The Foggy Dew

The most famous song about the 1916 rising, and probably the best one has connections with Newry and Mourne.

It was written by Canon O’Neill who was born Patrick O’Neill in Portgenone in 1887 and was ordained in 1912. He became parish priest of Kilcoo outside Hilltown in 1941 and was later P.P. of Newcastle from 1955-1960.

The then Father O’Neill was inspired to write the song subsequent to a visit to the First Dail in Dublin in 1919 when he was moved by the number of Deputies who were “Faoi glas ag na Sasanaigh.”  (Locked up by those champions of small nations the English).   In contrast to noisy rebel songs or thrashy British army doggerel barrack songs, “The Foggy Dew” is dignified but defiant, rather than rousing; the words are poignant.  There are several different versions but the one below is perhaps the most popular. The air is borrowed from a McCormack love song:

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 rang out its wild tatoo

But the Angelus Bell o’er the Liffey swell

Rang out through the Foggy Dew.


Right proudly high over Dublin Town

They flung 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

Poured hell through the Foggy Dew.


The night fell black and the rifle crack

made perfidious Albion reel

Through the leaden rain seven tongues of flame

shone out o’er the lines of steel

By each shining blade a prayer was said

that to Ireland her sons be true

And when morning broke still the war flag shook

its folds through the Foggy Dew.



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 fought the fight that freedom’s light

Might shine through the Foggy Dew.



‘Twas England bade our Wild Geese go

That small nations might be free

But 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 would keep where the Fenians sleep

Neath the shroud of the Foggy Dew.


Back through the glen I rode again,

My heart with grief was sore

For those gallant lines of marching men

I never would see more

But to and fro in my grief I go

I kneel and I pray for you

For slavery fled O most glorious dead

When you fell in the Foggy Dew.


Canon O’Neill died in 1963 and is buried behind St.Mary’s Church in Newcastle.  

It is not widely known that Newry men took part in the rising.  A recent account of the history of the IRA in S.Down/S.Armagh mentions Johnny Southwell, but omits George Cahill (an Uncle of Joe Cahill), who stole his nephew’s bike to cycle to Dublin

Newry Post Office was guarded against possible attack by Redmondite Volunteers who were jeered at by local republican-minded youth.

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