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The Grave of Wolfe Tone
(Roud 9313)
Peggy McMahon
Cloonlaheen, Miltown Malbay

Recorded in singer’s home, October 2002
Carroll Mackenzie Collection


In Bodenstown churchyard there lies a green grave,
And wildly along it the winter winds rave;
Small shelter I ween on the ruined walls there
When the storm sweeps down o'er the plains of Kildare.

Once I lay on that spot that lies over Wolfe Tone
I thought how he perished in prison alone,
His friends unavenged and his country unfreed;
"Oh, bitter," I said, "is the patriots meed."

There were students and peasants, the wise and the brave,
And the old man who knew him from cradle to grave,
And the children who thought of me hard-hearted, for they
On that sanctified sod were forbidden to play.

But the old man who saw I was mourning there said:
"We’ve come, sir, to weep where young Wolfe Tone is laid,
We're going to raise him a monument, too.
A plain one, yet fit for the simple and true."

In Bodenstown churchyard there lies a green grave,
And freely around it the winter winds rave.
Far better they suit him the ruined and the gloom,
Until Ireland, a nation, can build him a tomb.


“This song by Thomas Davis appears many times on ballad sheets without his name, showing its continued popularity for over a century. Colm O Lochlainn wrote, ‘The tune I learnt from the playing of Francie MacPeake the Belfast Union Piper, who often sang and played it in the house of Francis Joseph Bigger, the antiquary and historian, where I spent many happy holidays.’

H. Halliday Sparling gives this information on Thomas Davis:
‘Thomas Osborne Davis.—Poet and political writer.
Born at Mallow, October 14th, 1814; died in Dublin, September 16th, 1845. Quite the most striking figure in one of the most productive periods of Irish history. Educated at Trinity College, he there graduated in 1836, and two years after was called to the bar; but his life was cast in times of stress and trial, and he forsook the quiet pursuit of his profession for the stormy path of patriotic agitation. He was one of the chief contributors to “The Nation”, and wielded an enormous influence over its readers. When he died, Theo Ward, a bitter antagonist of his views, wrote thus:—"With a scholarship in general literature as well as in history and in politics, the extent of which was absolutely prodigious, Mr. Davis combined the finest and the noblest natural endowments of mind and disposition; he was a constant, earnest, and guilelessly honest labourer in the cause of his choice; and in its service he lavished, with the unreserve of conscious genius, the inexhaustible resources of his accomplished and powerful intellect, undebased by the scheming of ambition—untainted by the rancour of faction; and if we pass by the errors of a wrongly-chosen cause, he was entitled truly to the noble name of patriot. Young though he died, his life had been long enough to impress the public with a consciousness of his claims upon their admiration and respect; his admirers were of all parties, and in none had he an enemy." A collection of his poems is published in Messrs. Duffy & Sons, National Library.’”

More Irish Street Ballads, Colm O Lochlainn, Three Candles Press, 1968
Irish Minstrelsy, H. Halliday Sparling, London, 1887
Jim Carroll

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