Michael Dwyer (Version I)

Foreword by Vince Hearns
“This is the oldest song that I know, that is, I know it for the longest period of time. My father taught it to me when I was only four years of age. The story of how Dwyer escaped from the Redcoats was really exciting for a small boy. When it was related by a great storyteller like my father, a child experienced the all the attributes of battle, , bravery , challenge, courage, comradeship, defiance, noise, shouting, shooting and finally victory and escape. The Glen of Imaal today is a military firing range away in an isolated part of Co. Wicklow. The cottage referred to in the incident in 1798 is still there to this very day.”

At length brave Michael Dwyer, you and your trusty men,
Are hunted o’er the mountain and tracked into the glen,
Sleep not, but watch and listen with ready blade and ball,
For the soldiers know your hiding place tonight in wild Imaal.

The stealthy soldiers followed, and at the break of day,
Discovered in a cabin, where the outlaw rebels lay,
They gathered round the cabin and they formed into a ring
And they cried out Michael Dwyer, surrender to the king.

In answer brave Dwyer said , “into this house we came,
Unasked by those who own it, they cannot be to blame,
So let those guiltless people, unquestioned pass you through,
And when they have passed in safety, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.”

‘Twas done then brave Dwyer said , “your work you can begin,
You are four hundred outside we’re only four within,
I’ve heard your haughty challenge, and this is my reply
We’re four United Irishmen, we’ll fight until we die.”

Then burst the wars red lightning, and poured the leaden rain,
The hills around re-echoed the thunder peals again,
The soldiers falling round him, saw with pride,
But ah! One gallant comrade lay wounded by his side.

Yet there are three surviving good battle for to do,
Their hands are strong and steady their aim is quick and true
But hark the furious shouting the savage soldiers raise
The house is fired around them and the roof is in a blaze.

And brighter every moment the lurid flamed arose
And louder swelled the laughter and cheering of the foes,
Then spake the brave McAllister the weak and wounded man
Saying, “you can escape my comrades and this shall be your plan”

“Place in my hand a musket then lie upon the floor
I’ll stand before the soldiers, you open wide the door
The’ll pour into my bosom the fire of their array,
And when their guns are empty, dash through them and away.”

He stood before the soldiers revealed amid the flames
From out the levelled pieces the wished for volleys came,
Up sprang the three survivors, for whom the hero died,
But only Michael Dwyer, broke through the ranks outside.

He baffled his pursuers who followed like the wind,
He swam the river Slaney and he left them far behind
And many an English soldier, from then till now did fall,
For brave Dwyer’s comrades that night in wild Imaal.