Irish Rebel Spy, The
DESCRIPTION: "In the city of Mialco, near the county of Leone There lived a comely maiden ... And the proper name she goes by is the Irish Rebel Spy." Her brother and true love die as Fenians. She outwits detectives, steals a horse, and warns the Fenians.
EARLIEST DATE: 1958 (Manny/Wilson)
KEYWORDS: rebellion trick Ireland patriotic
FOUND IN: Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Manny/Wilson 76, "The Irish Rebel Spy" (1 text, 1 tune)
ST MaWi076 (Partial)
NOTES: I have no idea what the names of city and county, in the first line, should be. Roud quotes a first line from a Fowke sound recording as "In the county of Malonta(?) in the city of Malone." - BS
Since a song approving of the Fenians is unlikely to have originated in Canada (the Fenians, after all, wanted to attack Canada!), we must assume the song is of Irish origin. There is no Irish county with no name anything like either Leone or Malone. My wild, wild guess is that the name is an error for "Athlone" -- not a county, but a well-known city, and one in the county of Roscommon, which isn't very singable.
The other name defeats me. Not too far from Athlone, but in Westmeath, is the town of Moate; I can't come up with anything closer. But I don't really believe it.
The other possibility would be to make the county "Mayo." In that case, the best emendation I can come up with is "In the city of Ballina in the county of Mayo." In this case, the song might be connected, somehow, with the activities of Michael Davitt (1846-1905), whose family had been evicted from their home in Mayo in 1852. Having lost an arm in a factory accident, and brutally treated as a prisoner, he returned to Mayo in 1879, and was in prison again by 1881. But he doesn't fit the song very well. More likely it arises from the Fenian uprising (read: fiasco) of 1867.
The one historical figure we can identify with certainty is James Stephens (1824-1901), a participant in the rebellion of 1848 and the founder of the Fenians in 1858, for whom see "James Stephens, the Gallant Fenian Boy." But he abandoned the movement in 1866, shortly before the Fenian rebellion. He was treated with scorn thereafter.
All in all, a very confusing, and confused, piece, this. - RBW
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