Bridge of Athlone


Does any man dream that a Gael can fear
Of a thousand deeds let him learn but one
The Shannon swept onward, broad and clear
Between the Leaguers and worn Athlone

‘Break down the bridge’ – six warriors rushed
Through the storm of shot and the storm of shell
With late, but certain victory flushed
The grim Dutch gunners eyed them well

They wrenched at the planks mid a hail of fire
They fell in death, their work half done
The bridge stood fast, and nigh and nigher
The foe swarmed darkly, densely on

“O, who for Erin will strike a stroke ?
Who hurl yon planks where the waters roar ?”
Six warriors forth from their comrades broke
And flung them upon that bridge once more

Again at the rocking planks they dashed
And four dropped dead, and two remained
The huge beams groaned, and the arch down-crashed
Two stalwart swimmers the margin gained

St. Ruth in his stirrups stood up, and cried
‘I have seen no deed like that in France’
With a toss of his head Sarsfield replied
‘They had luck, the dogs, ’t was a merry chance’

O, many a year upon Shannon’s side
They sang upon moor and they sang upon heath
Of the twain that breasted that raging tide
And the ten that shook bloody hands with Death


Athlone bridge

Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)

In the Summer of 1691, the Williamite Army led by Dutch general Godart de Ginkel tried to capture Athlone which was in rebel Jacobite hands.

An assault was made on the eastern part of Athlone on June 20, which caused the Jacobites to retreat across the Shannon to the west bank of the river, but on the way, the rebels dismantled the bridge.

The Jacobite garrison at the western half of Athlone, led by Clifford, initially held off the Williamite assault by fierce fighting on the bridge over the Shannon. Planks laid by the Williamites over the partially wrecked structure were thrown into the river by the Irish Jacobite troops, despite coming under intense rifle fire. Several attempts by the Williamites to storm the bridge were repulsed with heavy losses.

However, Ginkel identified another crossing upriver and sent an elite 2000 strong grenadier force to cross there and attack Jacobite positions from the rear. Out-numbered and out-gunned, the Jacobites abandoned their positions in Athlone and began a retreat towards Limerick. On their way, they suffered huge losses at The Battle of Aughrim which effectively ended the Williamite War.

Song Clip



Song Themes

Williamite War