This Irish rebel classic was written by Canon Charlies O’Neill (1887-1963) of Portglenone, County Antrim in the Occupied Six Counties (OSC). He was also parish priest of Kilcoo and later Newcastle in County Down, also in the OSC.
Although many will know the air, it is the lyrics that Rebel Voice wishes to present here. The poetical quality of the words is haunting. This song of rebellion deserves all the plaudits that it has received.
The Foggy Dew
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 pipe did hum, no battle drum did sound its loud tatoo.
But the Angelus Bell, o’er the Liffey’s swell, rang out in 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 Suvla 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.
Oh the night fell black, and the rifles’ crack, made perfidious Albion reel.
In the leaden rain, seven tongues of flame, did shine o’er the lines of steel.
By each shining blade a prayer was said, that to Ireland her sons be true,
But when morning broke, still the war flag shook out its folds in the foggy dew.
‘Twas England bade our wild geese go, that “small nations might be free”;
Their lonely graves are by Suvla’s waves or the fringe of the great North Sea.
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha,
Their graves we’d keep where the Fenians sleep, ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew.
Oh the bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear,
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year.
While 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.
As 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 kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew.
– Charlie O’Neill –
Here is the Luke Kelly version, followed by Sínead O’Connor’ take. Although Rebel Voice believes Luke to be the greatest of Ireland’s troubadours, Sínead’s performance in this shades it (she does have the Chieftains to assist her though).