Mudcat Café message #163339 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4022   Message #163339
Posted By: John Moulden
15-Jan-00 - 11:31 AM
Thread Name: Seige of CarrickFergus-Capture of Carrickfergusby
I think the text below may be that of the song requested by Bruce O as "The Capture of Carrickfergus" and submit that the impression given by some references to it that it was written by Thurot; (which we thought were to be questioned) are simply accounted for. Where the references say that it is "The Capture of Carrickfergus" written by Thurot, I think this is a confusion of "The Capture of Carrickfergus by Thurot." (Oral transmission!)

There are at least two other song titles associated with Thurot: "Thurot's Defeat", copies of which are in song books in the British Library and on ballad sheets in the Bodleian, and "Thurot's Dream" which is printed in T Crofton Croker: Popular songs of Ireland (The volume which contains Historical songs mainly relative to the French Revolution - for which I have no proper details by me but will look when I get on line). Steve Roud refers also to a songbook in Harvard (Catalogue of Chapbooks & Broadsides in Harvard College Library No. 1412), to a slip in the Madden collection (Slip songs O-Y) [Vaughan Williams Mem Library mfilm No. 73] Item no. 1811 (Thurot's Defeat) and says the Crofton Croker item was reprinted in Firth, Naval Songs & Ballads (1908) pp. 220-222. The first line of the Madden print is "On the 21st of April, as I've heard many say", and that of the Firth print is "On the Twenty-first of February, as I've heard the people say", so without a sight of either, it seems likely that these different titles allude to the same song and a look at the very heavily discoloured Bodleian On-line images of Thurot's Defeat confirm the likelihood of this (a dream episode is included.) These songs are different from this one.

It is of interest that these words could be sung to "Haste to the Wedding" though that proves nothing - they also fit a dozen other tunes.


From Dunkirk, in France in the month of September,
Fitted out was a fleet, and away they did sail;
And Monsieur Thurot, their only commander,
With him at their head they were sure not to fail.
So away they did steer, without dread or fear,
And search'd and plunder'd the coasts all around;
Till at length they arriv'd on the shore of old Ireland,
And landed their men on our Irish ground.

It was at Carrickfergus, in the north of this kingdom,
They landed their men and marched up to our walls;
Then cry'd the undaunted, brave Colonel Jennings,
"My boys let's salute them with powder and balls."
The battle began and guns they did rattle,
And bravely we fought under Jennings' command,
Said he, "Play away, play away, my brave boys,
The beggars the force of our fire cannot stand."

The town then they took without any resistance,
The castle they thought was as easy likewise;
So they came marching up in grand divisions,
To storm it, then guarded by the brave Irish boys;
But we kept constant fire and made them retire,
Till our ammunition entirely was gone;
Then aloud we did say, brave boys let's away,
And sally out on them with sword in hand.

But says our brave colonel, "We cannot defend it,
For to make a sally it is but in vain,
As our ammunition, you see is expended;
We'll therefore submit, and good terms will obtain,
For plainly you see, that to one they are three,
'Tis best then in time for to capitulate;
For if they take it by storm, by the law of arms,
Then death without mercy will sure be our fate."

Then these beggars obtained possession of Carrick,
While they revell'd and sotted and drank all the while,
Poor people they did sorely ransack and plunder,
And hoisted it all on board the Belleisle;
But Elliott soon met them, nor away he did let them,
But forc'd them to yield up their ill-gotten store;
Now Monsieurs, lament in the deepest contrition.
For you now cannot brag of your Thurot no more.

Let's exalt the brave Elliott, who gain'd this action,
And sing to his praise in the joyfullest song;
For we of our foes have got satisfaction,
And Thurot lies rotting in the Isle of Man.
Their general is wounded, his schemes are confounded,
The brave British tars they can never withstand;
The fire of the fierce and bold British lions
Appear'd in the men under brave Captain Bland.

But now to bring my story to a conclusion,
Let's drink a good health to our officers all;
First brave Colonel Jennings, likewise Bland our Captain,
Yet never forgetting the brave Mr. Hall.
Let's drink and be jolly, and drown melancholy,
So merrily let us rejoice to and sing;
So fill up your bowls, all ye loyal souls,
And toast a good health to great George our king.

From: Samuel Lover (ed): Poems of Ireland (Ward Lock, London, 1858) pages 272 - 274 (headed Historical and Political Songs) (Copies known to me are in the National Library of Ireland and The Irish Traditional Music Archive.)

There is a substantial headnote which gives the background as that of the British fleet's blockade of the French channel ports. Thurot escaped from Dunkirk with six ships, which were scattered by storms and of which only three reached Ireland. Thurot took the town of Carrickfergus and after a short siege, the small garrison in the Norman Castle (The biggest in Ireland and still in repair) was forced to surrender. However, Thurot was forced to withdraw when a strong force approached though by that time he had obtained supplies from Belfast. He sailed south and was engaged by an English squadron under Captain Elliott, Thurot was killed and the French ships captured.

The note also comments on the song.

"The following song has no literary merit whatsoever, but is a curious specimen of its class; ... it cannot be considered out of place ... as the attack on Carrickfergus and laying Belfast under contribution, is alluded to elsewhere, and a note of reference to this very song appended." Unless this reference is within this same volume, I have no idea where it is. This type of comment usually accompanies printings of street ballads by literary personages; another indication if not real evidence.

I see Bruce you've been waiting nearly two years for a plausible answer to your request; placet magister?


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