Ninety Eight


In the old marble town of Kilkenny
With its abbeys, cathedrals and halls
Where the Norman bell rings out at nightfall
And the relics of gray crumbling walls
Show traces of Celt and Saxon
In bastions and towers and keeps
And graveyards and tombs tell the living
Where glory or holiness sleeps
Where the Nuncio brought the Pope’s blessing
And money and arms to boot

While Owen was wild to be plucking
The English clan up by the root
Where regicide Oliver revelled
With his Puritan Ironside horde
And cut down both marble and monarchy
Grimly and grave with the sword
There in that old town of history
England in famed ‘Ninety-Eight
Was busy with gallows and yeomen
Propounding the laws of the State

They were hanging a young lad, a rebel
On a gibbet before the old jail
And they marked his weak spirit to falter
And his white face to quiver and quail
And he spoke of his mother whose dwelling
Was but a short distance away
A poor, lorn, heartbroken widow
And he, her whole solace and stay
“Bring her here” cried the chief of the yeomen
“A lingering chance let us give
To this spawn of a rebel to babble
And by her sage counsel to live”

And quick, a red trooper went trotting
From the town to the poor cabin door
And he found the old lone woman sitting
And spinning upon the bare floor
“Your son is in trouble, old damsel
They have him within in the town
And he wishes to see you, so bustle
And put on your tucker and gown”
The old woman stopped from her spinning
With a frown on her deep wrinkled brow
“I know how it is, cursed yeoman
I am ready, I’ll go with you now”

He seized her, enraged, by the shoulder
And lifting her up on his steed
Struck spurs, and they rode to the city
Right ahead and with clattering speed
They stopped at the foot of the gallows
And the mother confronted her son
And she hugged his young heart to her bosom
And kissed his face pallid and wan .
And as the rope dangled before her
She held the loop fast in her hand
For though her proud soul was unblenching
Her frail limbs were failing to stand

And when the raw yeomen came crowding
To witness the harrowing scene
The brave mother flushed to the forehead
And spoke with the air of a queen
“My son, they are going to hang you
For loving your faith and your home
And they called me to urge you and save you
And in God’s name I’ve answered and come
They murdered your father before you
And I knelt on the red reeking sod
And watcheed his hot blood steaming upward
To call down the vengeance of God”

“No traitor was he to his country
No blot did he leave to his name
And I always could pray at his cold grave
Oh, the priest could kneel there without shame”
“To hell with your priests and your rebels”
The captain cried out with a yell
Whilst from the tall tower in the temple
Rang out the sweet angelus bell
“Blessed Mother” appealed the poor widow
“Look down on my child and on me”
“Blessed mother” sneered out the vile yeoman
“Tell your son to confess and be free”

“Never, never, he’ll die like his father
My boy, give your life to the Lord
But of treason to Ireland, mavourneen
Never speak one dishonouring word”
His white cheek flushed up at her speaking
His heart bounded up at her call
And his hushed spirit seemed, at awaking
To scorn death, yeomen and all
“I’ll die, and I’ll be no informer
My kin I will never disgrace
And when God lets me see my poor father
I can lovingly look in his face”

“You’ll see him in hell” cried the yeoman
As he flung the sad widow away
And the youth in a moment was strangling
In the broad eye of shuddering day
“Give the gallows a passenger outside”
A tall Hessian spluttered aloud
As he drove a huge nail in the timber
‘Mid the curses and cries of the crowd
Then, seizing the poor bereaved mother
He passed his broad belt round her throat
Whilst her groaning was lost in the drum-beat
And her shrieks in the shrill bugle note
And mother and son were left choking
For this, cries the patriot brave
Whilst angels looked down on the murder
And devils were wrangling beneath.

For this, cries the exile defiant
For this, cries the patriot brave
For this, cries the lonely survivor
O’er many a horror-marked grave
For this, cry the priest and the peasant
The student, the lover, the lost
The stalwart who pride in their vigour
The frail as they give up the ghost
For this, we curse~Saxon dominion,
And join in the world-wide cry
That wails up to Heaven for vengeance,
Through every blue gate in the sky!


Song Clip



Song Themes

1798 Rebellion