“The Battle of the Navvies”


"We burnt the Bully Beggarman." Led by Mick Kenna "the Navvies left their work" firing pistols and throwing rocks through the windows of a school. When they saw us they fled. Challenged, we beat them again. Now we help "to crush those fearful Riots"


Leyden: "The protagonists in these disturbances were the Protestants of Sandy Row and the Catholics of the nearby Pound area (now the Divis Flats area)." [And still, a century later and more, a border between Catholic and Protestant areas, and a trouble spot - RBW] The Catholic navvies were "engaged in the excavation of the New Docks." "Never before had there been rioting on such a scale with widespread shooting, intimidation and looting of gunsmiths, resulting in death, injury and destruction."

The conflict began when the foundation stone for a statue of Daniel O'Connell, "the Bully Beggarman," was laid in Dublin. That evening Sandy Row Protestants burned an effigy of O'Connell in Belfast. The next day a crowd of more than 400, mostly navvies, rushed Brown Square School while it was full of children. The Protestants in the fights were workers from foundries and shipyard. Mick Kenna was editor of the nationalist _Ulster Observer_. (source: Leyden) For notes on Daniel O'Connell see "Erin's Green Shore [Laws Q27]."

See the notes to "The Boys of Sandy Row" for comments on sectarian riots earlier and later in the same Belfast area. - BS

Historical references

  • Aug 8-23, 1864 - Sectarian Belfast riots about Dublin Daniel O'Connell statue (source: Leyden)


  • Bodleian, Firth b.34(12), "Battle of the Navvies" ("We burnt the Bully Beggarman, for him our scorn expressed"), The Poet's box (Glasgow), Sep 3, 1864


  1. Leyden 41, "The Battle of the Navvies" (1 text)
  2. BI, Leyd041


Alternate titles: “cf. "Battle of the Diamond" (tune)”; “cf. "The Orange Riots in Belfast" (subject)”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1864 (broadside, Bodleian Firth b.34(12))