Escape of James Stephens

Lyrics

Perhaps you’d like to know, says the Shan Van Vocht
Which way did Stephens go, so they say
When from Richmond snug and tight, he walked right out of sight
And never said good night, says the Shan Van Vocht

They thought it very hard, says the Shan Van Vocht
That he’d only leave his card, so they say
At Mr. Lawson’s gate, who’d much rather he would wait,
To see him in full state, says the Shan Van Vocht

The Queen had kindly fixed, says the Shan Van Vocht
For a party nicely mixed, so they say
To give him honour due, thro’ her judges staunch and true,
And her Peelers all in blue, says the Shan Van Vocht

When the Marquis found him out, says the Shan Van Vocht
His warders tall and stout, so they say
He roused them from their rest, and says he “May I be blessed
But my bird’s not in the nest” says the Shan Van Vocht

Lord Wodehouse went to spend, says the Shan Van Vocht
Some bright days with a fiiend, so they say
’Twas there he heard the news, says he, “You will excuse
But I must homeward cruise” says the Shan Van Vocht

When he reached the Castle steps, says the Shan Van Vocht
He scaled them with three leps, so they say
Most loudly did he roar, would he never see him more
I am afraid he then swore, says the Shan Van Vocht

His council kindly tried, says the Shan Van Vocht
Could he be pacified, so they say
Said they’d give to any man, a thousand spick and span,
For Catch him if you can, says the Shan Van Vocht

You may catch old birds with chaff, says the Shan Van Vocht
You may coax a cow to laugh, so they say
You may teach a pig to sing, or to dance a Highland fling,
Or whistle anything, says the Shan Van Vocht

You may wash a darkie white, says the Shan Van Vocht
Set Whig and Tory right, so they say
But one thing you’ll not do, that is get from Parley-voo’
The bird that thither flew, says the Shan Van Vocht

Kilkenny 1

Songs of Kilkenny


Notes

James Stephens (26 January 1825 – 29 March 1901) was a founding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  On 15 July 1865, plans for a rising in Ireland were discovered when an emissary lost them at Kingstown railway station. This led to the arrests of James Stephens, but with the support of Fenian prison warders, he was less than a fortnight in Richmond Bridewell when he vanished and escaped to France. Stephens died on 29 March 1901 and is buried in Glasnevin.

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A female National School Teacher in County Tipperary was dismissed when a copy of this ballad was found in her widowed mother’s house during a raid in 1868. People referred to in the song are
Lawson – The Attorney General
Marquis – Governor of Richmond Jail
Wodehouse – Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.



County

Kilkenny

Song Themes

Fenian Rising

Songwriter