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Updated 05/16/2013


The Foggy Dew

“Foggy Dew” was written by Canon Charles O’Neill, a parish priest of Kilcoo and later Newcastle, County Down, in 1919.  In 1919 he went to Dublin and attended a sitting of the first Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament). He was moved by the number of members whose names were answered during roll call by "faoi ghlas ag na Gaill" (locked up by the foreigners) and resolved to write a song in commemoration of the Easter Rebellion."

The music is from a manuscript that was in possession of Kathleen Dallat of Ballycastle. That manuscript gives Carl Hardebeck as the arranger.  Carl Hardebeck (1869–1945) was a musician, composer and arranger of Irish traditional music.  Hardebeck, whose father was German and mother was Welsh, was born in Clerkenwell, London in 1869. He lost his sight when he was a baby. He was educated in London and showed a marked aptitude for music.  At the age of twenty-four he moved to Belfast, where he opened a music store, but the venture failed. Despite this, he remained in Ireland for the rest of his life, teaching music, studying the Irish language and collecting folk songs from around the country. He lived and worked in Cork for a while, where he was professor of Irish music, but returned to Belfast and finally settled in Dublin in 1932, where he taught Irish and traditional music in the Dublin Municipal School for two years. He secured prizes at the Feis Ceoil for his compositions and on many occasions acted as adjudicator in singing and musical competitions.  Unfortunately, very little attention has been given to Hardebeck, who was one of the instigators in the revival of Irish music; indeed he was largely forgotten about after his death.

The song chronicles the Easter Uprising of 1916, and encourages Irishmen to fight for the cause of Ireland, rather than for the British, as so many young men were doing in World War I.  Suvla was a battleground in the Middle East. The term "wild geese" originated with Irish soldiers who fought with King James against William of Orange. Patrick Pearse was a leader of the Uprising and Eamon de Valera was another leader who later became prime minister.

The two men mentioned in the song are, Padraig Pearse, the organizer of the rebellion, and Eamon de Valera, a lesser leader who survived because he was an American citizen; he would eventually become the primary leader of the hard-line anti-English faction, helping lead Ireland to its Civil War but also guiding its destiny for many decades thereafter. Some versions also mention Cathal Brugha, who was one of the most extreme nationalists. Since the song was written in 1919, Canon O'Neill could hardly know that Brugha would eventually die in rebellion against Ireland's freely elected government -- but he did.


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 did sound its loud tattoo
But the Angelus Bell o'er the Liffey's swell rang out through the foggy dew

Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung 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 sailed in through the foggy dew.

'Twas England bade our wild geese go, that "small nations might be free";
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'd keep where the Fenians sleep, 'neath the shroud of the foggy dew.

Oh the night fell black, and the rifles' crack made perfidious Albion reel
In the leaden rain, 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
But when morning broke, still the war flag shook out its folds in the foggy dew

Oh the bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the spring time 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

As 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 kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, when you fell in the foggy dew.