This takes us into the refrain of the song, the rallying call of Follow Me Up to Carlow.
Fiach was from County Wicklow where he had his stronghold. There was a military base at Carlow which might have been a target but there is no evidence that he attacked or even considered such an attack.
The refrain Follow Me Up to Carlow is therefore more of a rallying call along the lines of take heart, join the rebellion and success will be ours.
See the children of the Gael
Glen Imael, Tassagart and Clonmore are all areas around Fiach’s ancestral power base in County Wicklow.
Rory Og O’More was Fiach’s brother-in-law and fierce rebel. He was killed in 1578 so it’s possible that the song is referring to his son who was also called Rory and who was also a renowned rebel.
He was killed in battle in 1600.
White is sick, Lane has fled
The White being referred to is Sir Nicholas White who was the Crown’s military governor of Wexford, a position known as a seneschal.
Fiach had been charged in 1572 with involvement in the murder of White’s son-in-law. It was yet another reason why the British authorities pursued Fiach so relentlessly.
White fell seriously ill in the early 1590s and so could no longer pose a threat. Soon afterwards he fell out of favour with the Queen and was executed.
Muster Master General of Ireland
The meaning of the phrase Lane is fled is less certain. The person referred to was Sir Ralph Lane who became the Muster Master General of Ireland in 1592.
He was responsible for ensuring that British troops in Ireland were properly equipped.
There is no known reference to him fleeing the country or his duties but he was wounded during an uprising in 1594.
Some versions of the song refer to Grey has fled. This is not what McCall wrote but it does perhaps fit better because Grey, the Lord Deputy of Ireland who had sent troops to Glenmalure, had left the country in 1582.
The meaning of Follow Me Up to Carlow
The song doesn’t focus on just one event. It refers to several characters and their stories range over a 20 year period.
It’s not be taken as an account of any one battle or event. Instead, it tries to conjure up references to heroes and triumphs from the past as a way of stimulating nationalist feeling in McCall’s own time in the late 18th century – a full 200 years after Glenmalure and the exploits of Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand every line – many of McCall’s contemporaries would have struggled to understand every allusion and understand exactly what was going on.
Read more about the Battle of Glenmalure – probably Fiach MacHugh O’Byrne’s finest hour