The Ballad of Michael Collins lyrics

Johnny McEvoy

The curlew stood silent and unseen
In the long damp grass,
And he looked down on the road bellow him
That wound its way through Béal na Bláth.
And he heard the young men shouting and cursing,
Running backwards and forwards,
Dodging weaving and ducking the bullets
That rained down on them from the hillside opposite.

Just as quickly as it started the firing stopped,
And a terrible silence hung over the valley.
A lone figure lay on the roadside
In the drizzling August rain,
Dressed in green great coat,
Leggings and brown hob nail boots,
That would never again
Set the sparks flying from the kitchen flagstones
As he danced his way through a half set.

A hurried whispered act of contrition
And the firing breaks out again.
The curlew takes to flight
And as he flies out over
The empty sad fields of West Cork,
With his lonesome call
He must tell the world
That the big fella has fallen
And that Michael is gone.


On a far off August day,
Cold young men in ambush lay,
On a roadside by a hill where flowers grow,
So much hate for one so young,
Who was right and who was wrong,
Though a thousand years may pass we'll never know.

Candles dripping blood,
They placed beside your shoulders,
Rosary beads like teardrops on your fingers,
Friends and comrades standing by,
In their grief they wonder why,
Michael in their hour of need you had to go.

And when evening twilight came,
Gently fell the Autumn rain,
Oh but you lay still and silent on the ground,
As we hung our heads in prayer,
In our sorrow and dispare,
We wondered was it friend or foe who shot you down,

Candles dripping blood,
They placed beside your shoulders,
Rosary beads like teardrops on your fingers,
Friends and comrades standin by,
In their grief they wonder why,
Michael in their hour of need you had to go.

Now the flame that you held high,
When you called out to the sky,
To end this senseless killing and this shame,
Has now passed to other hands
And is carried through the land
By some not fit to even speak your name.

Candles dripping blood,
They placed beside your shoulders,
Rosary beads like teardrops on your fingers,
Friends and comrades standin by,
In their grief they wonder why,
Michael in their hour of need you had to go.
Michael in their hour of need why did you go

Song Details

Michel Collins
Michael Collins

Writer: David Fisher

Michael Collins (16 Oct 1890 - 22 Aug 1922): Irish revolutionary, soldier and politician who was a leading figure in the early-20th century struggle for Irish independence. He was Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State from January 1922, and commander-in-chief of the ProTreaty Army from July of that same year until his death on August 22,1922 resulting from an ambush during the Civil War which took place between 1922-23... michael-collins

Brief: The start of the ballad is a poem seen through the eyes of a curlew (bird) that stood silent and unseen in the long damp grass while watching the ambush unfold.

The song that follows depicts the last moments of his life where he was ambushed and killed at Béal na Bláth. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia relating to the ambush.

The 'Irregulars' in the laneway opened fire with rifles on the convoy. Emmet Dalton, the Free State commander for the county, ordered the driver of the touring car to 'drive like hell', but Collins said 'no, stop and we'll fight 'em'. He then jumped from the vehicle along with the others. At first the group took cover behind a low grass bank bordering the road, but Collins then jumped up and ran back along the road to begin firing with his Lee Enfield rifle from behind the armoured car. The Vickers machine gun in that car had also been firing at the attackers but then stopped because a badly loaded ammunition belt caused it to jam.

Apparently, to get a better view of the laneway up which he had seen the enemy running, Collins left the protection of the armoured car and moved even farther back around a bend in the road out of sight of his comrades. Now standing in the open, he fired a couple of shots and as he was once more working the bolt of his rifle he was struck in the head by a bullet believed to have been fired by one of the ambushing party – Denis "Sonny" O'Neill, a former British Army sniper...

References:
curlew - any of several shorebirds having a long, slender, downcurved bill
Béal na Bláth - a small village in County Cork, Ireland.

Category: Irish Folk / Rebel / Tragedy / Patriotic

Johnny McEvoy: Born - April 24, 1945 in Banagher, County Offaly, Ireland. He is a singer songwriter and musician whose music styles include Irish folk, Country and Irish Music.

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