Cumha Eoghain Ruaidh Uí Néill
A Lament for Owen Roe O'Neill

Coat of Arms
Lámh Dearg Éirinn*
The O'Neill Family Crest

On that memorable morning, the 15th June, 1646, "the whole army having confessed, and the red-haired General, with the other officers, having received the Holy Communion, made a profession of faith, and the chaplain , after a brief exhortation, gave them his blessing," And the great General Owen Roe O'Neil then addressed his troops before going to the battle of Benburb" ... John Baptist Cardinal Rinuccini***.

The Irishmen had the advantage of position, and won a great victory. General Monroe fled without hat or cloak leaving more than 3,000 of his men dead on the field, and arms, stores, colours **, and provisions fell into O'Neill's hands. No other Irish victory had ever resulted in so complete an annihilation. The news of the victory of Benburb caused great national rejoicing. The Papal Nuncio, John Baptist Cardinal Rinuccini who was then at Limerick, celebrated a solemn Te Deum in Thanksgiving. Owen Roe O'Neill sent to Pope Innocent X the banners captured at Benburb.

Turlough O'Carolan
1. Mar táid a Dhé na Gaedhil gan treóir is truagh!
Síol ádhmhar Néill, síol Éibhir mhóir i dtuaidh.
Síol Táil go tréith, sliocht Shéarlais chródha i nguais,
Gan cháil, gan chéim, ó'n éag sin Eógain Ruaidh.

2. I dtáimhcheas léir tá Éire ó bhóinn go Muaidh.
Ó Árdloch Léin go Daeil, go Feóir 'sgo buais.
Ó Mháigh go Léim, Ón Éirne fóst go Cruaich,
Gan lann, gan scéith, ó'n éag sin Eógain Ruaidh.

3. Is láidir a shéideas gaoth gach lá do thuaidh;
Is d'fhás ar léas na ghréine neóil go nuadh;
Is árd do ghéis gach spéir le dóghra cruaidh,
'Sní lán an éasg' ó'n éag sin Eógain Ruaidh.

4. Faoi chlár i gcré tá féile Fódla uainn.
Bláth na nGaedheal is éasga óir an tsluaigh.
Lámh na n-éacht nár chlaon ón chóir ar luach.
Is d'fhág Éire i mbaoghal fé léan ó'n lá do chuaidh.

author unknown
1. The Gaelic race, alas, no leader owns,
The seed of Niall and Eibhear helpless moans,
The face of Eire now is dark with woe;
And fallen her pride, when died great Owen Roe!

2. All Erin lies in grief, from Boyne to Moy,
From Lene-Loch's shore to Nore, they know no joy,
From Moy to Leim and Erne, the dread word goes,
"No blade nor shield succeeds to Owen Roe's."

3. 'Tis cold each day the piercing north-wind blows,
The sun no ray of cheering brightness shows,
The storm doth rage, and still doth fiercer grow,
All earth grows pale, since death claimed Owen Roe.

4. In church-yard clay lies Erin's generous Chief,
The Gael's bright flower, this hour of bitter grief,
The trusty hand who ne'er forsook the right,
Leaves Eire's land in danger, dark as night.


On the day of Owen Roe's death, Ireland lost the last and the greatest of her warriors. He died in Cloughoughter, in Cavan. Under cover of night he was buried in the Franciscan Abbey in Cavan town. Conspiracy theorists at the time said that he was poisoned by a toxic substance put into his boots before going to a ball.
The country was cast into deep mourning. Now that Charles I of England was dead the threat of Cromwell and his Roundheads hung over the country and Owen Roe was their sole protector against him. As a poet succinctly put it: "Like sheep without a shepherd - When the snow falls from the sky - Why did you leave us Owen - Why did you have to die?"
"At the critical moment when O'Neill's services would have been invaluable against Cromwell he took suddenly ill and fell dead. The story that he was poisoned may be dismissed, for there is no evidence to sustain it." ...Catholic Encyclopedia.

Back to Songs index.
For phonetics consult the pocket dictionary Fóclóir Póca.
Replay background music seq. by Barry Taylor: Lament for O'Neill
* An old story says it was the Sinister (left) hand but the coat of arms shows a right hand.
** Owen Roe O'Neill sent to Pope Innocent X the banners captured at Benburb.
*** Giovanni Baptista Cardinal Rinuccini, Papal Nuncio of Pope Innocent X.
Note the ablative absolutes in Rinuccini's text - internal evidence that it was
originally written in Latin.
Courtesy of Vivian & Jack, 2024

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