After Aughrim's Great Disaster
DESCRIPTION: ""After Aughrim's great disaster, When our foe in sooth was master," a few survivers escape and hope to continue the struggle. The survivors go their separate ways (perhaps into exile), wishing success to their king
EARLIEST DATE: 1962
KEYWORDS: battle death disaster rebellion Ireland separation
July 12, 1691 - Battle of Aughrim. Decisive defeat of Irish Catholic forces
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (1 citation):
PGalvin, pp. 17-18, "After Aughrim's Great Disaster" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. " Sean a Duir a'Ghleanna" (form)
NOTES: The Battle of the Boyne in 1690 (for which see "The Battle of the Boyne (I)") marked the real end of Jacobite hopes; James II fled to the continent following that battle, the French reduced their already limited commitment, and William III (who had overthrown James) returned to Britain. (It didn't help that the remaining Irish leaders despised each other.)
Many Irish, however, continued in rebellion, retreating to Athlone and Limerick. The British command was turned over to General Ginkel (the "Dutchman" of the song), who captured Athlone on June 30. Most Irish leaders wanted to concentrate on a holding action at Limerick, but St Ruth, the French commander, wanted to fight. He picked a position at Aughrim and waited for Ginkel.
Aughrim was a near-fought thing. Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, p. 183, declare, that Ginkel's crossing of the Shannon "was followed by 'Aughrim's dread disaster,' the major battle of the war. St Ruth, the French commander, had chosen a strong position on the slopes of Kilcommodon hill. Ginkel's army floundered into the bog that separated the armies, and St Ruth called on his men to drive the enemy to the gates of Dublin. Then at a critical stage of the battle St Ruth was killed; a causeway through the bog was betrayed to Ginkel's men[,] and confusion set in on the Irish side. Their losses were heavy and Ginkel won an impressive victory.
When the English won, they won decisively. St Ruth was dead, Tyrconnell died in August, and only Limerick was left in Irish hands. Sarsfield (Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan c. 1655-1693), the last real Irish leader and the best soldier of the lot, decided to seek terms while he still had a bargaining position.
On October 3, an agreement was secured under which the rebels could either swear allegiance to William or go into exile. Although William's guarantees included religious freedom, many chose to leave their country. The flight of "The Wild Geese" was in many ways the worst disaster in Irish history to this time. The anniversary of Aughrim continues to be a bitter day in Irish memories.
Sarsfield, having done what he could, joined the French service, and was killed at the Battle of Landen in 1693.
Not everyone was impressed with Sarsfield, to be sure. R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 Penguin, 1988, 1989, p. 148, notes that he came to everyone's attention for his bravery at the Boyne, but adds that "He was celebrated for his bravery but was notoriously not very bright; jealousy aroused by the Sarsfield mystique exacerbated the indiscipline an dissensions that already rent the Jacobites. On the other hand, his inspirational leadership helped raise Irish morale...."
This should not be confused with the Honorable Emily Lawless's poem 'After Aughrim," for which see, e.g., MacDonagh/Robinson, pp. 100-101. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.8
- Foster: R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972, Penguin, 1988, 1989
- MacDonagh/Robinson: Donagh MacDonagh and Lennox Robinson, The Oxford Book of Irish Verse, Oxford, 1958, 1979
- Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely: T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and Dermot Keough, with Patrick Kiely, The Course of Irish History, fifth edition, 2011 (page references are to the 2012 paperback edition)
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