Paud O’Donoghue – Heroic Blacksmith of the 1798 United Irishmen Rebellion

We have heard of the great names of the leaders and organisers of the 1798 rebellion, the men who tried to break the iron rules which oppressed the country and had the vast majority of the population treated little better than animals. Their names are remembered in song and story and enshrined in the history books of the period. We are proud of their efforts and remember they came from more religions than one. We must also remember that all walks of life were there, from the landowner through the shop assistant and the farmer to the common worker no matter what his, or her, trade.

We read of their heroic actions on the field of battle and their deeds in other places. But let us remember that there were also many unsung heroes, men and women, who deserve a place in the history of our country, and among them were a number of men who were working for the cause long before the Harrow set the heather blazing. They were the Blacksmiths of ‘98, the men who forged the pikes, which were banned by the British.

Blacksmiths in almost every county did their bit for the cause. Some of them we have been told about in balladeer, others we have never heard of, men who were brought out and hanged by the forge they had been trying to make an honest living out of, others who had to flee homes, and more who used the pike they had to good effect on the battle fields in their efforts to free their native land. While we salute them all let us recall for a few moments the deeds of some of the better known of this gallant band who are now, alas, a fading breed.

There is scarcely a school child who had not heard the poem by Patrick Archer, which recalls some of the deeds of that well-known blacksmith from Co Meath, Paud O’Donoghoe. Perhaps the best known episode in the life of O’Donoghoe was when he killed a Yeoman captain in his forge after he had been forced to shoe his horse.

‘Paud O’Donoghue’
(Patrick Archer)

When the Yeos were in Dunshaughlin
And the Hessians in Drumree,
And spread through fair Moynalty’s plain
Were the Fencibles of Reagh.
When Roden’s God-less troupers reigned
From Skryne to Mullacroo
And hammered were the pike heads first
by Paud O’Donoghue.

Young Paud he was as brave a boy
As ever hammer swung,
And the finest hurdler that you’d find
In the lads of Meath among.
And when the wrestling match was o’er
No man could boast he threw
The black-haired smith of Curraha,
Young Paud O’Donoghue

But ninety-eight’s dark season came
And Irish hearts were sore,
The pitcheap and the triangle
The patient folk outwore.
Young Paud, he thought of Ireland,
And says, there’s work to do.
We’ll forge some steel for freedom,
Says Paud O’Donoghue.

And at Curraha each night
You’d hear his anvil ring
While scouting on the roadside
Where Hugh and Phelim King,
With Duffy’s Matt and Mickey’s Pat
And Hughie Gilsenan too,
While in the forge for Ireland worked
Young Paud O’Donoghue.

But a traitor crept amongst them
And the secret soon was sold
To the captain of the yeomen
For his ready Saxon gold.
And a troop rushed out one evening
From the woods of Lone Kilbrue
And soon a rebel prisoner bound
Was Paud O’Donoghue.

“Don on your knees, you rebel dog,”
The yeoman captain roared,
And high above his silver crest
He waved his gleaming sword.
“Down on your knees to meet your doom,
Such is the rebel’s due,”
But straight as pikestaff ‘fore him stood
Young Paud O’Donoghue.

And there upon the roadside
In childhood he had played
Before the cruel yeoman
He stood quite undismayed.
“I kneel but to my God above,
I ne’er shall bow to you.
You can shoot me as I’m standing,”
Said Paud O’Donoghue.

The captain gazed in wonder,
Then lowered his keen-edged blade.
“A rebel bold is this,” he said,
“He’s fitting to degrade.”
“Here men, unbind him,
My charger needs a shoe,
The King shall have a workman
In this Paud O’Donoghue.”

Now to the forge young Paud has gone,
The yeomen guard the door
And soon the angry bellows
Is heard to snort and roar.
The captain stands with reins in hands
While Padraie fits the shoe.
And when ’tis on it’s short the shrift
He’ll give bold Donoghue.

The last strong nail is firmly clinched,
The captain’s horse is shod.
Now rebel bold thine hour has come;
Prepare to meet they God.
But why holds he the horse’s hoof?
There’s no more work to do.
Why clenches he the hammer so,
Young Paud O’Donoghue.

A volley from the muskets;
A rush of horses feet;
He’s gone and noon can capture
The captain’s charger fleet.
And in the night winds backward
Comes a mocking halloo!
Which tells the Yeomen they have lost
Young Paud O’Donoghue.
And still in Meath’s fair county
There are brave lads, not a few
Who would follow in the footsteps
Of Paud O’Donoghue.

Photo: This Paud O’Donoghue Memorial was dedicated in Curraha, Co Meath in 1998, 200 years after the rebellion. What you can’t see are the details of the shoe, which paid special attention to the toe calk and nail heads. Photo credit: Teresa Joyce

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