronistic.

See "The Smashing of the Van (I)" regarding the Manchester three. The event [would take] place in 1867.

See "The Grave of Wolfe Tone" regarding his burial. Tone died in 1798.

Zimmermann p.67: "William Mackey commanded the Fenians at Ballyknockane, County Cork, in an attack upon the police barracks during the rising of 1867."

See "Michael Dwyer" and "Michael Dwyer (II)" regarding "bold O'Dwyer, the Wicklow Mountain lion." Dwyer's mountain men fought in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Robert Emmet, who was hanged in 1803 is also mentioned. - BS

Since the song is badly anachronistic (implying composition well after the fact), we might mention the one ship commissioned specifically for the Fenian movement, the submarine _Fenian Ram_. According to Lincoln P. Paine, _Ships of the World_, p. 183, this was planned in 1876, started in 1878, and finished in 1881. The goal was to use it against British warships. Like most Fenian gadgets, nothing came of it -- though it did go on exhibit during World War I to raise money for the survivors of the Easter Rising. And, according to Diana Preston, _Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy_ (Walker, 2002; I use the 2003 Berkeley edition), p. 36, she was designed by John Holland, who became disenchanted with the Fenians and went on to design another submarine which he sold to the United States Navy -- the first successful naval submarine.

For a bit more on Captain Mackey (whose 1867 exploits were too minor even to earn mention in most of the histories I checked), see the notes to "Bold Jack Donahoe."

The other historical figure mentioned in the song is "Crowley." This appears to be another anachronism, because Crowley was associated with the 1867 Fenian Uprising. Acording to Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being volume II of _The Green Flag_, "The last dramatic action [in the aftermath of Ballyhurst, for which see 'Burke's Dream' [Laws J16]] was fought on the last day of March, when three leaders of the successful raid on Knockadoon coastguard station, Peter O'Neill Crowley, McLure and Kelly were surprised in Kilclooney Wood in County Tipperary. After a running action among the trees Crowley was killed and the other two arrested -- one with a small green flag and a manual of military tactics in his pocket."

There is a song about him, "Peter Crowley," which I've heard pop-Irish bands sing as if it's traditional, but I have yet to discover any field collections. - RBW


  • Willy Clancy, "Erin's Lovely Lee" (on Voice04)


  1. OCanainn, pp. 38-39, "Down Erin's Lovely Lee" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Roud #5327
  4. BI, RcErLoLe


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1967 (recording, Willy Clancy)
Found in: Ireland