Battle of Benburb


O’er the hills of Benburb, rose the red beam of day
Gleaming bright from our foemen in battle array
But as brightly again, in the mid summer glow
It shone back from the troops of our brave Owen Roe

Munroe had his thousands arrayed at his back
With their puritan mantles, steel morion and Jack
And with him fierce Blayney and Conway had come
To crush Owen Roe at the roll of the drum

And who with O’Neill on that morn drew the band ?
Brave hearts as e’er beat by the Blackwater strand
Sir Phelim, brave chief, with his bosom of fire
O’Donnell, McSweeney and gallant Maguire

From Derry’s wild woodlands, from Maine’s sounding tide
From Leitrim and Longford came chiefs to our side
From Breffni’s green hills with his sabre in hand
Stood bold Myles the slasher, the pride of our land

We kept all that noontide, the foemen at play
Though we thought of their forays and burned for the fray
For our chief bade us wait, till the eve had begun
Then rush on the foe with our backs to the sun

Then down to our front with his chiefs, he spurred fast
‘My brave men, the day of our weakness is past
We have hearts now as firm as our sires had of yore’
When Bagenal, they routed by Callan’s green shore

‘See, their cannon, the foe for our columns have set
Strike, and have them to play on their own columns yet
For God and green Erin, stern and sure be your blow
As ye fight in my path’ said our brave Owen Roe

Hurrah for the red hand, and on to a man
Our columns poured down like a storm on their van
Where a sermon was preaching to strengthen their zeal
‘We’ll give them a sermon’ cried Owen Roe O’Neill

The Slasher looked round as we closed in the fight
‘Now, my men’, he called out, ‘reap your harvest ere night’
Then he dashed at the foe with his long heavy blade
And mo-bhrone, what a lane through their columns he made

There was panic before us and panic beside
As their horsemen fled back in a wild broken tide
And we swept them along by the Blackwater shore
‘Till we reddened its tide with the Puritan’s gore

Few foemen escaped on that well-stricken day
On the field, in the river, by thousands they lay
Fierce Blaney had fallen where he charged by the fen
He slept face to heaven by the side of his men

A Kern by the river held something on high
‘Saint Colm, is it thus that our enemies fly
Perchance ’tis my coolun, they clipped long ago
Mile Gloria, the rough wig of flying Munroe’

And we took from the foes ere that calm twilight fall
Their horses and baggage and banners and all
Then we sat by our camp-fires and drank in the glow
Good health to our leader, the brave Owen Roe


The Battle of Benburb took place on 5 June 1646 during the Irish Confederate Wars. It was fought between the forces of Confederate Ireland under Owen Roe O’Neill and a Scottish Covenanter and Anglo-Irish army under Robert Monroe. The battle ended in a decisive victory for the Irish Confederates and ended the Scottish hopes of conquering Ireland and imposing their own religious settlement.
Munroe was an ancestor of Henry Munroe who was executed in 1798 for leading the United Irishmen at the battle of Ballinahinch.

Words by Robert Dwyer Joyce

Song Clip



Song Themes

1641 Rebellion