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Follow Me Up to Carlow

[ Roud 36327 ; Ballad Index PGa090 ; Patrick Joseph McCall (1861-1919)]

Follow Me Up to Carlow is an Irish song celebrating the defeat of an army of 3,000 English soldiers by Fiach Mac Aodh Ó Broin (anglicised Fiach MacHugh O'Byrne) at the Battle of Glenmalure, during the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1580. The words were written by Patrick Joseph McCall (1861–1919) and appear in his Songs of Erinn (1899) under the title Marching Song of Feagh MacHugh. [Wikipedia]

Arthur Kearney sang Follow Me Up to Carlow on the 1966 Topic album Ireland Her Own.

Danny Spooner sang Follow Me Up to Carlow on Shayna Karlin, Gordon McIntyre and his 1968 album Soldiers and Sailors (Folksingers of Australia Volume 2). He commented:

The words of this stirring song of battle were written by P.J. McCall, describing the great victory over the English by the Irish at Glenmalure in the late 16th Century. It is said the tune was first played by the pipers of Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne, the hero of the battle, who then led his army against Carlow.

Christy Moore sang Follow Me Up to Carlow in 1973 on Planxty's eponymous first album, Planxty, and on their 2016 anthology Between the Jigs and the Reels.

Barrie Roberts sang Follow Me Up to Carlew in 1975 on Folkways' Irish Rebellion Album. The album's liner notes commented:

Queen Elizabeth I also had her “dealings” with the Irish. Throughout her reign she was constantly attempting to conquer the Irish spirit, destroy their religion and rob them of their land.

With the oppression of Elizabeth came another group of Irish heroes to oppose her. Rory Oge O'More, a young man whose ancestral lands were taken by “Liza”, spent six years in guerrilla warfare against the English settlers: attacking their towns and burning their homes. Another hero of the same period as Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne, who, with a relatively small force of men, not only held English troops sent to crush him, but actually defeated them and sent them home a broken army.

Tommy Dempsey sang Follow Me Down to Carlow on his 1976 Trailer album with John Swift, Green Grow the Laurel.


Christy Moore sings Follow Me Up to Carlow

Lift MacCahir Óg your face brooding o'er the old disgrace
That black Fitzwilliam stormed your place, drove you to the Fern
Grey said victory was sure soon the firebrand he'd secure;
Until he met at Glenmalure with Fiach Mac Hugh O'Byrne.

Chorus (after each verse):
Curse and swear Lord Kildare
Fiach will do what Fiach will dare
Now Fitzwilliam, have a care
Fallen is your star, low
Up with halbert out with sword
On we'll go for by the Lord
Fiach MacHugh has given the word,
Follow me up to Carlow.

See the swords of Glen Imayle, flashing o'er the English Pale
See all the children of the Gael, beneath O'Byrne's banners
Rooster of a fighting stock, would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish rock, fly up and teach him manners.

From Saggart to Clonmore, there flows a stream of Saxon gore
O, great is Rory Óg O'More, sending the loons to Hades.
White is sick and Lane is fled, now for black Fitzwilliam's head
We'll send it over dripping red, to Queen Liza and the ladies.