The immediate origins of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland can be traced to the setting up of the Society of United Irishmen in Belfast in October 1791. Inspired by, and with great admiration for, the new republic of the United States, the United Irishmen were led by Theobald Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken and William Drennan. They came together to secure a reform of the Irish parliament; and they sought to achieve this goal by uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in Ireland into a single movement.
An emotionally stirring and inspirational song, “Óg-laoch na Rann”, or “The Minstrel Boy” was written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) who set it to the melody of “The Moreen”, an old Irish aire. It is believed by many that Moore composed the song as a memorial to several of his friends he had met while a student at Trinity College and who had participated in the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen. One died in prison, another was wounded, and a third captured and hung.
Do thriall chum catha óg-laoch na rann,
Lár námhad Éireann ársaighe;
Lann athar fáisgthe air go teann,
A n-aoinfheacht lé n-a chláirsigh
A thír na n-dán! Ar an laoch-cheóil grinn
Dá m-beidheadh an saoghal dod dhaoradh,
Tá aon chruit amháin lé do mholadh go binn,
‘S aon lann amháin lé do shaoradh.
Do thuit an bárd ach má thuit go fóill,
Bhidh a chroidhe neamh-eaglach, tréanmhar,
Is raob sé téada cláirsighe an cheóil,
Do scuab sé an trá bhidh séanmhar;
Is dubhairt: ní mhillfidh cuing do ghuch
A chruite chaoin na bh-fear saora,
Is ní cluinfear go h-eug do lán-bhinn sruth,
Lár bruide is bróin na tíre.
The Minstrel Boy
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
Fighting Ireland’s foes you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” cried the warrior bard,
(Should) “Tho’ all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!