Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
20. Ballad of Douglas Bridge
By Francis Carlin
ON Douglas Bridge I met a man
Who lived adjacent to Strabane,
  Before the English hung him high
For riding with O’Hanlon.
The eyes of him were just as fresh        5
As when they burned within the flesh;
  And his boot-legs were wide apart
From riding with O’Hanlon.
“God save you, Sir,” I said with fear,
“You seem to be a stranger here.”        10
  “Not I,” said he, “nor any man
Who rides with Count O’Hanlon.
“I know each glen from North Tyrone
To Monaghan, and I’ve been known
  By every clan and parish, since        15
I rode with Count O’Hanlon.”
“Before that time,” said he to me,
“My fathers owned the land you see;
  But they are now among the moors
A-riding with O’Hanlon.”        20
“Before that time,” said he with pride,
“My fathers rode where now they ride
  As Rapparees, before the time
Of trouble and O’Hanlon.”
“Good night to you, and God be with        25
The tellers of the tale and myth,
  For they are of the spirit-stuff
That rides with Count O’Hanlon.”
“Good night to you,” said I, “and God
Be with the chargers, fairy-shod,        30
  That bear the Ulster heroes forth
To ride with Count O’Hanlon.”
On Douglas Bridge we parted, but
The Gap o’ Dreams is never shut,
  To one whose saddled soul to-night        35
Rides out with Count O’Hanlon.
Francis Carlin supplies me with this note. “Redmond O’Hanlon was born about 1623 in the Country Armagh where his father owned seven townlands. During the Cromwellian settlement this estate was taken over by the English. Then Redmond and his three brothers took to the hills as “Rapparees.” He went to France, where he was given the title of Count, which title was credited to him later in the French gazettes. He returned to Ireland before 1671 and became the leader of the “Rapparees” of Ulster. Having refused to bear witness against the Primate, Oliver Plunkett, one hundred pounds was offered for his head by Ormonde, the viceroy of Ireland. He was slain while asleep by a clansman who brought his head to Downpatrick Gaol. The Receiver’s Book in the Dublin Record Office contains the following entry, ‘Paid to Art O’Hanlon as a reward for killing Redmond O’Hanlon, a proclaimed Rebell and Traytor, as by Concordation dated 6th of May 1681—One Hundred Pounds.’ ”

  The nearest translation of “Rapparees”would be “guerillas,” and perhaps the best comparison would be with the “Comitadjis” of Turkish Bulgaria and Macedonia. The disbanded Irish armies formed the nucleus for these bands. They levied toll on the Planters who had taken over the confiscated Irish estates; they avenged some of the wrongs inflicted upon the peasantry, and they checked the exactions of “the Bashaws of the west and south,” as Lecky calls the landowners of the time. Unfortunately there was always a pull from the woods and hillsides of Ireland towards the camps of the Irish Brigade in France. See “The Irish Rapparees” and note to it.


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