Lay Him Away on the Hillside

James Daley who led Connaught Rangers Mutiny
James Daley who led Connaught Rangers Mutiny

In June 1920, Private James Daley of County Westmeath and other members of the Connaught Rangers (British soldiers based in India) refused to serve because of the atrocities being carried out by British soldiers in Ireland.

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems

Daley, their leader, said they would refuse to work until the British troops in Ireland were withdrawn. They were overpowered by soldiers who remained loyal to the British crown. Daley was executed by firing squad in November 1920. He was the last person in the British army to be executed for mutiny.

See more on Private Daley here. Private James Daley is remembered in an adapted traditional Irish ballad.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. Image copyright Ireland Calling

James Daley executed Lay Him Away on the Hillside Image Ireland CallingLay Him Away on the Hillside

The grey dawn has crept o’er the stillness of morning,
The dew drops they glisten like icicles breath,
The notes of the bugle have sounded their warning,
A young Connaught Ranger lay sentenced to death,
No cold-blooded murder had stained his pure conscience,
He called as a witness his maker on high,
He’d simply been fighting for Ireland’s loved freedom,
Arrested and tried he was sentenced to die.

Lay him away on the hillside,
Along with the brave and the bold,
Inscribe his name on the scroll of fame,
In letters of purest gold,
My conscience will never convict me,
He said with his dying breath,
May God bless the cause of freedom,
For which I am sentenced to death.

He thought of the love of his feeble old mother,
He though of the colleen so dear to his heart,
The sobs of affection, he scarcely could smother,
Well knowing how soon from them both he must part,
He feared not to die though his heart was near broken,
Twas simply remembrance of those he loved well,
His rosary he pressed to his heart as a token,
The prayer cheered his soul in the felon’s lone cell.

To the dim barrack square, the doomed hero was hurried,
In the grey of the dawn ere the sun rose on high,
With head held erect, undaunted, unworried,
The gallant young soldier went proudly to die,
I blame not my comrades for doing their duty,
Aim straight for my heart, were the last words he said,
Exposing his breast to the point of the rifles,
The smoke cleared away, the young soldier lay dead.

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Poems

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Ireland's 100 favourite poems

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