“The Brave Volunteers”


Henry leaves Margaret, his wife, and baby to volunteer "to fight 'neath a monarch of Portugal's banner." All 500 volunteers from Ireland and Scotland are lost with his ship on Galway's coast, outbound from Greenock, on Wednesday, November 28/29.

Supplemental text

Brave Volunteers, The
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

From Kenneth Peacock, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, Volume II,
pp. 358-359. Sung by Mary Ann Galpin, Codroy, September 1961.

As I roved out on one fine summer's evening
Down by some green meadow I chanced for to stray,
There I heard a poor woman in sad lamentation,
And I drew myself nearer to hear what she did say.

"My Henry and me were onlye twelve months married
When war it broke out and four volunteers they signed.
My Henry he enlisted to fight for his country,
And with hard-hearted strangers I am leaved here behind."

(Stanzas 1, 3 of 8)


Greenock is on the west coast of Scotland across the North Channel from Ireland. Galway is on the west coast of Ireland.

[The song refers to the Miguelist] War of Two Brothers [and] an expedition from Britain supporting Pedro II [November 28, 1832 was a Wednesday ]

The real work on the historical basis of the ballad is in the following notes on other sources and historical references, posted between 3/8/2004 and 3/28/2004 to [the Ballad-L mailing list] by John Moulden. The references are used with his permission. In response to my [BS] query re the possible historical basis for the ballad John looked at his source texts to help narrow the date to the Miguelista War and then pinned down the likely actual disaster.

Begin John Moulden's notes:

Other Sources:

This appears on Irish printed ballad sheets and eight page song-books

The references I have are:

8 page song book:

The bonny light horseman together with The brave volunteers. The burial of General Sir John Moore. Steady she goes all's well. Waterford. Printed at W Kelly's. Cut - oval -horse (nose at right) , left foreleg raised, unsaddled, tail up, under tree. [Walter Kelly printer evidently worked in the 1830s - the sole firm date I have for him is 1839 but he was probably working as early as 1835.]

National Library of Ireland I6551 Song books Waterford (LO560) 4(3) British Library 11621aaa16 #9

Royal Irish Academy Irish song books Volume 1 12b'11 - 7

Queen's University Belfast Massey Gibson Collection Item 7:5

Ballad sheet:

Brave Volunteers The One cold stormy night in the month of November

Trinity College Dublin John Davis White Collection 189t1 273 7 verses [8 lines] [The White Collection was made around the 1860s to 70s - this ballad has no imprint]

According to Steve Roud's Broadside index it was also printed by Such (Catalogue Entry only) and a copy is in the British Library's Crampton Collection

Further to this: Kelly, Waterford printed this song in another 8 page book:

The loss of the Brave Volunteers together with Auld Lang Syne, Shule Agra, Molly Brannigan Waterford printed at W Kelly's, National Library of Ireland I6551 Song books Waterford (LO560) 33, Dublin City Library 821.04 (Song-books 1820-1845) No 12 Dix Donation 2588

British Library 11622 b 30 #16

Trinity College Dublin Early Books 66 u 165 - 35

Royal Irish Academy Irish song books Volume 1 12b'11 - 5

I copied the copy of this in DCL. It bears a text identical in all respects but for one word to the other Kelly printing (dreams for thoughts in the Line "Dark were my thoughts that night on my pillow." ) Kelly in both versions, has the ship sailing from Greenock on December 1st and foundering on "That night of the dark 21st of December" and it is said to have been a Saturday!

The Bodleian offerings are by Such (presumably the print referred to [above]) but the print by Haly of Hanover Street is another Irish printing, made in Cork. Such dates the event [November 28], Haly [November 29]. The range of (probable) dates I can offer for Haly in his occupancy of the Hanover Street Address are 1826-1852. He occupied those premises in 1821 but is listed as a Straw Hat Maker and by 1853, he (or his daughter) had moved to South Main Street.

Historical References:

I am fortunate to have a friend, Robert Anderson of Coleraine, who is an expert on matters maritime in Ireland and has good resources. On the basis that this happened, from the likely dates that the song was printed, in the range of years 1830-35 he searched the Shipwreck Index of Ireland and came up with a probability: The Rival, a brig, Captain John Wallace which had been hired to transport soldiers to Portugal, left the Clyde bound for Oporto and was reported lost on 4th December 1832.

I then used my own resources to investigate further. Edward J Bourke Shipwrecks of the Coast of Ireland vol 3. cites Lloyd's List and gives a sailing date for the Rival of 24th November. Straw bedding and casks of rum were washed ashore. Citing the Dublin Newspaper the Freeman's Journal Bourke says it's not clear how many were aboard and says "This wreck may be the subject of a ballad."

It seems fairly conclusive. More extensive newspaper search is indicated

End of John Moulden's notes.

Further confirmation is from two notes in the London Times archives

"Yesterday the Lusitania sailed from the Broomielaw, having on board 172 men for Oporto, to join forces under Dom Pedro. n the course of the present week another vessel, the Rival, will sail from the Broomielaw, having on board 472 men, destined for the same port and service. Glasgow Chronicle of Monday" [The Times Nov 16, 1832; pg. 2; Issue 15011; Start column: D 2048 words. Elec. Coll.: CS34627440. (Copyright 2002 The Gale Group)]

"Dublin, JULY 16. The Sarah, of Pwlheli, was lately fitted up with a diving-bell and suitable apparatus for the purpose of raising 11 vessels wrecked close to the Galway shore during the last severe winter, amongst which are understood to be the Thais, Falmouth packet; the Whitbread of London, the James of Tynemouth, the Rival of Glasgow, which had Don Pedro's troops on board ..." [The Times Jul 19, 1834; pg. 7; Issue 15534; Start column: C 854 words. Elec. Coll.: CS118514419.( Copyright 2002 The Gale Group)]

The following information has been supplied by Charlie Napier, President of the Clan Napier Society, and is quoted with his permission. While looking for information about the Miguelist War that might shed some light on "The Brave Volunteers" disaster I found no helpful references. The only promising reference was a book not available to me: "An Account Of The War In Portugal Between Don Pedro And Don Miguel" by Admiral Sir Charles Napier. Since Admiral Napier was a major player in that war and apparently remained popular with volunteers from Ireland and Scotland through the early Crimean War I hoped that he would have considered a loss like the Rival to be worth a comment.

Fortunately, I came across the Clan Napier Society website and asked if there might be a reference in the 1836 book to support what was, at the time, a speculation. Charlie Napier researched the matter at the National Library of Scotland. Here is his report:

1. The book is in two volumes, with approximately 300 pages in each and about 9 inches by 5 inches.

2. The book was published in 1836, only two years after the War finished.

3. There are no dates anywhere in the main text of the book, so it is very difficult to work out which year you are in if you just dip into the book.

4. Each volume has an Appendix which contains a number of transcripts of letters, proclamations and speeches. These are dated, which is a little help.

5. There is no index in either volume, although there are voluminous "Contents Lists" at the beginning of each volume. These were really no help in trying to find the relevant passage.

6. After skim-reading Volume I from the beginning, I eventually found what I think is the passage relevant to your question.

7. It starts about two thirds of the way down page 121 and finishes about one third down page 122. It reads as follows:

"On the 5th of January nearly two hundred Scotch arrived and were put under the orders of Major Shaw, who was much pleased with having the command of his countrymen. Six hundred had been recruited in Glasgow, four hundred of whom were wrecked on the coast of Ireland, and every soul perished. This was a severe blow to the cause at a time when both men and money were so much wanted at Oporto. On the 15th a reinforcement of two hundred Portuguese arrived from the islands, and four hundred French; the whole were safely disembarked under the lighthouse, whose provisions continued to be landed, though frequently interrupted by surf."

8. There was no mention of the name of the ship that was lost and I think that the year in question must be 1833. - BS

Historical references

  • c. Dec 4, 1832 - The Rival, out of Greenock bound for Oporto in Portugal with 472 volunteer troops to support Dom Pedro in the Miguelista War, sinks off the Galway coast.


  • Bodleian, Firth c.12(120), "The Brave Volunteers" ("One cold stormy night in the month of November"), H. Such (London), 1863-1885; also Harding B 26(74), "The Brave Volunteers"


  1. Peacock, pp. 432-433, "The Brave Volunteers" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. ST Pea432 (Partial)
  3. Roud #9784
  4. BI, Pea432


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1886 (broadside, Bodleian Firth c.12(120))
Found in: Canada(Newf)