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The Croppy's Complaint

Music & Songs of 1798

Craft Recordings - CRCD03

  1. The Rights of Man : Mick O’Brien
  2. The Blarismoor Tragedy : Jim McFarland
  3. Croppies Lie Down : Sean Tyrrell
  4. McKenna’s Dream : Frank Harte
  5. An "Croppy Lie Down" : Éamon Ó Bróithe
  6. Napper Tandy : The Four Star Trio
  7. Father Murphy : Jerry O’Reilly
  8. Bagenal Harvey’s Farewell : Sean Garvey
  9. Sliabh na mBan : Áine Uí Cheallaigh
  10. A ’98 March : The Four Star Trio
  11. Henry Joy McCracken : Tim Lyons
  12. Rody McCorley : Róisín White
  13. Faithless Bony : Barry Gleeson acc. Mick Willis
  14. The Cow Ate the Piper : Terry Timmins
  15. Croppies’ March/Repeal of the Union : The Four Star Trio
  16. Little Jimmy Murphy : Luke Cheevers
  17. The Downfall of Paris : Mick O’Brien

Michael O’Brien - Uilleann pipes

In March 1791 Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man was published. A response to Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution, it quickly became the bible of the revolution, and a best-seller in Ireland, where it sold in extraordinary numbers. The ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’ was approved by the National Assembly of France on the 26th of August 1789.

Napper Tandy

(James Garland - 1797)
Jim McFarland - Voice

In 1797 The Monaghan Militia were quartered in Belfast. In May of that year it was discovered that large numbers of them had been secretly recruited as United Irishmen.
Four soldiers were identified as ringleaders and sentenced to death : Daniel Gillan, Peter Carron and the brothers Owen and William McKenna. On the 17th of May the four men were brought to Blaris Moor and shot to death while kneeling upon their coffins, after which the regiment was marched past the bodies.

General Cornwallis

(Captain Ryan - 1798)
Sean Tyrrell - Voice & Guitar

It was for playing this piece on the pipes that the unfortunate William Johnson was murdered at Scullabogue along with over one hundred others. The song dates at least from 1798 when it appeared in Constitutional Songs, attributed to ‘the late gallant Captain Ryan’. This was possibly the officer killed during the arrest of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The song was also issued on a ballad sheet in Dublin the same year.
The tune itself was considered a partisan piece, and in the spring of 1798 was a favourite item of the military and yeomanry. During the attack on Rathangan in May 1798, the rebels were urged by a local woman to kill an elderly man, Doctor Bagot, on the grounds that his children used to sing "Croppies Lie Down".
The expression "the Emerald Isle", denoting Ireland, is usually attributed to William Drennan. However it occurs in this song also, which was published in the same year, and possibly earlier, than Drennan’s piece.

Michael Dwyer

(Traditional - 1850s)
Frank Harte - Voice

This song circulated on broadsides from the 1850s on and achieved immense popularity. Towards the end of the last century a Buncrana street-singer would regularly be hauled up before the Magistrate on a charge of "singing McKenna’s Dream".
The genre of aisling or dream poetry was well established in Irish language poetry when this piece appeared. Usually the narrator is visited in his dream by a beautiful female figure who promises to restore Ireland’s fortunes.

Lord Clare

Éamon Ó Bróithe - Voice

This song is reprinted from Duanaire Déiseach, the anthology of songs from the Decies compiled by Nioclás Tóibín (the uncle of the famous singer of the same name).
The narrator of the song says that in the near future, when Spain and France come to the aid of Ireland the English will be defeated and he will no longer have to listen to the "Croppy Lie Down".
In the final verse he tells how Bonaparte has promised to come and scatter the enemy, after which everything will be wonderful and the only tune the women will be singing will be "Croppy Lie Down".
The song was set to the tune Amhrán na mBréag by Éamon Ó Bróithe, piper and singer.

Fr. John Murphy

(Traditional - Roche Collection)
Pat Ahern - Bouzouki / Guitar
Johnny McCarthy - Whistle / Fiddles
Con Ó Drisceoil - Accordion

This attractive tune is from Francis Roche’s 1927 collection, where it is classed as a "Redowa or Mazurka".
Napper Tandy was the secretary of the first Dublin Society of United Irishmen. He made his way to Hamburg after the failure of the rising but was captured there. Imprisoned for two years, he was released in 1801 on condition that he left Ireland. He went into exile in France where he died, at Bordeaux, in 1803.

Thomas Russell

(Traditional - 1798)
Jerry O’Reilly - Voice

This song is thought to be the original upon which P. J. McCall based his ballad "Boolavogue". While the latter piece was written one hundred years after the event, this song was in circulation within a couple of years of 1798

An Irish Chief

Sean Garvey - Voice & Guitar

Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey, of Bargy Castle in the barony of Forth, was one of the main leaders of the United Irishmen in Wexford. He led the western army which attacked, but failed to take New Ross. After Vinegar Hill he and John Colclough went into hiding on the Saltee Islands, but were informed upon. Harvey was executed in Wexford town on the 28th of June, John Colclough on the following day.
The song is modelled on the Borders song "Derwentwater’s Farewell".

Lord Edward Fitzgerald

(Traditional - Early 19th C.)
Áine Uí Cheallaigh - Voice

On the 23rd of July 1798 a body of United Irishmen assembled on Sliabh na mBan mountain in Tipperary. Their plans were known and the deliberate lighting of a signal fire at an unexpected time caused great confusion. General Sir Charles Asgill marched from Kilkenny and attacked and dispersed the rebels.
The song is often attributed to Mícheál Óg Ó Longáin, the author of "Maidin Luan Chincíse"

Thomas Paine

10. A ’ 98 MARCH
(Traditional - 19th C.)
Johnny McCarthy - Flutes
Four Star Trio - Bodhrán

This tune was collected by P. J. McCall in 1884 from the lilting of Miss Ellen Newport of Rathangan, co. Wexford. It was subsequently published in the Feis Ceoil Collection of Irish Airs.

Major Sirr

(P. J. McCall - 1890s)
Tim Lyons - Voice

This song, attributed to P.J. McCall by Colm Ó Lochlainn and to William Drennan by Patrick Galvin, was written on the model of an older ballad, a love song, which had been published around 1810.
Henry Joy McCracken (Joy was his mother’s surname) led the Antrim United Irishmen during their brief rising on the 7th of June. After the defeat of his forces he went into hiding on the Cave Hill outside Belfast while plans were made to obtain his escape and passage to America. MacArt’s Fort, on the Cave Hill, was the spot where in June 1795 McCracken, Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell and others made their famous vow ‘never to desist in their efforts until they had subverted the authority of England over their country’. The Ellis mentioned in the song may be the Captain Ellis who commanded a troop of infantry and dragoons during the fighting in Antrim. Niblock was a yeoman who had once bought muslins from McCracken, who was a cotton manufacturer. He recognised and arrested the rebel leader as he walked from Greencastle towards Carrickfergus on the 8th of July, hoping to make his escape.

Henry Joy McCracken

(Traditional - Early 19th C.)
Róisín White - Voice

Roddy McCorley was a Presbyterian from Duneane. He took part in the Battle of Antrim and went into hiding after it. After a year in hiding he was betrayed, tried in Ballymena and hanged in Toome on Good Friday 1799. There is another song on the same subject, written by Ethna Carbery in the 1890s. This song is an older ballad, probably composed in or soon after 1799.

Lord Castleraeagh

The Croppies’ Complaint
(William Ball - 1798)
Barry Gleeson - Voice
Mick Willis- Keyboards

This song was written in 1798 by William Ball, a Dublin loyalist. It is a humorous or satirical commentary on Napoleon’s departure for Egypt when the United Irishmen hoped, and the Government feared, that his new fleet was destined for Ireland.
It is contained in a manuscript collection of pieces composed by William Ball in 1798, which is now in the National Library of Ireland. The tune here is that indicated in the manuscript, "Oh Dear, What Can The Matter Be?"

General Hoche

(Traditional - Early 19th C.)
Terry Timmins - Voice

Colm Ó Lochlainn included this entertaining piece in his second collection of ballads. His text was from a broadside by the Dublin printer Brereton, and Ó Lochlainn dates it to around 1815.
The hero of the song appears to have been somewhat mobile. Rathangan, Glencree and Glenealy are by no means adjacent to each other. Rathangan was attacked by the rebels on the 26th of May.

Mary Ann McCracken

Johnny McCarthy - Flute / Fiddle
Con Ó Drisceoil - Accordion
Pat Ahern - Bouzouki / Guitar

Francis O’Neill prints two versions of the first tune in his Waifs & Strays of Gaelic Melody. This is his own version, the other one being from piper Patsy Tuohey.
There are several tunes carrying the second name - this one may be considered a representative. A jig, it comes from the playing of piper Dinny Delaney of Ballinasloe who was born in 1841 and died in 1919.
In a note of the meaning of the word ‘croppy’ O’Neill says "The term Croppy grew from the custom of the English and Scotch reformers in 1795, who cut their hair short. The same custom was adopted by the reformers in Ireland; and hence all those who wore their hair short were denominated Croppies, and were the marked objects of government vengeance. In truth, clipped hair constituted secondary evidence of treason, and was sufficient to cause the arrest and ill treatment of any person daring enough to adopt it."

General Lake

(Traditional - 1820s)
Luke Cheevers - Voice

This unusual piece appeared in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society in 1913. The note to the song says that it was heard by the informant being sung by a street-singer in Liverpool in 1830. Only verses 1, 4 and 5 are in the Journal. Verses 2 and 3 here are recent additions by Like Cheevers.

Theobald Wolfe Tone

Michael O’Brien - Uilleann Pipes

The success of the revolutionaries in France was a great source of inspiration to the United Irishmen, and a highly politicised Irish population watched events in France with great interest.
This tune is derived from the "Ça Ira", a song popular among the Paris radicals. The chorus of "Ça Ira" goes

Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates à la lanterne,
Ah ça ira, ça ira, ça ira,
Les aristocrates on les pendra

The Bastille was taken by the revolutionaries on the 14th of July 1789, and King Louis XVI was executed on the 21st of January 1793. Either event might be commemorated by this piece.


This music was recorded in the Irish Traditional Music Archive,
Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
Engineer : Glenn Comiskey
Produced by : Jerry O’Reilly & Terry Moylan
Tracks 6, 10 and 15, The Four Star Trio, were recorded in
Secret Garden Studios, Cork.
Engineer : Johnny Campbell
Produced by : The Four Star Trio
Thanks to :
The performers, Kay & Anne, Nicholas Carolan & the ITMA,
Glenn Comiskey, Johnny Campbell & Pascale Gaudry.

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