DESCRIPTION: At Ballynahinch Monro and his men fight until night. Monro pays a woman not to tell where he is hiding. She calls the army. They takes him home to Lisburn. He is hanged, beheaded and his head put on a spear. Monro's sister swears to avenge his death.
EARLIEST DATE: 1798 (Zimmerman-SongsOfIrishRebellion)
KEYWORDS: betrayal execution rebellion Ireland
1798 - Irish rebellion
FOUND IN: Canada(Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Peacock, pp. 998-999, "General Munro" (1 text, 1 tune)
OLochlainn-IrishStreetBallads 65, "General Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Zimmerman-SongsOfIrishRebellion 16, "General Munroe" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Moylan-TheAgeOfRevolution-1776-1815 84, "General Munroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
OBoyle-TheIrishSongTradition 12, "General Monroe" (1 text, 1 tune)
Healy-MercierBookOfOldIrishStreetBalladsVol2, pp. 60-61, "General Munroe (2)" (1 text); pp. 58-59, "General Munroe (1)" is a come-all-ye which appears to be a different song but which shares some verses
ST Pea998 (Partial)
Freeman Bennett, "General Munro" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 614, "General Munroe," E.M.A. Hodges (London), 1846-1854; also 2806 b.10(8), 2806 b.9(267), Firth b.26(204), Harding B 11(3562), Harding B 19(9), Firth b.25(315) [some illegible words], 2806 c.15(185), Harding B 11(1297), Harding B 11(1298), "General Munroe"; 2806 c.14(70) [partly illegible], "General Monro"; 2806 b.10(9), "General Munro"
Murray, Mu23-y1:024, "General Monro," James Lindsay Jr. (Glasgow), 19C
cf. "Henry Munroe" (subject)
cf. "Betsy Gray" (subject: Battle of Ballynahinch)
NOTES [566 words]: In the 1798 Irish Rebellion shopkeeper Henry Monro (1768-1798) led a force of the United Irishmen in a losing battle at Ballynahinch -- about 12 miles from Belfast. Monro was captured and was hanged three days later, on June 16, 1798. Source BBC History site The 1798 Irish Rebellion by Professor Thomas Bartlett. - BS
Monroe (also spelled Munroe, Munro, and Monro) was, ironically, not even Irish; he was a draper, of a Scottish family -- and, like Wolfe Tone among others, a Protestant (Stewart, p. 206; that page gives his birth date as 1758, not 1768 as in Bartlett). He was not a member of the United army, and had had no expectations of being appointed a general. But he ended up in command of rebel forces (or, rather, the rebel mob; it hardly qualified as an army) in Down. According to Stewart, pp. 64-65, the local committee of the United Irish had seen their commander, Simms, announce his resignation on June 1, 1798, when dragoons rode through the town. There was no obvious successor. The committee proposed three possible replacements, including Monroe, "a linen draper from Lisburn." Apparently the committee decided to appoint whichever one of the three they found first, and that proved to be Monroe.
Their commander was about as well equipped to be a general as his troops were to be an army; he had no military training and wasn't even particularly well educated. Nor did he have time to do anything about his troops' inadequacy even had he known what to do; Kee, p. 129 reports that he took command in the county only one day before the scheduled beginning of the rising; his predecessor had been arrested.
Discipline the troops certainly did not have; when Monroe pressed for an attack, Catholics in particular held back (one source says they were afraid of Monroe's Presbyterianism). In a sense, they were right to be hesitant, because the troops simply weren't ready to fight. (Bartlett/Dawson/Keough, p. 128, observes that "very few of he United Irishmen in either Antrim or Down had really been prepared for combat in 1798 -- principally, it would seem, because the United Irish military plan had centered on Dublin"). Then the Loyal troops appeared.
The sight of opposing forces caused many of Monroe's troops to desert. Monroe sent most of his best pikemen into Ballynahinch, since only in the town could they avoid the British guns. But a loyal force equipped with two cannon destroyed the rebel camp, and Major General George Nugent, commanding loyal forces in Ulster, then attacked the town. The remaining rebels were quickly routed (Pakenham, pp. 229-231). It was, for all intents and purposes, the end of the 1798 rebellion in Ulster.
Monroe, who was betrayed soon after the battle by a farmer named William Holmes (who lodged him in a pig house then gave him away; Stewart, p. 250), was hung a few days later -- outside his own front door, according to Bartlett/Dawson/Keough, p. 127. According to Stewart, p. 250,"Munro had behaved with great dignity during the trial and had impressed the army officers present. His last words were 'Tell my country I have deserved better of her.'" - RBW
The ballad is recorded on one of the CD's issued around the time of the bicentenial of the 1798 Irish Rebellion. See:
Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "General Munro" (on Franke Harte and Donal Lunny, "1798 the First Year of Liberty," Hummingbird Records HBCD0014 (1998)) - BS
Last updated in version 2.6
- Bartlett/Dawson/Keough: Thomas Bartlett, Kevin Dawson, Daire Keogh, The 1798 Rebellion: An Illustrated History, Roberts Rinehart, 1998
- Kee: Robert Kee, The Most Distressful Country, being volume I of The Green Flag (covering the period prior to 1848), Penguin, 1972
- Pakenham: Thomas Pakenham The Year of Liberty, 1969, 1997 (I use the 2000 Abacus paperback edition)
- Stewart: A. T. Q. Stewart, The Summer Soldiers: The 1798 Rebellion in Antrim and Down, Blackstaff Press, 1995
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