Many readers of Rebel Voice will know of Brendan Behan, poet, song writer, playwright and likable rogue. Fewer of you will be familiar with his younger brother, Dominic, who was five years his junior.
Dominic Behan, who also went by his Gaelic name of Doiminic Ó Beacháin, was born on 22nd, October, 1918 and died on 3rd August, 1989. Like his more illustrious sibling, Dominic was also a playwright, novelist, song writer and singer. He was a fervent Republican and socialist who enthralled audiences for decades with his varied repertoire of songs.
The following song was not one of Behan’s own. It was, however, written by his uncle, Peadar Kearney, who also penned the Irish National Anthem. Sergeant William Bailey is an anti-recruitment song that pokes fun at a British Army recruiting sergeant trying to entice young Dublin men to join the military. Unfortunately, too many brave but foolish individuals, with the encouragement of the unscrupulous Irish politician Redmond, did exactly that and paid for it with their young lives in the trenches of World War 1. Of the 210,000 Irish Nationalists who voluntarily enlisted, approximately 35,000 died fighting on behalf of the British Empire, at a time when Irish Republicans were trying to free Ireland from that same brutal colonial enterprise.
There were too many cunning and ruthless Sergeant William Baileys and too many desperate and gullible young Irish men. Today, Irish Anglophiles are working to rewrite the narrative from the First World War. They are attempting to ignore the obviously ridiculous scenario of Irish men dying for the same Empire that oppressed them. Moves are being made to glorify the massive loss of life during that sickening conflict. But then, as now, Republicans can see the truth. Whether it be WW1, or Brexit and the EU, the Republicans of Ireland still exclaim, “We serve neither Kaiser nor King”. Rebel Voice is certain that Dominic Behan would agree.