Casey was still only 19 when he wrote the song in 1865. It was first published in the Nation and then copied by several broadsheet ballad publishers.
It was published in book form in 1867 in a collection poems by Casey called A Wreath of Shamrocks. An anonymous review of the collection appeared in the The Nation on 23 February 1867.
The reviewer says: “Many of the pieces which it contains have ere now made their appearance on ballad slips. His ‘Rising of the Moon’ is well known in some of the midland counties, and admired, except by the authorities.”
It is no surprise, of course, that the song was not admired by the British authorities.
They regarded Casey with great suspicion and he was jailed in Mountjoy Prison when he was only 20 years old for his support of the Fenians and the nationalist cause.
He was eventually released without charge – the authorities expected him to go to Australia and not return to Ireland. However, he continued to live in Dublin disguised as a Quaker and continued his work as a poet and journalist with The Nation and other publications until his death at the age of 23.
Casey didn’t write any music for the poem and people were able to put whatever tune they liked to it.
However, in the early days it was also performed to another slower tune in a minor key.
The origin and name of the alternative tune are unknown but it is listed by the Irish song collector Colm O Lochlainn in his collection, More Irish Street Ballads, as the superior version and the one sung by his grandfather, John Carr, who was a contemporary of Casey.
A variation of this alternative tune is used by American performers like Judy Collins and Peter, Paul and Mary.
It’s possible that Irish emigrants took this version with them to America where it developed and thrived independently of the version in Ireland which used the melody from The Wearing of the Green.