“The Banished Defender”


"For the sake of my religion I was forced to leave my native home." "They swore I was a traitor and a leader of the Papist band, For which I'm in cold irons, a convict in Van Diemen's Land ... as a head leader of Father Murphy's Shelmaliers"


At the end of the eighteenth century the Catholic "Defenders" were opposed to the Protestant "Peep o'Day Boys" or "Orangemen" (source: Zimmermann). - BS

The attribution of this to a Defender is rather peculiar. The Defenders certainly took part in the 1798 rising (see, e.g., "Bold McDermott Roe"), and they, unlike the United Irishment, were definitely Catholic -- but they were almost all concentrated in Ulster. To encounter one serving under Father Murphy in Wexford seems somewhat improbable. One suspects the author didn't want the singer to be associated with the more secular United Irishmen.

Robert Kee quotes this in _The Most Distressful Country_ (being Volume I of _The Green Flag_), p. 126. This version is unlikely on at least two counts -- notably, if the singer had indeed been taken with his weapons, as described in the song, he would most likely have been killed on the spot.

"Harry's Breed" refers to Henry VIII, who converted England (but not Ireland, nor Scotland for that matter) to Protestantism. But the charge is false; most of the troops who put down the 1798 rebellion were Irish and Catholic.

Healy's version at least refers to "Moses and Ely." That should be "Eli," the High Priest at the end of the period of the Judges; his story is intertwined with that of his young attendant Samuel in the early chapters of I Samuel.

The song also states that Jesus was crucified with "rusty" nails. There is no evidence of this in the Bible (though it's likely enough).

The song refers to "Luther's breed and Calvin's seed." The Anglican church, however, derives its doctrines neither from Luther nor Calvin. There were Calvinists in Ireland (the Dissenters of Ulster), but at least some of them were on the side of the rebels.

Finally, I can't help but comment on the strange allusion to Transubstantiation. Yes, this was a Catholic doctrine not shared by Protestants, but even if you can accept the theological twisting behind the doctine, it is based primarily not on the sixth chaptier of John (which talks about the Bread of Life but doesn't say that the communion bread becomes the flesh of Jesus) but the Last Supper (Mark 1422fff. and parallels). Nor is it likely that one of the Irish rebels could quote the relevant scriptures. - RBW

Cross references


  • Bodleian, 2806 b.10(10), "The Banish'd Defender," H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also Harding B 15(5b), "The Banished Defender"; 2806 c.15(215), "The Brave Defenders"


  1. Zimmermann 24, "The Banished Defender" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Moylan 70, "The Banished Defender" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Healy-OISBv2, pp. 56-58, "The Brave Defenders" (1 text)
  4. Roud #13469
  5. BI, Zimm024


Author: "Most probably by James Garland [d. c.1842]" (according to Zimmermann)
Earliest date: c.1800 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland