“Follow Me Up to Carlow”


"Lift, Mac Cahir Oge, your face... Curse and swear, Lord Kildare! Feagh will do what Feagh will dare -- Now, FitzWilliam, have a care...." The singer hails the Irish rebels and their victory over FitzWilliam


The rebellions of the sixteenth century occurred at a time when English rule in Ireland was still very weak and incomplete, and began not as battles between Irish and English but as civil wars between Irish chieftains. The English, to preserve their power, often interfered with these quarrels.

An example was the conflict between the Earl of Ormond and the Earl of Desmond. Both were summoned to London, but Ormond was soon freed, while Desmond (Gerald Fitzgerald) and his cousin, James FitzMaurice Fitzgerald, spent time in English prisons.

The flashpoint came in 1569, when the Englishman Sir Peter Carew claimed certain of the holdings of Fitzgeralds and the Butlers in Carlow. The problem was made worse when, in 1570, the Pope excommunicated Elizabeth of England. FitzMaurice started a rebellion (quashed in 1573), though Desmond himself, crippled and irresolute, took no part.

Desmond spent some time in a sort of protective custody, but eventually escaped and was briefly frightened from his lethargy. He tried to create a strong position, and Elizabeth's new deputy, William FitzWilliam, did not at that time have the strength to oppose him.

FitzMaurice fled Ireland in 1575, having been set aside by his cousin Desmond. But he returned in 1579 with foreign aid (though only about 300 soldiers reached Ireland; the remaining 3000 men he had been promised had been frittered away before FitzMaurice set sail). FitzMaurice was soon killed, but the Europeans continued to meddle, and new forces landed. Desmond was finally forced into rebellion, and the English forced to send reinforcements, but the rebellion was put down by 1583.

The battle of Glen Malure was an extremely minor by-blow of the second rebellion, and led to nothing. It was, however, one of the few Irish triumphs of the campaign. The story is that the tune was composed on the spot; whether true or not, P. J. McCall added the words to commemorate the event. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1569-1573 - First "Desmond Rebellion"
  • 1579-1583 - Second "Desmond Rebellion"
  • 1580 - Feagh MacHugh defeats Lord Grey of Wilton at Glen Malure


  1. PGalvin, pp. 90-91, "Follow Me up to Carlow" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BI, PGa090


Author: Words: P. J. McCall
Earliest date: 1962
Found in: Ireland