THE FOGGY DEW
Words by Fr. P. O'Neill
"The Foggy Dew" portrays two stories of Irish warriors; one group fighting for freedom in Ireland while the other fought for freedom in foreign lands. In fact, more Irishmen have died for England, France and the United States than for their homeland. In 1916, many Irishmen were fighting in the First World War under the British flag when the Easter Uprising occurred. Although the British squelched the Easter Uprising, it awakened the sense of pride in their homeland and themselves that eventually led to independence.
Some of the events leading to the Easter Uprising occurred during the late 1800s, when English statesmen belatedly tried to undue some of the wrongs done to Ireland. Charles Stewart Parnell, champion and leader of the Home Rule lobbyists in the British Parliament, was one of the best known advocates. The Land Acts of 1870, 1881 and 1885 protected and increased the rights of farmers but these concessions only meant temporary peace because the majority of the Irish still wanted self-government. Attempts were made to put Irish Home Rule bills through the British Parliament, but failed. By 1912, demands by the Irish for Home Rule had become violent although two thirds of Ulster was determined to remain in the United Kingdom. The advent of World War delayed the vote for Irish Home Rule and slowed active rebellion but the Irish of the south had waited too long to have their efforts entirely halted.
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 fife did hum nor battle drum did sound its dread tatoo
But the Angelus bell o'er the Liffey swell
Rang out through the foggy dew
In 1916 with no end in the World War, the rebel forces decided that action had to be taken to force the British into giving Ireland Home Rule. Two groups, the Irish Volunteers, led by Padraig Pearse (Barrister and School Teacher), and the Irish Citizen Army, led by James Connolly (Union Leader) with his second in command noted revolutionary Cathal Brugha, called for an uprising to commence on Easter Sunday. Pearse, Connolly and others, including Joseph Mary Plunkett (Grace) and Thomas MacDonagh, were ill suited for military action. These men decided against attacking key areas such as Dublin Castle and Trinity College in the hope of minimizing personal injury to innocent Dubliners. Instead, they chose the General Post Office (GPO) in the heart of the main shopping area as their headquarters, as well as several locations on the other side of the Liffey River, none of particular importance, to seize. The result proved disastrous.
Oh, the night fell black and the rifles crack
Made "Perfidious Albion" reel
'Mid the leaden rail, 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
And when morning broke still the war flag shook
Out its fold in the Foggy Dew
Although only about 1600 fighters turned out to fight for Irish Home Rule, Britain immediately sent troops to quell this uprising. For six long days, the rebels fought fierce battles on both fronts while under a heavy barrage of rifles and mortar fire. Slowly, the rebels were forced to retreat to the GPO. By the end of the sixth day, downtown Dublin was in a stake of havoc. British mortar shells had all but destroyed the GPO. Pearse finally surrendered. Unfortunately, the uprisings led to the death of 318 civilians, 64 rebels and 132 soldiers/policeman.
Both Pearse and Connolly were executed in May 1916. The wounded Connolly was executed strapped to a chair because he was too weak to stand. Plunkett was also among those executed. Brugha, wounded by a hand grenade, survived to continue the fight for Irish Home Rule. He became an important figure in the Anglo-Irish War. In October 1917, Brugha was named Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and, in 1918, the Minister of Defense. He fought and was wounded again during the Irish Civil War.
Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war
'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky than at Sulva 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
World War I, the war to end all wars, saw battles throughout Europe. Before the outbreak of war, 20,000 Irish soldiers in the regular British army and another 30,000 were reservists. With the onset of the war, 58,000 Irish soldiers were mobilized. These soldiers fought side by side with the British military in battle after battle. Two notable clashes involving the Irish Military occurred at Sulva Bay, Gallipoli, Turkey and at Somme, France.
Although the Allied commenced their fight for the Turkish Gallipolis in April 1916, Irish soldiers didn't landed at Sulva Bay until August 7, unfortunately without maps, orders or artillery pieces as their equipment was shipped elsewhere. During the battle, their ammunition ran out and, on occasion, the soldiers resorted to throwing stones at the Turks. One Irish soldier caught grenades and threw them back at the Turks. He managed to catch five successfully; unfortunately the sixth blew him to pieces. The Allied forces continued to fight until January 1916 when they retreated, never having moved from the beaches. In the end, the Allies suffered over 250,000 casualties (killed, wounded or missing). Of these, over 3400 were Irishmen.
In 1916 Irish soldiers, some having survived the battle for Gallipoli, were now fighting from the trenches in Somme, France. After intense bombarding of the Germans by Allied forces, the actual battle of Somme began on June 24 along a 14 mile long front. Ulster lads were the first to enter no-man's land and were immediately met with machine gun fire. The second wave brought Dublin lads into the fierce battle. Within days, the Ulster Division was basically wiped out when 5,500 were killed, wounded or missing. The Dublin Division, with an approximately 50% loss, continued to fight for several more months.
The Irish sacrifice received little or no official recognition although approximately 200,000 Irish people served in the Allied forces in the Great War; at a minimum 35,500 of those died on the battlefields.
Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Sulva's waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse's side or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep
'Neath the shroud of the foggy dew
Looking back through Irish history from mystical warriors to modern soldiers, young Irishmen have fought bravely for their homeland and foreign nations. Never did they nor did their homeland receive the acknowledgement due for their courage as they aided others to gain or regain their freedom.
In the third century, Fenians, as the soldiers were called then, protected the High King of Ireland who resided in Royal County of Meath. This honorable name remained today as a proud badge of fighting Irishmen.
Irish soldiers protected only their homeland until the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 which ended the Williamite War (The West's Awake). As part of this treaty, 11,000 Jacobite soldiers (Irish Catholic defenders of British King James II) were allowed to leave Ireland with the French allies. Upon entering France, these Irish soldiers formed into four regiments under James II and fought for Louis XIV. These regiments became known as the famous "Irish Brigade of France" but, in Ireland, they were named "Wild Geese".
Descendants of the original " Wild Geese" and newly arrived Irishmen continued the proud tradition of the "Irish Brigade of France". One famous brigade battle occurred September 23, 1779 off the coast of England when the Irish Marines, aboard John Paul Jones' frigate, Bonhomme Richard, engaged in a fierce battle against two English ships. It was during this battle that John Paul Jones allegedly stated, "I have not yet begun to fight" when asked if he was going to strike his colors (concede defeat). After an intense battle, John Paul Jones claimed victory.
The proud tradition of Irish military support continued throughout American history. Irish descendants and newly arrived Irishmen also made history on the battlefields in America during the American Revolution. It was said they saved Washington's army during the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. Two groups, Haslet's Delawares and Smallwood's Marylanders, remained in Brooklyn fighting the British, providing Washington's army the opportunity to retreat. Throughout American history, the Irish have proudly defended the United States in every war, including both sides in the Civil War.
But 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 bore the fight that freedom's light
Might shine through the foggy dew
No one knows when the first Irishman entered British military service, but the 1798 Rebellion (Boolavogue) definitely changed the dynamics. Within a year (1799), Irish Catholics were finally allowed to enlist. Originally, an enlistment lasted for life, but this was eventually changed to 21 years (actually, life for the majority). The Irish soldiers quickly became a sizable segment of the British military, reaching about two-fifths in 1830. Irish regiments were assigned to the majority, if not all, of the British colonies, including India.
Irish Regiments stationed in India are credited with numerous acts of heroism for action during battles through Southeast Asia, including suppression of a mutiny of Indian soldiers in 1857. These regiments remained faithful to the British military until after the Easter Uprising. In 1920, with guerilla warfare raged on in Ireland for several years and with the violent response of the British military against Irish citizens, Irish soldiers from the Connaught Rangers in India refused point blank to carry out any more orders issued by anyone connected with the British Army. The mutineers actually replaced the Union Jack with the Irish Tricolor, made from fabric purchased in a local bazaar. This mutiny ended when terms of surrender were arranged. Unfortunately, the Irish soldiers were then punished with threats of execution and with sub-standard living conditions.
Ah, 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'd kneel and pray for you
For slavery fled, O glorious dead,
When you fell in the Foggy Dew.
The British overreaction to the Easter Uprising was so intense that it enraged the Irish population. Many previously indifferent to the republican movement became supportive. The British, seeing revised nationalism, made an attempt at limited Home Rule, but this effort quickly collapsed when Ulster refused to cooperate. British Prime Minister Lloyd George called a convention to work for a compromise, but the revolutionary Sinn Fein voted their own constitution. In the Irish general election of 1918, Sinn Fein won 73 of 105 Irish seats in the British Parliament. Refusing to take the seats, Sinn Fein established the Dail Eirann (Irish Assembly) and elected delegates to send to the Paris Peace (World War I) Conference. When the delegates weren't seated, Sein Fein again turned to violence and two years of chaos ensued. Lloyd George, alarmed, put a new Home Rule Bill through Parliament in 1920 that called for separate parliaments and ministries; one for Ulster and the other for the rest of Ireland. Ulster agreed and, in 1921, Northern Ireland started its separate existence. Southern Ireland reacted violently to the split of Ireland into two distinct areas. Lloyd George finally proposed a plan to make Southern Ireland a dominion. While the most revolutionary Sinn Fein leaders refused to accept it, others did. A treaty was signed establishing an Irish Free State on January 16, 1922.
Really, "The Foggy Dew", when researched, gives one a picture of the nature
of the revolutionary movement, the courage of the Irish military
and of the creation of the Irish Free State.
River Laffey in Central Dublin
Ha'Penny Bridge over the River Laffey
General Post Office on O'Connell Street. Headquarters for the rebels in the Easter Uprising in 1916.
The middle column in the photo to the right has a bullet hole as a result of this Uprising
Courtyard at Trinity College
Monument to James Connolly
Statement on Parnell's statue
located on O'Connell Street, Dublin
Thanks to photographer Carol Kilroy (Kildysert Entertainment, LLC )
Memorial Statue for Fallen Irish Fighters
Ennis, County Clare