by Kevin Christopher Higgins
(courtesy of Una Higgins O’Malley)
I never was greatly a friend to John MacBride
But he caught my heart in the end by the death he died,
Rich be his sleep and deep
By Kilmainham side!
For when they called him out, the cold last tryst to abide,
The cheeks of some of the men, though their hearts were stout
Had marked the ebb of the tide:
And – set your lips as you can –
To riddle a smiling man is not, on the present plan
So perfectly cut and dried,
But it takes a bit of stiffening out of a soldier’s pride!
Then in a cheery voice
As to friends at his side
‘Lads’ said the rebel ‘I know if you had the choice
You’d let the thing abide
For you see, though my hands aren’t tied,
I’d be giving away too much if ’twas fighting I tried;
But the business has to be done
Though it isn’t good fun.
Let you rest well o’ nights,
Myself will do it for one
And tell them nobody cried!
‘Now some of you decent chaps
Aren’t wonderful shots perhaps,
But I’m not much further off than a hop and a stride
So you’ll hit with the blessing of God
Or it is odd’ said the rebel MacBride.
And when they thought anon
Of putting a bandage on
He moved aside –
‘No’ said John
There’s nothing you need to hide
Right or wrong.
I’ve drunk my tea pretty strong
And faith! I’ve stared down life’s barrels so long
I can do with the talk of a few of them open-eyed.’
‘Just a moment ‘he said’
‘Wait till I bow my head
Then you can put me to bed’.
He bowed his head – and then he died.
So while I was never your friend,
Old John MacBride,
You caught my heart in the end
By the death you died;
Deep be the sleep you keep
By Kilmainham’s side.