“The Wake of William Orr”


"Here our murdered brother lies." He called for his countrymen to unite. The singer recalls 600 years of warfare, "Crumbled by a foreign weight; And by worse, domestic hate" "Monstrous and unhappy sight! Brothers' blood will not unite" A new day begins


Hayes describes the trial, reprieve and execution. The reprieve followed statements by jurors that "whisky had been introduced into the jury room, and the verdict agreed to under the joint influence of drunkenness and intimidation." The crown witness, supposedly the person to whom the oath had been administered, then admitted that the evidence he had given was "false or distorted in essential particulars." After Orr was reprieved and awaiting commutation he was executed. "A storm of indignation followed this arbitrary and merciless decision." - BS

To give the other side, _The Oxford Companion to Irish History_ in its entry on Orr says that "The evidence against him was less flimsy than sympathizers claimed." In another irony, he was a Protestant (see Thomas Pakenham, _The Year of Liberty_, p. 354). But even Pakenham, who is almost entirely an apologist for the English, admits that Orr became a martyr (pp. 219-220).

William Drennan also wrote the poem we index as "Erin" (also known as "Eire"). - RBW

Historical references

  • Oct 14, 1797 - William Orr executed after being charged with administering the United Irish oath to two soldiers of the Fifeshire Fencibles. (source: Moylan)

Cross references


  1. Moylan 48, "The Wake of William Orr" (1 text)
  2. ADDITIONAL: Edward Hayes, The Ballads of Ireland (Boston, 1859), Vol I, pp. 237-239, "Wake of William Orr"
  3. Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 359-361, "The Wake of William Orr" (1 text)
  4. Donagh MacDonagh and Lennox Robinson, _The Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1958, 1979), pp. 26-28, "The Wake of William Orr" (1 text)
  5. BI, Moyl048


Author: William Drennan (1754-1820) (source: Moylan; Hoagland)
Earliest date: 1855 (Edward Hayes, _The Ballads of Ireland_ (Boston, 1859), Vol I)
Found in: Ireland