Leo Casey whose ballads put spirit into a generation depressed
to the point of despair
by famine and oppression was born
in Mount Dalton Westmeath in 1946.
He was still a boy when he wrote "The Rising Of The Moon."
He was only twenty-four when he died. He had his first
poem published at the age of sixteen. An eight months
of cruel imprisonment in 1867 was his death warrant.
He was the victim of brutal Victorian treatment and racial
hatred for any patriotic Irishman who expressed
in ballad form. When he was arrested and imprisoned as a
suspect, he was a tall, handsome, athletic youth
six feet high. Eight months later he was released on rendition
that he leave Ireland, he was bent and pale with
a hacking cough.
This sentence of exile or death was given to many a good
Fenian man, It was the colonial solution,
a policy of
"ship away the problem" "get him out of Ireland." However,
he returned to his friends,
Doomed but with spirit unbroken
he disguised himself as a Quaker, took the name
of Harrison and rented
an office beside Dublin Castle and
continued his writing and publishing, right under the
noses of the Crown authorities.
However, his health failed
but he survived and lingered for almost three years writing
his patriotic ballads. Organizing
to strengthen the people's
power of resistance till on St. Patrick's Day, 1870 he died
Just before he drew his last breath he grasped
the crucifix and said, "Oh Holy St. Patrick, intercede
me and for my unhappy country." His booklet "Wreath of Shamrock"
was first published in 1866, and "The Rising
Of The Moon'
first appeared in 1869.
He was only twenty-one when the authorities thought it necessary
to have him
put out of the way. Here is his own description of
the imprisonment: "Since the "Wreath of Shamrocks" made its
have been within the walls of an English Bastille
on the simple word of a "village Dog" Berry, and the English
kept me locked up and treated are as a convict,
Untried for eight long dreary months when I was denied paper
to write on save the official letter per
day, denied intercourse
with my friends, and as dead to the world as if I did not exist.
Solitude of that nature is
not over poetical, particularly
as the use of the mop has to be quickly learned
and the number of cell remembered.
This accounts to the reader,
for any apparent over bitterness of feeling in some of the verses." When be died 50,000 people
attended his funeral, and it was one the largest funerals seen in Dublin, many walked from Westmeath and Longford
It was a tribute to his patriotism and talent as a poet and a ballad
writer that he should have had such
a large gathering of admirers
he is remembered by a nice sculptured monmuent of a round tower
and Ruined Church. Leo
Casey was held in Mountjoy Prison without trial for eight months. He also wrote The Wearing Of The Green. Yes indeed, in them
days you could be arrested and put in jail for writing songs.
The Following History Of Irish Ballads Is Written By Brian Warfield Of The Wolfe Tones
Have you ever wondered why Irish music and song is so important to the people of Irish decent in Scotland
and why they still hold on dearly to their musical heritage? There are many historic reasons for this phenomenon, let me explain.
Firstly the History of our people is enshrined in our songs and ballads a story that could not be freely got from other sources.
The song was an important source of information and a vehicle for carrying our stories into the cities, towns and homes of
the emigrant communities.
There was great hardship suffered by the Irish people over the
centuries, wars, invasions, famine, plague, evictions, despotic Governments and oppression but one thing that kept their spirits
alive was their love of music. When battles were lost; consolation was taken in musical expression. When their lands were
confiscated, the oppressor felt their anger in their songs or in sorrowful ballads of eviction and emigration. The Lough Sheelin
Eviction is a good example, The Crossing is another. The so called famine scattered the Irish all over the world but no matter
where they made their home there is one thing common to all and that is their great love of Irish music and song.
The Irish emigrants who made their way to Scotland during this period were never fully accepted into Scottish
society nor were their ethnic origins recognised there. Treated as strangers or unwelcome intruders in the cities and towns
of Scotland they held on dearly to their music and song and it thrived and survived among them. The hero’s of these
ballads where those who fought against the aggressor, the outlaws, raparees, Rebels and highwaymen. The villains were the
landlords and the oppressive lawmakers and governors that had driven them from their homeland. In songs of emigration those
forced to leave recalled the good times their experience and memories of home and homeland in song and dance tunes. It was
the song that kept them in touch with their home. It was said that all their wars were merry and all their songs were sad
– I don’t know who said it but it’s not true. The songs and music of the Irish are full of expressions of
joy, wit, sorrow, anger, pain outrage and could be either inspiring or soothing. Very often the musicians who told these stories
were hunted down, tortured or even hung for treason. Music was the universal language and the soul of Ireland, said Thomas
Davis and the first faculty of the Irish.