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The Broadford Prisoners
John Lyons
Recorded 1974

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

John Lyons

Two noble youths from the Broadford glen,
To a lonely prison are now cast in.
No trial, no jury, no chance of bail,
But for sixteen months down in Limerick jail.

These youths were arrested at the dead of night,
Before their parents ‘twas a bitter sight.
For attempted murder they now do stand,
And for firing shots o’er the grazing land.

Now for six [sixteen] long months dragged up and down,
From Limerick city to Ennis town.
‘Till a Dublin jury as you can see,
Smashed the galling chain, setting the prisoners free.

Oh Napoleon’s army going into Rome,
To the mind would flash when those youths came home.
With green bows waving o’er sweet-toned bands,
And the people cheering for the grazing lands.

So here’s to Scarriff, Bodyke and Quin,
Tulla, Feakle and Spancilhill.
The Tradaree men and all true friends,
That filled the war chest for the youths’ defence.

And here’s to Oatfield, Kilbane and Truagh,
Kilmore and Bridgetown and sweet Killaloe,
The Mills, Kilkishen the cause did crown,
And they near burst the war chest in Limerick town.

On behalf of those youths from the Broadford glen,
Everlasting thanks to all maids and men.
Who helped their defence by their word and hand,
In the noble fight for the grazing lands.

Young Donlon and Sullivan are fresh and fair,
Their names are legends around East Clare.
And the grazier surrendered the grazing lands,
Now for Home Rule sake, let us all shake hands.


"This song was composed by journeyman blacksmith Martin Kennedy and was set to the air of ‘The Croppy Boy’. The editor of ‘Ballads of Clare’, Seán P Ó Cillín, gives the following information on Kennedy in his introduction to the collection:

‘The bulk of the ballads in this collection written prior to 1930 are the compositions of Martin Kennedy who was a journeyman blacksmith. He travelled from forge to forge, gathering to gathering, working here and there composing and selling his broadsheets. A few of the broadsheets were discovered recently with the help of Edward Duggan of Ahaclare, and a copy of one is on the back cover. Another writer who put his ballads into booklet form in 1932 was Michael Maloney, a teacher of Glandaree National School, near Tulla. Many of these ballads were still remembered in the area, and refer to people, places, and events, between Tulla and Feakle.

There was a rush of prosperity during and after the Crimean war which had disastrous consequences in Clare. Much of the land in the county had changed hands in the preceding years. Many of the small and middle farmers had been broken by the famine. The population of one-roomed cabins in County Clare fell from twenty three thousand to five thousand one hundred and sixty nine between 1841-1851. The Encumbered Estates Act forced these farmers to sell their land when placed at the mercy of "grabbers" and landlords who only sought maximum profit. The summer of '63 and '64 were both very bad and the potato crop failed again. Eviction for non-payment of rent became common. Unrest became endemic. The Fenian movement spread from the Irish who had taken part in the American Civil War and soon were training and drilling in the glens of Clare. Though abortive revolt was a failure, another effort, to obtain security for tenants, fair rent, and freedom of sale for tenants, was initiated by the Farmer's Club of Clare in 1877. They held a public meeting in the fair green at Clonroad calling for these changes in the Land Laws. Sir Colman O'Loghlin and Lord Frances Conynghan, who were Home Rulers for Clare in the Butt party, began to press for these changes. Charles Stewart Parnell, who had been a landlord took over the guidance of the movement for Home Rule, joined forces with Michael Davitt's Land League which had come to replace the Farmer's Club, in County Clare. On September 19th 1880, Charles Stewart Parnell addressed a mass meeting in Ennis and made the following speech:

‘When a man takes a farm from another which has been evicted, you must show him on the roadside when you meet him, you must show him in the streets of the town, you must show him at the shop counter, you must show him in the fair and in the market place, even in the house of worship, by leaving him severely alone.’

Three days after this speech the tenants of Lord Erne's estate in County Mayo offered the landlord's agent. Captain Boycott a ‘fair rent’ which he refused. Everybody refused to work for him; to pay rent. Nobody could be found to serve the eviction notices.
The following extracts from the English ‘Daily Express’ for those years dramatically relates the events in County Clare and how they were seen through the eyes of the English.

‘Daily Express’, December 8th 1880.
"The estate (at Bodyke) was purchased by me in the landed estates court of 1878 and since it came into my possession the rents have not been increased on a single individual. The late proprietor (Major Westropp) was indisputedly admitted to be one of the best landlords in Clare. On the sixteenth of November the tenants came here to tender me Griffith's valuation, which I refused, warning them that they might look out for another landlord and would be put to cost. Finding that no money could induce a process server to execute the writs, (owing to one having been fired on near Bodyke and others threatened) together with the reign of terror that exists in this country, I was compelled to serve the ejectments myself. For this I'm threatened with the fullest vengence of the Land League".
John O'Callaghan Maryfort, O'Callaghan's Mills.

‘Daily Express’, August 17th 1881.
‘The sheriff proceeded to sell the cattle and sheep seized for arrears of rent, the sale of which he adjoured last Friday in consequence of the tumult and excitement. By degrees the people from different directions came in today, swelling the number some hundreds; and the Parnell Minstrel Boys Band of Tradaree at the head of a large contingent from that district marched into the town playing with much spirit; the American flag and others banners being borne in the possession. The sheriff proceeded to sell thirty nine sheep, and five yearlings to Mr. Denis O'Neill for rent to Mr. Edward Newport Singleton, Quinville Abbey. The lot was eventually knocked down to Mr. Edward Bennett at sixty pounds and ten shillings. In the case of Clancy, Cullinan and Monahan whose sheep and cattle were sold under civil bill decreed at the suit of the landlord Mr. N.S.O'Gorman J.P. for nonpayment of rent, all were brought in for the tenants; but the proceeds of the sale in every case fell short of the amount of the claim.’

‘Daily Express’, October 24th 1881.
‘On the Friday evening about eight o'clock p.m., four shots were fired in close proximity to the house of Mr. Bentley Esq. J.P. Hurdlestown House, near Broadford. One sniper bullet passed through his house window breaking the glass and smashing three panes of glass. The only reason he gives for this outrage is that he refused on the previous Wednesday to support a motion at the Limerick Board of Guardians to support a motion censuring the government for the arrest of Parnell. After the land war Kennedy refers to the election of Colonel Lynch in Clare (1909), and to Redmond's parliamentary fight for Home Rule. Colonel Arthur Lynch was born in Australia in 1861. In 1900 he fought with the Boers and was captured and sentenced to death in 1903. He was pardoned however and while practicing medicine in North London he was a member of parliament for Clare from 1909 – 1918.’”

Ballads and Songs of Clare, Seán P Ó Cillín (ed.), (1976).

Jim Carroll

See also
The Bodyke Evictions


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