“General Monroe”


At Ballynahinch Monro and his men fight until night. Monro pays a woman not to tell where he is hiding. She calls the army. They takes him home to Lisburn. He is hanged, beheaded and his head put on a spear. Monro's sister swears to avenge his death.

Supplemental text

General Monroe
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

General Munroe (2)

From James N. Healy, ed., The Mercier Book of Old Irish Street
Ballads, Volume Two (1969), #19, pp. 60-61. Source not indicated.

My name is George Campbell -- at the age of 16
I fought for old Erin, her rights to maintain,
And many a battle I did undergo,
Commanded by that hero called General Munroe.

But Munroe being weary, he lay down to sleep,
He gave a woman ten guineas the secret to keep,
When she got the money the devil tempted her so
She sent for the cavalry, and surrounded was Munroe.

(Stanzas 1, 6 of 10)


In the 1798 Irish Rebellion shopkeeper Henry Monro (1768-1798) led a force of the United Irishmen in a losing battle at Ballynahinch -- about 12 miles from Belfast. Monro was captured and was hanged three days later, on June 16, 1798. Source BBC History site _The 1798 Irish Rebellion_ by Professor Thomas Bartlett. - BS

Monroe (also spelled Munroe, Munro, and Monro) was, ironically, not even Irish; he was a draper, an immigrant from Scotland -- and, like Wolfe Tone among others, a Protestant. He was not a member of the United army, and had had no expectations of being appointed a general. But he ended up in command of rebel forces (or, rather, the rebel mob; it hardly qualified as an army) in Down.

Their commander was about as well equipped to be a general as his troops were to be an army; he had no military training and wasn't even particularly well educated. Nor did he have time to do anything about his troops' inadequacy even had he known what to do; Robert Kee (in _The Most Distressful Country_, being Volume I of _The Green Flag_, p. 129) reports that he took command in the county only one day before the scheduled beginning of the rising; his predecessor had been arrested.

Discipline they certainly did not have; when Monroe pressed for an attack, Catholics in particular held back (one source says they were afraid of Monroe's Presbyterianism). In a sense, they were right to be hesitant, because the troops simply weren't ready to fight. Then the Loyal troops appeared.

The sight of opposing forces caused many of Monroe's troops to desert. Monroe sent most of his best pikemen into Ballynahinch, since only in the town could they avoid the British guns. But a loyal force equipped with two cannon destroyed the rebel camp, and Major General George Nugent, commanding loyal forces in Ulster, then attacked the town. The remaining rebels were quickly routed (see Thomas Pakenham, _The Year of Liberty_, pp. 229-231). It was, for all intents and purposes, the end of the 1798 rebellion in Ulster. - RBW

The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:

Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "General Munro" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "1798 the First Year of Liberty," Hummingbird Records HBCD0014 (1998)) - BS

Historical references

  • 1798 - Irish rebellion

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 614, "General Munroe," E.M.A. Hodges (London), 1846-1854; also 2806 b.10(8), 2806 b.9(267), Firth b.26(204), Harding B 11(3562), Harding B 19(9), Firth b.25(315) [some illegible words], 2806 c.15(185), Harding B 11(1297), Harding B 11(1298), "General Munroe"; 2806 c.14(70) [partly illegible], "General Monro"; 2806 b.10(9), "General Munro"
  • Murray, Mu23-y1:024, "General Monro," James Lindsay Jr. (Glasgow), 19C


  1. Peacock, pp. 998-999, "General Munro" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. OLochlainn 65, "General Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Zimmermann 16, "General Munroe" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  4. Moylan 84, "General Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. OBoyle 12, "General Monroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Healy-OISBv2, pp. 60-61, "General Munroe (2)" (1 text); pp. 58-59, "General Munroe (1)" is a come-all-ye which appears to be a different song but which shares some verses
  8. ST Pea998 (Partial)
  9. Roud #1166
  10. BI, Pea998


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1798 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Canada(Newf) Ireland