Seamus MacGowan - Sligo Poets

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Sligo Champion 22 November 1913
       Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien.

(Judiciously Murdered in Manchester, 23rd November 1867).

On a gibbet high uplifted,
   Three forms are swinging today,
The noble, the brave, and the gifted,
   Who flung their young lives away;
In the heart of an English city
   For the cause of their motherland,
While steeled to the promptings of pity,
   Look on them a ruffianly band.

They lived for the cause of old Ireland,
   They died for the patriot’s creed,
And their names shall live in our sireland,
   While an Irishman’s ready to bleed;
And a people shall seek inspiration
   At a spot where these gallant ones fell,
Till the rally of Ireland a Nation,
   Drives tyranny’s minions to hell.

They heard the voice of their sireland
   Crying out in her sorrow and woe,
And like true-hearted sons of old Ireland,
   They swore they would yet strike a blow
That would end all her suffering and sorrow,
   And avenge all the wrongs of the past,
That would bring her a glorious morrow
   Of peace and contentment at last.

On the honour of freemen they swore it,
   And until this accursed morn,
When death placed its seal on each forehead,
   They were true to the oath they had sworn;
They raised up the flag of a nation
   In that great English city alone,
And shook to its very foundation,
   The Sessanah Empire and throne.

And for this must three Irishmen perish,
   For this have three patriots died,
But the cause that we live for and cherish
   By their death have been sanctified;
And though the mills of God grind slowly,
   A day of reckoning shall come,
When Ireland shall wreck vengeance holy
   For this bloody martyrdom.

And while in our land dwells a freeman
   The might of a tyrant to scorn,
We’ll cherish the names of the three men
   Who died for old Ireland this morn;
And when freedom’s bright sun shines resplendent
   O’er mountain, and alley, and glen,
An Ireland redeemed, independent
   Shall honour their memory then.

                                                   J. MacG.

Sligo Champion 6 December 1913

 The Grave of James Stephens.

Tread lightly here, ’tis sacred ground,
  Our gallant chief lies here below,
While faithful spirits guard the mound
  Through winter’s storms and summer’s glow.
No more he’ll rouse a nation’s soul—
  He found us slaves and made us men—
For while the long years onward roll
  His voice shall ne’er be heard again.

There was a time in days of yore,
  When freedom’s fire lit hill and glen,
And Ireland’s hopes rose high once more
  To hear the tramp of marching men.
’Twas he, whose bones are mouldering here,
  Who kindled then the blessed flame
That still shall burn from year to year
  Till Erin’s son’s redeem her name.

And when the gallant strife was o’er,
  And scattered were his Fenian men,
He still looked forward as of yore,
  To see his country free again.
But not for him to yield the blade,
  Or hear the warrior’s martial tread,
Death came, and here his bones were laid
  With Ireland’s great heroic dead.

He sleeps in peace unbroken here,
  Beyond the city’s ceaseless hum,
But still his spirit’s waiting near
  To hear the roll of freedom’s drum.
And while the land in slavery lies
  The lonely vigil he will keep,
Till Irishmen once more arise
  And drive the foemen o’er the deep.

Sleep on brave chief, brave chief sleep on,
  Until the resurrection day,
Our serried files march towards the dawn,
  And soon we’ll bring our foes to bay.
The holy flame you lit of yore
  Shall yet dispel the lingering gloom,
’Twill light the land from shore to shore
  When England kneels to meet her doom.

                                            J. MacG.

These two poems appear to have been written by Seamus MacGowan who seems to have arrived in Sligo in mid-1913 possibly from Dublin.

He took an active part in the politics of the town and county over the next turbulent years. He became involved in the Sligo Nationalist and was part of the team that renamed that paper The Connachtman in 1920 and strongly supported Sinn Féin. He was involved in the Sligo Gaelic Club, the Volunteers and Sinn  Féin and may have been a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.). He was elected to Sligo County Council in 1920. He took the pro-Treaty side in the civil war.

These poems strike a different note to the prevailing nationalist politics of the times. Home Rule was expected to come into effect in 1914 and there was little talk or celebration of previous armed uprisings by Irish Parliamentary Party politicians.

These poems, with their celebration of dead patriots who had used force against England in the past, are significant having being published at the time when the Irish Volunteers were being founded in Dublin. The Irish Parliamentary Party did not support the Volunteers at this stage but the Sligo Champion printed two editorials in support of the Volunteers and suggesting that a branch be founded in Sligo. A Sligo branch was founded at the beginning of February 1914.

William Philip Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O'Brien were the "Manchester Martyrs", Fenians who were hanged in 1867 for their part in the killing of a Manchester policeman during the dramatic rescue of two Fenian leaders in the city. They have been the subject of many songs, the most well-know of which is probably God Save Ireland by T.D. Sullivan.

It does seem that the use of the word judicious in the subtitle to this poem is not what was meant by the author.
Judicious means "wise, showing good judgment". A word such as judicial which means "relating to courts of law or judges" may best convey what was intended.

James Stephen (
1825 – 1901) was an Irish Republican and the founding member of the Fenians also called the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B). He took part in the failed rising of 1848 and went to Paris afterwards. He founded the Fenians in 1857 but divisions and disagreements led to Stephen’s reputation and influence in nationalist circles being irreparably damaged.

Stephens was permitted to return to Ireland in 1891 and lived in seclusion in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. He died on 29 March 1901 and he was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.

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