Michael Collins

Something for the weekend.  Michael Collins sung by the Wolfe Tones.  Collins was the most talented Irish statesman and soldier of the last century.  He was also a man of exceptional courage as he demonstrated when he signed the Anglo-Irish treaty, realizing that this was the best deal that could be gotten from the British.  “I have signed my own death warrant” was his prophetic utterance  when he signed the treaty.  Collins was killed in the subsequent utterly futile Irish civil war that errupted and died at 31 on August 22, 1922, proving once again that the worst enemy of the Irish often tend to be the Irish.

In the negotiations with the British Michael Collins and Winston Churchill became acquainted and found, probably to their mutual surprise, that they respected each other. 

Just before his death Collins sent this message, “Tell Winston we could never have done it without him.”

In 1929 Churchill wrote of Collins, “Successor to a sinister inheritance, reared among fierce conditions and moving through ferocious times, he supplied those qualities of action and personality without which the foundation of Irish nationhood would not have been re-established.”


Come listen all me true men to my simple rhyme
For it tells of a young man cut off in his prime
A soldier and a statesman who laid down the law, and,
To die by the roaside in lone Beal na Bla
When barely sixteen to England crossed o’er
For to work as a boy in a government store
But the Volunteers call he could not disobey
So he came back to Dublin to join in the fray

At Easter nineteen sixteen when Pearse called them out
The men from the Dublin battalion roved out
And in the post office they nobley did show
How a handful of heros could outfight the foe.

To Stafford and jails transported they were
As prisonners of England they soon made a stir
Released before Christmas and home once again
He banded old comrades together to train
Dail Eireann assembled our rights to proclaim
Suppressed by the English you’d think it’s a shame
How Ireland’s best and bravest were harried and torn
From the Arms of their loved ones and children new born.

For years Mick eluded their soldiers and spies
For he was the master of clever disguise
With the Custom House blazing she found t’was no use
And soon Mother England had asked for a truce
Oh when will the young men a sad lesson spurn
That brother and brother they never should turn
Alas that a split in our ranks ‘ere we saw
Mick Collins stretched lifeless in lone Beal na Bla

Oh long will old Ireland be seeking in vain
Ere we find a new leader to match the man slain
A true son of Grainne his name long will shine
O gallant Mick Collins cut off in his prime.

5 Responses to Michael Collins

  1. T. Shaw says:

    Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead . . . And I do not refer to the hero (possibly the “Washington”) of Irish nationhood: Michael Collins.

  2. Donna V. says:

    Interesting that Churchill and Collins ended up respecting each other. As someone who is interested in Irish history, but not in any starry-eyed romantic sense (having no Irish or English blood gives me a bit of distance on the topic), I have wondered what would have happened if Parnell had not been disgraced and Home Rule had won the day in the 1880’s. Would the Irish have remained satisfied with Home Rule? If not, is there a chance it would have gradually developed greater autonomy in a peaceful fashion (while remaining undivided) and ended up like Canada, Australia and other members of the Commonwealth?

  3. Donald R. McClarey says:

    The problem with Home Rule Donna is that the Brits were unwilling to grasp the nettle and establish two dominions in Ireland. I can understand why. The Irish nationalists wanted all of Ireland. The Protestant Establishment in Ireland assumed that they could maintain dominance in areas that were heavily Catholic. The Irish war for independence established the boundary of what each side could control. It was simply impossible for the Protestants in the North and the Catholics in the South to exist peacefully in one Dominion of Ireland. A civil war almost occurred between the British government and the Protestant establishment in the 1880s. Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father, always a useless demagogue, attempted to make political hay out of it in 1886 with the slogan “Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right.” Civil war also loomed over Home Rule in 1914 and only subsided with the advent of WWI. The Irish War for Independence broke the impasse and established, in effect, Home Rule and ultimately independence for the South.

  4. […] was referring in his phrase to “those who have destroyed the Republic” to men like Michael Collins, who was killed in the Civil War, who were responsible for the creation of an independent […]

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