Battle of Vinegar Hill


Proud marched the British army in scarlet and in gold
Their trumpets loudly sounding, their banners all unrolled
To meet the Wexford pikemen, these gallant men and true
Who fought to raise our darling green above the English blue

To Vinegar Hill their way they took, these English soldiers all
Their light foot and their cavalry, their grenadiers so tall
Resolved to make these pikemen bold their rashness sorely rue
Who dared to raise their darling green against the English blue

And in the rere of this great host it was a sight to see
The long array of steeds that bore their dread artillery
Their captains and their colonels, with drawn swords led the way
And many a solemn oath they swore of vengeance on that day

For they thought of Tubberneering, of Ross and Wexford town
And in silence vowed they’d perish or pluck the green flag down
Then a young ensign boldly spoke this, his scornful jest
I’lll laugh to see the rebels run; their chief before the rest

We’ve but to wave our banners and charge them gallantly
To see the peasant foeman before our onset flee
’Twere shame indeed, if untaught churls in coming days should boast
They dared in open battle to face a Royal host

Then to him said a captain, a grey-haired veteran he
I’ve met these men in fight before; no braver men there be
We came upon them suddenly, and we were two to one
And fought them all the summer day till night was coming on

No quarter did they crave from us, but fell even where they stood
Brave men were they and in their veins runs the fierce Norman blood
And thou mayest see, young ensign, ere closing of the day
How well these gallant Wexfordmen can bear them in the fray

And soon the English army, twenty thousand strong
Were marshalled round the Hill renowned in story and in song
Whereon ten thousand pikemen, the flower of Wexford land
Had for homes and altars gathered to make their final stand

And soon the battle’s thunder broke o’er the echoing plain
And cannon balls fell thickly and musket balls like rain
Upon the hillside where there stood these peasant patriots true
Who fought to raise their Irish green above the English blue

Soon many a dauntless Shelmalier lay weltering in his gore
And many a valiant patriot good has fallen to rise no more
For thickly flew the cannon balls and musket balls like hail
’Till at the slaughter on the Hill the stoutest heart might quail

Then many a noble heart grew still and many a brave man died
While crimson streams of heroes’ blood ran down the steep hillside
Then said a trusted leader, “Here no longer shall we bide
And see our friends fall unavenged upon this bare hillside

But before this day is over another blow we’ll strike
Then up my gallant comrades and charge them with the pike
Our gunsmen now can nought avail since all their powder’s gone
But boys we are not beaten yet, though they may be two to one”

And well our marksmen did their work for yonder on the plain
Our enemies are weary with the counting of the slain
We’ll charge once more, my comrades brave, these soldiers of the Crown
And keep our green flag flying as we march to Wexford town

Then to their feet the pikemen sprang with fierce loud battle-cry
Each firmly clutched his trusty pike and raised the point on high
And suddenly on that hillside, a steel-tipped forest grew
While borne aloft, before their ranks, their green flag proudly flew

As rushing down the hill they came, a swift, resistless tide
Nor dared King George’s veteran troops, their onset fierce to bide
But left a passage open wide before their gallant foe
As with their green flag flying towards Wexford town they go

And sure no man in any land e’er waged a braver fight
Or bore themselves more valiantly in struggling for the right
Nor from the English foeman just praise shall we withhold
For Englishmen are stubborn foes and cast in warlike mould
But pity ’tis that freeborn men should strike fair freedom down
And shed their blood in guilty strife for any King or Crown


Written by Rev P F Kavanagh, O.F.M.

Song Clip



Song Themes

1798 Rebellion