The Irish Volunteer

Words by Joe English, Melody Traditional, 1864

Me name is Tim McDonald, I’m from the Emerald Isle
I was born in Ireland’s bogs and left when but a child
Me father fought in ’98, for liberty so dear
He fell upon old Vinegar Hill, like an Irish volunteer

Then raise the harp of Erin, boys, the flag we all revere
We’ll fight and fall beneath the folds like Irish volunteers
Then raise the harp of Erin, boys, the flag we all revere
We’ll fight and fall beneath the folds like Irish volunteers

When I was driven from me home by an oppressor’s hand
I cut me sticks and greased me brogues and came o’er to this land
I found a home and many friends, and some that I love dear
Be Jeebus I’ll stick to them like bricks, the Irish Volunteers

Then raise the harp of Erin, boys, the flag we all revere
We’ll fight and fall beneath the folds like Irish volunteers
Then raise the harp of Erin, boys, the flag we all revere
We’ll fight and fall beneath the folds like Irish volunteers

Now when the traitors of the south commence their warlike raid
I quickly then laid down my hod, to the devil went me spade
To a recruiting office I went, that happened to be near
And joined the good old sixty-ninth as an Irish Volunteer

Then fill the ranks, and march away! No traitors do we fear
We’ll drive them all to blazes, says the Irish Volunteer
Then fill the ranks, and march away! No traitors do we fear
We’ll drive them all to blazes, says the Irish Volunteer

When the Prince of Wales came over and he made a hullabaloo
Oh, everyone turned out, you know in gold and tinsel too
The good old sixty-ninth they didn’t like no lords or peers
They wouldn’t give a damn for Kings, the Irish volunteers

We love the land of liberty, its laws we will revere
“But the devil take nobility!” says the Irish volunteer
We love the land of liberty, its laws we will revere
“But the devil take nobility!” says the Irish volunteer

Now if the traitors in the south should ever cross our roads
We’ll drive them all to blazes, as Saint Patrick did the toads
Well give them all short nooses that come just below the ears
Made strong and good from Irish hemp by Irish volunteers

Then here’s to brave McClellan, whom the army now reveres
He’ll lead us on to victory, the Irish volunteers
Then here’s to brave McClellan, whom the army now reveres
He’ll lead us on to victory, the Irish volunteers

Now fill your glasses up, me boys, a toast come drink with me
May Erin’s harp and the starry flag united ever be
May traitors quake, and rebels shake, and tremble in their fears
When next we meet the Yankee boys, the Irish volunteers

God bless the name of Washington, that name this land reveres
Success to Meagher and Nugent and the Irish volunteers
God bless the name of Washington, that name this land reveres
Success to Meagher and Nugent and the Irish volunteers

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About the Song:

“The Irish Volunteer” was written by the New York-based Irish-American music hall performer Joe English to the tune of “The Irish Jaunting Car”. It was first published in 1864 by Dick & Fitzgerald in the collection Joe English’s Irish Comic Songster.

Like many Civil War-era songs of the Union persuasion, American ideals of freedom and liberty run deep. Tim McDonald was the son of an Irish soldier who fought in the Battle of Vinegar Hill in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Tim immigrated to the US, and would have most likely lived on Brooklyn’s own Vinegar Hill and worked as a bricklayer. Once the Civil War begins, our protagonist leaves his home to join the ethnically Irish 69th Infantry Regiment of New York, also called the 1st Regiment of the Irish Brigade.

The 69th was contentious during this time in history. The regiment had deep roots in the failed Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848, in which many of the 69th’s founders fought. Having fled to New York, many of the Irish Catholics believed there needed to be an Irish battalion to liberate Ireland from British rule. This was much to the displeasure of the Know Nothing Party, a xenophobic political party whose members were restricted to white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Parent Songs: The Irish Jaunting Car (Melody)

Related Songs: The Bonny Blue Flag (shares a melody, written by Harry McCarthy)