Brian Boy Magee -by Ethna Carberry


It appears that in 1641,English and Scotch troops stationed in Carrickfergus attacked the Catholics of Islandmagee, and killed most of them, with the figure supposedly being between 2-3 thousand. I am not too sure whether this is folklore or factual history, and as usual, I hope I don't offend anyone.

I am Brian Boy Magee–
My father was Eoghain Bán–
I was wakened from happy dreams
By the shouts of my startled clan;
And I saw through the leaping glare
That marked where our homestead stood,
My mother swing by her hair–
And my brothers lie in their blood.

In the creepy cold of the night
The pitiless wolves came down–
Scotch troops from that Castle grim
Guarding Knockfergus Town
And they hacked and lashed and hewed
With musket and rope and sword,
Till my murdered kin lay thick
In pools by the Slaughter Ford.

I fought by my father's side,
And when we were fighting sore
We saw a line of their steel
With our shrieking women before;
The red-coats drove them on
To the verge of the Gobbins gray,
Hurried them–God! the sight!
As the sea foamed up for its prey.

Oh, tall were the Gobbins cliffs,
And sharp were the rocks, my woe!
And tender the limbs that met
Such terrible death below;
Mother and babe and maid
They clutched at the empty air,
With eyeballs widened in fright,
That hour of despair.

(Sleep soft in your heaving bed,
O little fair love of my heart!
The bitter oath I have sworn
Shall be of my life a part;
And for every piteous prayer
You prayed on your way to die,
May I hear an enemy plead
While I laugh and deny.)

In the dawn that was gold and red,
Ay, red as the blood-choked stream,
I crept to the perilous brink–
Great Christ! was the night a dream ?
In all the Island of Gloom
I only had life that day–
Death covered the green hill-sides,
And tossed in the Bay.

I have vowed by the pride of my sires–
By my mother's wandering ghost–
By my kinsfolk's shattered bones
Hurled on the cruel coast–
By the sweet dead face of my love,
And the wound in her gentle breast–
To follow that murderous band,
A sleuth-hound who knows no rest.

I shall go to Phelim O'Neill
With my sorrowful tale, and crave
A blue-bright blade of Spain,
In the ranks of his soldiers brave.
And God grant me the strength to wield
That shining avenger well–
When the Gael shall sweep his foe
Through the yawning gates of Hell.

I am Brian Boy Magee!
And my creed is a creed of hate;
Love, Peace, I have cast aside–
But Vengeance, Vengeance I wait!
Till I pay back the four-fold debt
For the horrors I witnessed there,
When my brothers moaned in their blood,
And my mother swung by her hair.