Kevin Barry

In Mountjoy Jail one Monday morning
High upon the gallows tree
Kevin Barry gave his young life
For the cause of liberty
But a lad of eighteen summers
Yet no true man can deny
As he walked to death that morning
He proudly held his head on high

Just before he faced the hangman
In his dreary prison cell
The British soldiers tortured Barry
Just because he would not tell
The names of all his brave companions
And other things they wished to know
Turn informer or we'll kill you
Kevin Barry answered, No

Another martyr for old Erin
Another murder for the crown
The British laws may crush the Irish
But cannot keep their spirits down

This is one of the best known of Irish rebel songs. Indeed, it was so popular in Ireland at one time that a young woman was said to have asked of her mother: "What used they sing before Kevin Barry?" Barry, an 18 year old student, was hanged as a rebel in Dublin on November 1, 1920; his martyrdom resulted in the greatly increased voluntary recruitment of his fellow students into the Irish Republican Army. written by Terrence Ward of The Irish Press. Ironically, it was said to have been so popular in the British Army during the Troubles that it had to be banned. The tune is taken from a sea shanty - Rolling Home.

According to his nephew and biographer, Donal O'Donovan, Barry enjoyed his time at college and was fond of drinking and dancing. He also enjoyed holidays spent on the family dairy farm in Carlow and divided his time between there and 8 Fleet Street, Temple Bar, Dublin, now home to House of Rock, a restaurant and bar. He was the fourth child of seven. At Belvedere College, Barry played the unusual combination of rugby and hurling.

While most of his family were nationalists his older sister Cathy was actively involved in the republican movement. At 15, Barry joined the Irish Volunteers. At 11 a.m. on September 20th, 1920, Barry and three men ambushed a group of soldiers collecting bread from Monk's Bakery on North King Street. One soldier was killed, and two who were wounded died later. Kevin Barry was arrested at the scene with an automatic pistol. He was court-martialled and sentenced to death. The Archbishop of Dublin and the Lord Mayor of Dublin wrote to the British Prime Minister Lloyd George asking for a reprieve for Barry especially on account of his young age. The Inspector General of the Royal Irish Constabulary threatened to resign if a reprieve was granted. Barry, he said, was only a year younger than one of the men killed. Some 2,000 people gathered outside Mountjoy prison on November 1st, the morning of his execution. "Many of the women were in tears and even men displayed signs of emotion," an Irish Times report from the day said. Kevin Barry was the first person to be executed in Mountjoy Prison in nearly 20 years. An affidavit from Barry was read out in the House of Commons after the execution describing how he had been mistreated in custody.

From the "Irish Times"

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