“Then Father Murphy from old Kilcormack
Spurred up the rocks with a warning cry:
‘Arm! Arm!’ he cried, ‘For I’ve come to lead you;
For Ireland’s freedom we’ll fight or die!”
After enduring dreadful torture, Father John Murphy is executed, and his decapitated head displayed on a pike for his part in the 1798 Rebellion.
Father Murphy, like most of the Catholic clergy did not support the original uprising, but following a skirmish where two English yeoman were killed, he realised it was “fight or die.” Over a five week period, he led a scattered, brave and ultimately futile insurrection against an increasingly vicious English response which involved murder and mass rape. The Irish rebels were no saints themselves indulging in sectarian outrages including burning of Protestants to death. Murphy was not directly involved in these atrocities, some of which were reactive and some borne from a deep hatred of English occupation.
The rebel priest was an effective leader of the 5,000 plus rebels winning a number of battles against the English including famously taking Enniscorthy on May 28th. The rebels suffered a fatal defeat at the Battle of Vinegar Hill on 21 June which effectively ended the rebellion.
Source: Father John Murphy of Boolavogue