“The Noble Ribbon Boys”


"It was on the first of May, my boys, in the year of thirty-one," 63 Ribbonmen went to the commons to fight Billies. On June 5 300 marched unchallenged to the commons. A health is drunk to those in jail and the "Manual and Platoon ... secrecy" is cited.


Zimmermann p. 19: "In some parts of Ulster, Protestant and Catholic tenants were mingled and contended for the land; the peasantry was thus divided into two camps, each having its oath-bound association. This led to a sort of religious war. At the end of the eighteenth century the Catholic "Defenders" were opposed to the Protestant "Peep o'Day Boys" or "Orangemen." The "Defenders were succeeded by the "Ribbonmen," (song [Zimmermann] 39). In parts of counties Tyrone and Monaghan, according to Carleton [p. 19 fn. 14: W. Carleton's _Autobiography_, p. 83], the whole Catholic population was affiliated to Ribbonism, and it would have been dangerous to avoid being involved in the system." Zimmermann 34, "Owen Rooney's Lamentation": "My prosecutor swore so stout I was the man he saw, That encouraged all the Ribbonmen that came from Lisbellaw."

Zimmermann: "The 'Billies' were the Orangemen, whose hero was William of Orange." - BS

For another song of the Defenders and Peep o' Day Boys, see "Bold McDermott Roe." For other songs of the Ulster conflicts of this period, see "The Battle That Was Fought in the North," "Owen Rooney's Lamentation, "The Lamentation of James O'Sullivan," and possibly "March of the Men of Garvagh." - RBW


  1. Zimmermann 39, "The Noble Ribbon Boys" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Zimm039


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1831 (Zimmermann)