The Rising of the Moon – 1798 anthem

The Rising of the Moon stands alongside songs like Boolavogue, Roddy McCorley and Kelly the Boy from Killane as one of the great anthems of the 1798 Irish Rebellion.

Casey imprisoned for supporting Fenians
Rising of the Moon Videos

Lyrics and Chords
John Keegan Casey

And like those other great anthems, it wasn’t written until long after the events it describes. It made its first appearance in 1865 as a poem in the Irish nationalist newspaper, The Nation. It was written by John Keegan Casey, who wrote under the pen name Leo Casey.

Story of the Rising of the Moon

The Rising of the Moon tries to capture the spirit of the 1798 rebels rather than focus on the details of any one battle. In as much as it is about any specific event at all, it refers to the battle that took place in County Longford near the small town of Granard.


A group of rebels armed only with pikes came up against highly trained soldiers armed with muskets and artillery. The rebels didn’t stand a chance and were quickly routed. More than 400 were killed.

Casey lived near where the fighting took place

John Keegan Casey wrote The Rising of the Moon

J K Casey wrote The Rising of the Moon

There were numerous battles in 1798 but Casey probably chose Granard because it was close to his home town of Mullingar.

Robert Gogan, in his book 50 Great Irish Fighting Songs, says that Casey originally referred to the Inny River at the beginning of the fourth verse so it read: There beside the Inny River that dark mass of men was seen.

However, he thought this might bring too much attention to his home area from the British so he changed it to There beside that singing river…

Song adopts a conversational tone

The song begins as a conversation between friends and fellow rebels, with one asking the other for the latest news. Oh then tell me Sean O’Farrell…

It’s not know whether Sean O’Farrell refers to anyone in particular or whether it’s meant to be just a typically local name used to help set the scene and establish a conversational tone.

The word bhuachaill in the second line is an Irish word meaning boy or, in this context, comrade.

The song then continues describing the preparations for battle but it never focuses on the actual fighting or gives any further details. Instead, the final verse ends by asserting that although they were defeated, the rebels retained their pride and sense of glory.

Well they fought for dear old Ireland and full bitter was their fate
Oh what glorious pride and sorrow fills the name of ninety-eight.

The song looks to the past and the future

Casey wrote the song with two ideas in mind. He wanted to celebrate the efforts of Irish nationalists of the past and also to inspire the same kind of nationalist passion in his contemporaries in the 1860s.

The Fenians were gaining momentum in Ireland at this time and campaigning for Irish freedom. Soon they would be staging a rebellion of their own.

Casey wanted to ferment this nationalist feeling. The Rising of the Moon refers mainly to heroic actions of the past but it ends by affirming that the spirit of the 1798 rebels was still alive because Ireland still had men Who would follow in their footsteps at the rising of the moon.

Rising of the Moon
Casey imprisoned for supporting Fenians
Rising of the Moon Videos

Lyrics and Chords
John Keegan Casey

Did you know?

Singing Cork barman has fans across the world - a video of the Irish music loving barman singing while he poured a pint went viral as people became enchanted by his easy going style and great voice. Check out his video.

Have you heard about…

Irish people warned about the ‘Celtic curse’ - a potentially deadly blood condition, that harms the liver, heart and pancreas, has been labelled the ‘Celtic Curse’ because more people in Ireland are prone to it than people from other countries. Find out more.

What about this…

‘Irish giant’ Tom Crean was one of the bravest and toughest explorers of the early part of the 20th century. Thanks to his positivity and faith, he managed to not only survive horrific conditions but also save the lives of his colleagues. Find out more.

Personalised framed prints

Illuminated Letters

Stunning Illuminated Letters based on the ancient Book of Kells

Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.