A regular feature on traditional songs of County Wexford. This week: Bagenal Harvey’s Farewell
Paddy Berry, the renowned Wexford traditional singer and song collector, performed this song at a gathering at Tulach a tSolais on Oulart Hill on Friday June 1. This monument to the memory of those who fought in the 1798 Rebellion provided an ideal setting for singers to gather and share a collection of ’98 songs and ballads not least because of the relevance of the battle site but also due to the beautiful acoustics within the structure itself.
The performance was broadcast on Facebook Live as part of the online series ‘The First of the Month’ by Michael Fortune and Robbie Sinnott which explores folklore, customs and traditional song.
Paddy described how he was introduced to the song by Tommy Mallon as he was coming from mass in Rathangan Church sometime in the 1950’s.
Tommy was regarded as a great piccolo player and was a member of the Mayglass Ceilí band. Tommy hummed the air of the song to him and gave him the words.
Apart from finding the lyrics printed in the New Ross Standard in 1889 Paddy’s subsequent research on the song yielded no other source. It’s likely that Tommy knew well that he was placing the song in safe hands and as a result the song Bagenal Harvey’s Farewell is sung by a number of singers in Wexford and beyond.
Beauchamp Bagenal Harvey was a barrister and a commander of the United Irishmen in the Battle of New Ross during the 1798 Rebellion. He was the eldest son of Francis Harvey of Bargy Castle and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin.
He was a Protestant who was known for his liberal principles and as a supporter of Catholic emancipation. Just before the outbreak of the 1798 Rebellion Harvey was arrested at his home on 26 May 1798 at 11.00 p.m. A rebel colonel, Anthony Perry, divulged the information after giving in to torture by Crown forces. He was imprisoned at Wexford jail until its occupation by the rebels and on his liberation he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces.
His first plan was to advance westwards via New Ross into County Kilkenny in hope of finding new supporters for the Rebellion. He was in command at the Battle of New Ross on June 5 1798 when the rebels were defeated. Following the rebels’ defeat at Vinegar Hill on June 21 the King’s Troops re-occupied Wexford Town.
Harvey took refuge on one of the Saltee Islands where he was later discovered and brought to Wexford Town. There he was tried, convicted and hanged on Wexford bridge on June 28 1798.
A recording of Paddy singing Bagenal Harvey’s Farewell along with a video recording of the entire ‘First of the Month’ concert is available to view on the ‘Songs of Wexford’ facebook page.
Bagenal Harvey’s Farewell
Farewell to Bargy’s lofty towers, my father’s own estate
And farewell to its lovely bowers, my own ancestral seat Farewell each friend and neighbour, that once I well knew there My tenants now will miss the hand that fostered them with care
Farewell to Cornelius Grogan, and to Kelly ever true
John Coakley and good Father Roche, receive my last adieu And fare-thee-well bold Esmond Kyan, though proud oppression’s laws
Forbid us to lay down our lives, still we bless the holy cause
Farewell my brave United men, who dearly with me fought Though tyrant might has conquered right, full dearly was it bought
And when the sun of freedom shall again upon you shine Oh, then let Bagenal Harvey’s name array your battle line
Although perchance it may be my fate, in Wexford town to die Oh, bear my body to the tomb wherin my fathers lie
And have the solemn service read, in Mayglass holy towers And have twelve young maids from Bargyside, to scatter my grave with flowers
So farewell to Bargy’s lofty towers, since from you I must part A stranger now may call you his, which with sorrow fills my heart
But when at last fate shall decree that Ireland should be free Then Bagenal Harvey’s rightful heir shall be returned to thee