Roddy McCorley

Lyrics

See the fleet-foot hosts of men
Who speed with faces wan
From farmstead and from fisher’s cot
Upon the banks of Bann
They come with vengeance in their eyes
Too late, too late are they
For Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

Ireland, Mother Ireland
You love them still the best
The fearless brave who fighting fall
Upon your hapless breast
But never a one of all your dead
More bravely fell in fray
Than he who marches to his fate
On the bridge of Toome today

Up the narrow street he stepped
Smiling and proud and young
About the hemp-rope on his neck
The golden ringlets clung
There’s never a tear in the blue, blue eyes
Both glad and bright are they
As Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

When he last stepped up that street
His shining pike in hand
Behind him marched in grim array
A stalwart earnest band
From Antrim town, for Antrim town
He led them to the fray
And Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

The grey coat and its sash of green
Were brave and stainless then
A banner flashed beneath the sun
Over the marching men
The coat bath many a rent this noon,
The sash is torn away,
And Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

How his pike flashed to the sun
Then found a foeman’s heart
Through furious fight, and heavy odds
He bore a true man’s part
And many a red-coat bit the dust
Before his keen pike-play
But Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today

Because he loved the Motherland
Because he loved the Green
He goes to meet the martyr’s fate
With proud and joyous mien
True to the last, true to the last
He treads the upward way
Young Roddy McCorley goes to die
On the bridge of Toome today.

Antrim 1

Songs of Antrim


Notes

This song was written as a poem by Ethna Carbery (1866-1902). The air is traditional.

Roddy (Roger) McCorley, the son of a miller, was born near Toome in County Antrim. A few years before the 1798 rebellion, McCorley’s father was executed for stealing sheep. These charges may have been politically motivated in an attempt to remove a troublesome agitator at a time of great social unrest. Following his father’s execution, his family were evicted from their home.
McCorley’s role in the 1798 rebellion is unclear. In this song, written 100 years after the rebellion, Ethne Carbery claimes he one of the leaders of the United Irishmen at the Battle of Antrim. There is however, no documentary evidence to support this claim or prove that he even took part at all.
After the rebellion, McCorley joined the notorious Archer’s gang who attacked loyalists and participated in common crime. He was captured whilst trying to emigrate to America, having been betrayed by an informer. Tried by court martial in Ballymena, he was sentenced to be hanged “near the Bridge of Toome”. His execution occurred on 28 February 1800.



County

Antrim


Songwriter