William B. McBurney

Aka Carroll Malone. Author: Croppy Boy. From ‘The Young Irelanders, by T. F. O’Sullivan, 1944.

“The Croppy Boy” one of the finest of our ballads, was written by W. B. Burney, a County Down man, who used the pseudonym “Carroll Malone”. It is to be found in most Irish Anthologies with another of his faine poems, “The Good Ship Castle Down”

“The Croppy Boy” appeared in ‘The Nation’ on the 4th January 1845 and was the only poem contributed by that poet to the paper. It was much admired by Thomas Davis and his colleagues, and aroused a good deal of speculation as to the identity of the author, of whose personal history little is known. Shortly after writing this famous poem, McBurney emigrated from Belfast to America, where for some years he wrote poems and sketches for the ‘Boston Pilot’ over the signature of “Carroll Malone”.

I am indebted to Father Hickey, Leeds, one of our best authorities on the Young Ireland period, for some important particulars in reference to this poet, and his connection to the Boston Pilot, which introduced him to its readers on the 17th March 1845, as “William McBurney, of Belfast.” These particulars have never been previously published in Ireland. I give them in full as they are valuable from the biographical point of view.

“During the years, 1845, 1846, 1847 and 1848” Father Hickey states, “appeared from time to time, in the Pilot many of McBirney’s (sic) most brilliant historical and legendary ballads, short stories and sketches, all racy of the soil and redolent in genuine patriotism. The following list of his contributions to the Pilot during the years mentioned:
“July 5th – ‘Irish Emigrant,’ marked ‘original.’ July 25th, ‘Irish Emigrant’ marked ‘original.’ August 25th, ‘Yankee Doodle’ marked ‘original’. September 20th – ‘Orangeman’s Wife’ marked ‘original’. October 11th – ‘Coulin’ marked ‘original.’ November 11th – ‘Croppy Boy.’ Dec 25th, – ‘A Christmas Carol’.

“January 10th – ‘A Fragment on the Death of an Infant,’ George L. McGowan. January 17th, ‘Mary O’ Larey’ February 7th, Song ‘Rise, Emerald Isle.’ March 15th, – ‘The Black Yoke.’ March 21st, Song: ‘The Golden Furze Clusters and Shines,’ marked ‘original.’ May 9th, ‘Lines written in our Poor House,’ Belfast. June 7th, ‘Lines written on a picture of O’Connell.’

January 27th, ‘Sally O’Fagan,’ a tale of the troubles, 1798. July 17th, ‘An Essay on the Educational Character of O’Connell,’ signed H. W. McBurney,’ prose. July 19th, ‘Letter to Mr. J.B. Harvey,’ signed H.W. McBurney. November 6th, ‘Isaac & Haddock,’ an Irish fireside tale. November 27th, and December 5th – ‘The No Popery Lecture,’ a tale of real life.

1848 : June 24th, – Poem: ‘An Irish Keen’

In the Pilot of November 26th, 1845, the following appears: “We observe that our spirited contemporary, the ‘Waterford Chronicle,’ has copied the beautiful poem of our correspondent Carroll Malone, entitled ‘The Orangeman’s Wife’

In the Pilot for November 11th, 1845, I find the following note from the author prefacing a corrected version of ‘The Croppy Boy’:
“To the Editor of the Pilot,
Sir, – The following little piece was inserted in the ‘Nation’ last January, and some alterations were made in it which, though I did not like them, suggested a little more polishing of the verses. As I understand it attracted some attention in Ireland, I shall be glad to bring it out again in it’s most correct form,
Yours most sincerely,
“Carroll Malone””

McBurney died in America in 1892. His famous ballad was once popular at National gatherings, but it is, unfortunately, seldom heard now in Irish circles.