Bobby Sands wrote many poems while in prison. Many dealt with his own situation and the current events of his time. Many also had to do with Irish history. He wrote this poem about Roddy McCorley, who was hanged in Toome, Co. Antrim for his part in the United Irishmen Rebellion of 1798.
“Rodaí MacCorlaí” or “Rodaí of Duneane”
I am Rodaí of Duneane, MacCorlaí Antrim born,
And on this day in Toome, I meet my doom, for an oath that I have sworn.
On yonder oak on Rougery hill a jackdaw I have heard,
And he waits to steal my very soul, he’s surely the devils bird.
My graying mother, tara the pity, cut my silent father free,
Where he danced like a ship on an angry sea on yonder gallows tree.
And he felt no touch and he heard no scream, his dying gaze a loss,
And he slumped into her cradled arms like Christ did from the cross.
And when the wind blew down the Sperrins across the haggard land,
She left a broken woman, to roam like the tinker man.
There was no one to pay the landlords sum for we were the poorest of our kind,
Oh how she walks the mist to weep and wail, and haunt the Largey line.
I am Rodaí of Duneane and I watched the primrose cry,
And her dewy tears fell upon a land that watched its mother die.
So at Donegore I swore an oath, and upon that oath I’ll stand,
To Ireland my life, my blood, my love and damn to King and gombeen man.
It was a hurried time when we slipped the pikes ‘neath the purple heathered hill,
With staved rods of silver birch, gleaming pikeheads, men to kill.
And like blackest marble the sky held death and the wolves were gathering round,
And the Red Earl laughed, and jackdaw screeched and I above the gallows in Carrick town.
But dare they came the decent folk from humble homes, by moss and greenly glen,
And they came with trembling hearts to die, those bold United men.
And it was at Crosskeys when the pikes gleamed white ‘neath a telling yellow moon,
That the common folk, aye and theres the poachers son, went out to meet their doom.
I am Rodaí of Duneane and those of no property bear my name,
Those kingly freemen who sweat and toil, and yet never reign nor gain.
I love those kindly gentle folk, those condemned to death from birth,
But I stand by Tone, and I stand by truth and the wretched of this earth.
The wind may chase the powder smoke and the snow may wash the blood away,
But the spirit of freedom has no end and it never will decay.
Springtime was born on lough and land when I chanced by Springwell brae,
In the hope of a roof, and a bite to eat, and a ship for America.
In Ballyscullion, I stayed some nights, aye and in Belaghy three or four,
Then I crossed the Bann with a fisherman to my native Antrim shore.
And near the winding bog I came upon McErlain, and he had a grudge for me,
But he bade me day and he asked me stay, and share his hospitality.
The jackdaw fluttered and danced with joy and me the blinded fool,
For I stepped into hell, and by the devil’s fire I rested on his stool.
“You’ll have some broth” said the graying soul, “And let me take your shoes”,
And she stirred the pot, and she stirred the pot, and I slept before her ruse.
McErlain the curse, had sent a man the road from Moneyglass to Toome,
And Duffin the devil raced to the rock, for cruel Sam to fix my doom.
And the woman McErlain stirred the pot, and never did it warm,
Till the Fencibles came with their coats of red, and never a one did warn.
But be staunch my friends, and never lose faith, though freedoms struggles long,
For the common man, has a common cause, against England’s ancient wrongs.
Aye the drums beats loud, and they scare a man, and the irons bite grim and cold,
And the gallows wait, with a ghostly hate and terror a hundred fold.
Farewell Duneane, farewell my friends, and the sweet Bann ‘neath my feet,
Farewell ye bold United men, will we ever chance to meet?
For the rope is coarse, and the air is still, and the river answers why
But she does not see the common folk who come with tears in eye.
The sun sets red on Slieve Gallion brae,and the jackdaw hid in shame,
And all the primroses wept for Rodaí boy, for MacCorlaí óg was slain.
And along the Largey line a woman wails, tonight she’ll roam the glen,
Oh, Rodaí of Duneane, MacCorlaí Antrim born, will ere we meet again?
With many thanks to: Irish History 1916 through to 1923 for the original posting
Follow these links to find out more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roddy_McCorley