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The Sons of Granuaile
Michael ‘Straighty’ Flanagan

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Michael 'Straighty' Flanagan

You loyal-hearted Irishmen that do intend to roam,
To reap the English harvest so far away from home.
I’m sure you will provide with us both comrades loyal and true;
For you have to fight both day and night with John Bull and his crew.

When we left our homes from Ireland the weather was calm and clear.
And when we got on board the ship we gave a hearty cheer.
We gave three loud cheers for Paddy’s land, the place we do adore,
May the heavens smile on every child that loves the shamrock shore.

We sailed away all from the quay and ne’er received a shock,
Till we landed safe in Liverpool one side of Clarence Dock.
Where hundreds of our Irishmen they met us in the town;
Then ‘Hurrah for Paddy’s lovely land’, it was the word went round.

With one consent away we went to drink strong ale and wine,
Each man he drank a favourite toast to the friends he left behind.
We sang and drank till the ale house rang dispraising Erin’s foes,
Or any man that hates the land where St Patrick’s shamrock grows.

For three long days we marched away, high wages for to find.
Till on the following morning we came to a railway line.
Those navies they came up to us, and loudly they did rail,
They cursed and damned for ould Paddy’s lands, and the sons of Granuaile.

Up stands one of our Irish boys and says, ‘What do you mean?
While us, we’ll work as well as you, and hate a coward’s name.
So leave our way without delay or some of you will fall,
Here stands the sons of Irishmen that never feared a ball.’

Those navies then, they cursed and swore they’d kill us every man.
Make us remember ninety-eight, Ballinamuck and Slievenamon.
Blessed Father Murphy they cursed his blessed remains,
And our Irish heroes said they’d have revenge then for the same.

Up stands Barney Reilly and he knocked the ganger down.
‘Twas then the sticks and stones they came, like showers to the ground.
We fought from half past four until the sun was going to set,
When O’Reilly says, ‘My Irish boys, I think we will be bet.’

But come with me my comrade boys, we’ll renew the fight once more.
We’ll set our foes on every side more desperate than before.
We will let them know before we go we’d rather fight than fly,
For at the worst of times you’ll know what can we do, but die.

Here’s a health then to the McCormicks to O’Donnell and O’Neill,
And also the O’Donoghues that never were afraid.
Also every Irish man who fought and gained the day
And made those cowardly English men - in crowds they ran away.


“Irish immigrants fleeing the Famine and the mass evictions were met with prejudice and violence in many of the places they chose as their new homes. This account from Terry Coleman’s ‘Railway Navvies’ gives a vivid description of the reception many of them received when they landed in Britain. It describes the plight of the men who took work as railway navvies in the English/Scots border country:

‘Throughout the previous year the railways had been extending through the English border country and into Scotland. A third of the navvies were Irish, a third Scots, and a third English: that was the beginning of the trouble - easy-going Roman Catholic Irish, Presbyterian Scots, and impartially belligerent English. The Irish did not look for a fight. As the Scottish Herald reported, they camped, with their women and children, in some of the most secluded glades, and although most of the huts showed an amazing disregard of comfort, the hereditary glee of their occupants seemed not a whit impaired. This glee enraged the Scots, who then added to their one genuine grievance (the fact that the Irishmen would work for less pay and so tended to bring down wages) their sanctified outrage that the Irish should regard the Sabbath as a holiday, a day of recreation on which they sang and lazed about. As for the Scots, all they did on a Sunday was drink often and pray occasionally, and it needed only an odd quart of whisky and a small prayer to make them half daft with Presbyterian fervour. They then beat up the godless Irish. The Irish defended themselves and this further annoyed the Scots, so that by the middle of 1845 there was near civil war among the railway labourers. The English, mainly from Yorkshire and Lancashire, would fight anyone, but they preferred to attack the Irish. The contractors tried to keep the men, particularly the Irish and Scots, apart, employing them on different parts of the line, but the Scots were not so easily turned from their religious purposes. At Kinghorn, near Dunfermline, these posters were put up around the town:

"Notice is Given
that all the Irish men on the line of railway in Fife Share must be off the grownd and owt of the countey on Monday th nth of this month or els we must by the strenth of our armes and a good pick shaft put them off
Your humbel servants, Schots men."

Letters were also sent to the contractors and sub-contractors. One read:

"Sir, - You must warn all your Irish men to be of the grownd on Monday the 11th of this month at 12 o'cloack or els we must put them by forse FOR WE ARE DETERMINED TO DOW IT."

The sheriff turned up and warned the Scots against doing anything of the sort. Two hundred navvies met on the beach, but in the face of a warning from the sheriff they proved not so determined to do it, and the Irish were left in peace for a while. But in other places the riots were savage. Seven thousand men were working on the Caledonian line, and 1,100 of these were paid monthly at a village called Locherby, in Dumfriesshire. Their conduct was a great scandal to the inhabitants of a quiet Scottish village. John Baird, Deputy Clerk of the Peace for the county, lamented that the local little boys got completely into the habits of the men - "drinking, swearing, fighting, and smoking tobacco and all those sorts of things". Mr Baird thought that on a pay day, with constant drunkenness and disturbance, the village was quite uninhabitable.

A minority of the navvies were Irish, and they were attacked now and again, as was the custom. After one pay day a mob of 300 or 400, armed with pitchforks and scythes, marched on the Irish, who were saved only because the magistrates intervened and kept both sides talking until a force of militia came up from Carlisle, twenty-three miles away.'

The writer goes in to explain that the worst of the riots were to follow. This song describes the situation in Britain, specifically in Liverpool; we have never come across it before and can find no trace of it. A similar song ‘Seven of our Irishmen’ (Roud 3104), sung by Straighty and by Pat MacNamara, deals with those who landed in America and were targeted as possible recruits for the U.S. army."

The Railway Navvies, Terry Coleman, 1965.
Jim Carroll

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