James Stephens, the gallant Fenian Boy


A memoir of James Stephens has lately caught my eye
And I shed the tear of pity for the gallant Fenian boy
Whose body now reposes well nigh the Martyrs’ grave
As worthy of the valiant three who died, their Isle to save

Born in the Marble City, ere Stephens grew sixteen
His warm blood in fountains flowed most proudly for the green
He joined brave Smith O’Brien in the streets of Killenaule
By orders kept the fatal shot that presaged peace withal

Meanwhile in one engagement at Ballingarty fray
The sturdy bold insurgents right manfully held sway
Till reinforcements gathered and the rebels had to fly
With Stephens slightly wounded, an outlaw doomed to die

His many wild adventures, his daring countless runs
Are written in ‘The Felon’s Track’ by one of Erin’s sons
To facilitate his exit, some kind emancipator
Inserted his untimely death in the Kilkenny Moderator

A splendid big mock funeral with stones the coffin manned
By St. Canice’s Cathedral was a demonstration grand
By unique transformation he spurned detectives’ raid
And he sailed from Cork to Paris disguised as a lady’s maid

There formed he a trimuvirate that dwelt on Ireland’s woes
They saw each hope frustrated by our cruel Saxon foes
Then looked they to the future with sanguine ecstasy
And swore another effort for to set old Ireland free

Full twenty years, he laboured hard and strove both day and night
To raise our plundered Erin up unto its ancient height
But Nagle, the informer was in his ranks enrolled
The Fenian prosecutor that bartered blood for gold

On came the day of battle, but Stephens was in jail
With many a loving comrade that loved old Granuaile
Yet even in that prison there were trusty friends and tried
Who liberated Stephens and lodged him safe outside

Then came a great excitement in circles small and great
Some thousands were awarded to seal the captives’ fate
But never did they catch again the gallant Fenian Boy
That strove so well for Ireland in the good old days gone by

So now that he is dead and gone and passed to his reward
I trust that every Irishman will treat with kind regard
The memory of James Stephens who did all foes defy
And may God have mercy on the soul of the gallant Fenian Boy


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 the 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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Song Themes

Fenian Rising