The Fianna to Liam Mellows
Lyrics: Countess Markievich
Air: Sandra Joyce

As far back as I can remember I have been familiar with the name ‘Liam Mellows’, although it is only in more recent times that I have realised his significance and place in the annals of Irish history. In the town I am from, Tuam, Co. Galway, there is a street named after him.  When I later found out more, I became increasingly fascinated by his life and times, not least because of the fact that his father was a British army officer and that he was born at a military barracks in Lancashire.  Having moved to Ireland, he was recruited to Na Fianna Éireann by Thomas Clark.  He later joined the IRB and worked in different parts of Ireland as a travelling instructor, including as an organiser of Gaelic games in Tuam.  Mellows played leading roles in the 1916 Rising and the subsequent War of Independence.  Vehemently opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, he was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail after the occupation of the Four Courts by Anti-Treaty forces.  He was executed by the Free State Army on December 22nd, 1922 in retaliation for the killing of the pro-Treaty Sinn Féin TD for Cork, Sean Hales, the previous day.  He was just 27 years old.
The text I have set to music is by the fascinating and colourful character, Countess Constance Markievicz: socialist, suffragette and nationalist rebel.  Countess Markievicz first met Liam Mellows during the early days of the young revolutionary organisation modelled on the Boy Scout movement, Na Fianna Éireann, on whose behalf she dedicated this poem to Mellows after his death.
The words refer to Bodenstown, near Sallins, Co. Kildare - the last resting place of Wolfe Tone, founder of the United Irishmen.  Liam Mellows delivered the annual oration there in 1922, shortly before he was involved in the occupation of the Four Courts.  Countess Markievicz’s affection for the young Mellows, as well as her anger and grief at his death, is clearly expressed in the words of this poem.  I have tried to reflect this emotion in my newly-composed melody.
The life and times of Liam Mellows, as well as the sentiments of this poem, have many personal resonances for me - too many to express in this short introduction.  I hope that my setting of this poem to music will, in some small way, do justice to Markievicz’s words and to the man himself.
In June we stood with you in Bodenstown
Your faith in Ireland shining in your eyes
Gave us the faith we needed, made us wise
That we are they must drag the traitors down.

Your great words reached each heart that solemn day
You made us feel the joy of sacrifice
And scorn the traitor’s path of cowardice
God grant our feet may never go astray

We saw you working many a weary year;
Boy, with a grown man’s steadfastness and brain
Manhood you reached through mists of toil and pain
And died the pure souled boy who knew no fear.

No task too hard, no path was too obscure
You did the work – commanded or obeyed
Hope never left you, though the progress rude
Was paid in toil no weakling could endure.

In June we stood with you in Bodenstown
Since then you worked and fought and prayed and died
On that young brow so tired, so self denied
God in his mercy laid a martyr’s crown.

No grave is yours where marching pilgrims host
But in each heart shrined your beloved name
To our dear memory myriad dreamlights flame
For you each storm wind echoes the last post.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune.

Sandra Joyce

The Fianna to Liam Mellows

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