The Foggy Dew


I grew up as a first generation Irish-American. My ancestors didn’t come during the 1840s (and the myth of a potato famine), they arrived in the Twentieth Century, just barely (between 1900 and 1908). This week is the anniversary of the Easter Rising, the Irish Revolution of 1916.

Liam Neeson was in a movie about the Irish patriots and their revolution (and the civil war that followed), Michael Collins. The film came out in the nineties—about the same time Michael Flatley was amazing people as the Lord of the Dance.

(Look at those hands moving! Mine would have been pinned to my skirt. Look at those skirts! My dance teacher must be rolling in her grave, but, being a rebellious sort, I love it.)

Our revolution – that’s how my grandparents would have termed it. Nana refused to surrender her Irish citizenship, even though she never once returned home after her arrival in 1900. According to my dad, his father travelled back to Ireland in 1916 – and was on Sacksville St. (now O’Connell St.) to witness the shelling of the General Post Office. Family stories are fuzzy, he was in the Post Office, he wasn’t. Maybe he was with the contingent at St. Stephen’s Green. I don’t know. I know his choices have colored family history; a rebellious lot we are. My grandparents listed their place of origin as The Republic of Ireland, and even before 1916, they were Irish citizens, not British.

The Irish Revolution, the Easter Rising, was a small affair, as revolutions go. But it would have made the Spartans proud, long before any Arab Springs. It was over in a week, but the vastly out-numbered Irish Republicans had made an impression that would echo through time and affect those of Irish descent, both in Ireland (The Republic, and the North) and abroad, almost one hundred years later. Like the pillars on the Post Office, changed—scarred, but not broken.

The British executed fourteen men at Kilmainham Gaol, between May 3 and May 12, 1916, some of them leaders of the revolution, some of them not. Some very involved, some not at all. Take a moment over the next two weeks to honor men who died for their belief in a free Ireland.

And their names we keep where the fenians sleep…

3 May: Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas J. Clarke

4 May: Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly and Michael O’Hanrahan

5 May: John MacBride

8 May: Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston and Conn Colbert

12 May: James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada

As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I 
There Armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
 
No fife did hum nor battle drum did sound it’s dread tatoo
 
But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew
 

Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war 
‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar
 
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through
 
While Britannia’s Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew
 

‘Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free 
But their lonely graves are by Sulva’s waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
 
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha
 
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew
 

But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear 
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
 
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
 
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew
 

Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore 
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
 
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I’d kneel and pray for you,
 
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.

 These lyrics may or may not be copyrighted! Retrieved from http://celtic-lyrics.com/lyrics/201.html April 25, 2012


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9 thoughts on “The Foggy Dew

  1. Great short read, Mel. As a life long reader I appreciate your writing syle and subject. You are able to inject feelings into your sentences and I have shared many a laugh with you as I read your blog. Keep up the great work….:)

  2. You forgot one! I know cause it’s my Great, I don’t know how many greats actually, but he is my Uncle

    Thomas Patrick Ashe (Irish: Tomás Pádraig Ághas; 12 January 1885 – 25 September 1917) was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers.[1]
    He was born in Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland. Having entered De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 he began his teaching career as principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, County Dublin in 1908. He spent the last years before his death teaching children in Lusk, where he founded the award-winning Lusk Black Raven Pipe Band as well as Round Towers Lusk GAA club in 1906. During the summer of 1913, Douglas Hyde, president of the Gaelic League, attempted to expel him and other members.
    Commanding the Fingal battalion of the Irish Volunteers, Ashe took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Ashe’s force of 60-70 men engaged British forces around north County Dublin during the rising. The battalion won a major victory in Ashbourne, County Meath where they engaged a much larger force capturing a significant quantity of arms and up to 20 Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) vehicles. 24 hours after the rising collapsed, Ashe’s battalion surrendered on the orders of Patrick Pearse. On 8 May 1916, Ashe and Éamon de Valera were court-martialled and both were sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to penal servitude for life. Ashe was imprisoned in Lewes Prison in England.

    The gravestone of Thomas Ashe, Peadar Kearney and Piaras Béaslaí in Glasnevin Cemetery.
    With the entry of the U.S. into World War I in April 1917, the British government was put under more pressure to solve the ‘Irish problem’. De Valera, Ashe and Thomas Hunter led a prisoner hunger strike on 28 May 1917 to add to this pressure. With accounts of prison mistreatment appearing in the Irish press and mounting protests in Ireland, Ashe and the remaining prisoners were freed on 18 June 1917 by Lloyd George as part of a general amnesty.
    Upon release, Ashe returned to Ireland and began a series of speaking engagements. In August 1917, Ashe was arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford where Michael Collins had also been speaking. He was detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including Austin Stack, demanded prisoner of war status. As this protest evolved Ashe again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. On 25 September 1917, he died at the Mater Hospital after being force-fed by prison authorities. At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the “inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct”.[2]
    Ashe’s death had a significant impact on the country increasing Republican recruitment, his body lay in state at Dublin City Hall, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
    He was also a relative of Catherine Ashe, the paternal grandmother of American actor Gregory Peck, who emigrated to the United States in the 19th century. The Ashe Memorial Hall, housing the Kerry County Museum, in Tralee is named after him.

    • There are too many to list, Amiee! I only noted the 14 executed in the first two weeks of May, 1916. They were shot in the courtyard at Killmainham Jail — you can still see the bullet pocked walls 😦

      James Connolly had a shattered ankle and was carried to the site of his execution and then tied into a chair before he was shot.

      Thankfully, my grandfather came home.

  3. Excellent post. Foggy Dew has been my favorite song of the Irish Rebellion for a long time. My grandfather was a Pearse (Americanized to Pierce) and had some familial connection. No one ever talked about it, and that grandfather died before I was born, so I’m not certain how. My grandmother made vague comments about life being hard on them because of the connection, and she was a supporter of reunification.

  4. This is so cool. What a rich, historical description! This rarely happens, but I feel like I’m walking away from this post more educated about Ireland and its history.

    Thanks for sharing, Mel!

    • Cool! Thank you. I did a lot of my undergraduate research on Ireland, and focused a lot of my graduate work on hyphenated cultures (focusing on the Irish-American) 🙂

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