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Burke’s Dream
Martin Howley
Fanore, north west Clare
Recorded in singer's home, summer 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Martin Howley

Oh then dreams come true and very true they comes with grief to more,
As they did with me in my country called dear old Erin’s shore.
I dreamt I was upon a hill by the side of a lonely vale,
And it’s there I spied a comely maid and her name was Granuaile.

And her lovely long hair hung down her back as she was dressed in green.
I thought she was the fairest girl that my eyes had ever seen.
As I drew near I then could hear but the pleasant evening gale,
As she sung a song as she walked along saying: ‘I’m poor old Granuaile’.

And I thought she had a splendid harp, by her side she let it fall.
As she played the tunes of Brian Boru, Garryowen and Tara’s hall.
‘God Save Ireland’ was the next, and the martyrs who died in jail.
‘So you need not fret, we’ll have a republic yet’, says auld poor old Granuaile.

In O’Connell’s time, in twenty nine, we had no braver men.
We struggled hard, both day and night, for to gain our rights again.
But coercion laws were then enforced, and our sons were sent to jail.
‘So you need not fret, we’ll have Home Rule yet’, says auld poor old Granuaile.

But when I awoke from my slumber, harp was expiated with the fright.
I thought it was the broad daylight but I found it was only night.
I looked around but could not see but the walls of a lonely jail,
And that was the last I ever again saw of my poor old Granuaile.

“Martin’s song shares its title with another ‘Burke’s Dream’, which has the same theme of the imprisoned rebel dreaming of being free and awakening to find he is still a prisoner. Martin’s song is far less literary than the broadside. Its subject is the imprisonment of Richard O'Sullivan Burke (1838-1922), a Fenian, born in Dunmanway, Co. Cork. He joined the Cork Militia in 1853 and, on the disbanding of his regiment, he went to sea. He settled in America where he organised Fenian circles in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for organising the rescue of Kelly and Deasy, the Manchester Martyrs, in 1867 (See ‘Manchester Martyrs’ songs in this collection). Betrayed by a spy, John J. Corydon, he was held in Clerkenwell House of Detention, London, from which a Fenian rescue party attempted to free him. Afterwards he was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment, but he feigned insanity and was eventually moved to Broadmoor Asylum, Berkshire, from which he was released in 1872. He returned to the United States and, while engaged on various engineering projects, joined Clan na Gael and continued his efforts in the Fenian cause.

Burke’s Dream (c.1867) from Zimmermann’s ‘Songs of Irish Rebellion’:

Slowly and sadly one night in November
I laid down my weary head for to repose
On a pallet of straw which I long will remember;
Wearied from sleep I fell into a doze,

Tired from working hard, down in the felon's yard;
Night brought relief to my well-tortured frame,
Locked in my prison cell, surely an earthly hell,
I fell asleep and began for to dream.

Then I thought that I stood on the green hills of Erin,
Premeditating on her victory won;
Surrounded by comrades, no enemy fearing.
Stand! was the cry — every man to his gun!

Then on came the Saxon facing our Fenian men,
But soon they rallied back from our pike volunteers
Whose cry was loud and shrill — Wexford and Vinegar Hill,
New Ross, Father Murphy and the bold Shelmaliers!

Then I thought that I seen our brave, noble commanders
All mounted on chargers and in gorgeous array,
In green, trimmed with gold, with their bright shining sabres
On which danced the sunbeams of freedom that day;

On, was the battle cry, conquer this day or die;
Sons of Hibernia, fight for liberty.
Show neither fear nor dread — vanquish the foe ahead!
Cut down their horse, foot and artillery.

Then bang, the cannons flew, lines they were cut through,
Men upon both sides were dying and dead;
Our men on oath were bound to die or hold their ground,
So from our vengeance the proud Saxon fled.

Our flag was floating high beneath the azure sky,
With joy every man did cry out gloriously:
Come from your prison, Burke! Irishmen have done their work,
God he was with us, old Erin is free!

Then methought, as the clouds were repeatedly flowing,
I saw a lion stretched on the crimson-gold places,
Beneath the pale moonbeams, in death's sleep reposing,

The comrades I knew I would never see again;
Then over the mountain path homewards I hastened back,
There saw my mother, who fainted, gave a loud scream,
At the shock of which I awoke, just at daybreak.

The Zimmermann text has been recorded once from oral tradition, in Newfoundland in 1929, and it appeared in a couple of American songsters; there is no record of Martin’s text having been found in full elsewhere, though while recording singer and storyteller Pat MacNamara in Kilshanny we met an elderly lady on the road and she sang us a verse of it through the car window; we never managed to record it from her."

A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800, D. J. Hickey and J. E Doherty, Dublin 2003.
Songs of Irish Rebellion, G.-D. Zimmermann, Figgis, Dublin, 1967.
Jim Carroll