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Flower of Finae
by Niamh Parsons
#historyjuke
Here is a song which in its breadth and depth encompasses a sweep of Irish v English and European history and concerning some of the battles fought during the Wars Of Spanish succession in which the exiled Irish, aka ’the wild geese’, fought the old enemy...i.e. the English establishment ruling class, dare I say the forebearers of the Brexiteers.
Composed by the Irish patriot Thomas Davis, poet and republican nationalist mid 19th century featuring the subject matter of the singers desires, Fergus O Farrell, the unrequited love interest of the Flower Of Finae.
Of course as we all know these battle of will and won’t continue still to this very day in the EU where we’re still settling the old perceived grievances and scores politically, though it was suggested on an English radio station by a caller yesterday that one way to settle Brexit is for England to invade Ireland (not sure if he realised that they are still there and that if they weren’t then the backstop...tha cause of their alleged frustration now, wouldn’t be tripping them up as they leave. Some English folks appear still ignorant of what their establishment betters do or fail to do on their behalf, which is the kernel of the issues of governance in that realm )...it seems some folks have not learned from their mistakes i.e..partitioning Ireland because their planters in the better lands in Ulster couldn’t and wouldn’t assimilate and the lessons learned from the past appear lost on them. Or is it perhaps they just didn’t study their History or more to the point they were perhaps fed unquestioned on a diet of spoon fed revisionist history. That’s where all this ignorance and confusion stems from...ignorance of the history and why peacefully coexistance and trade and crospolination in dialog dispenses with the need for wars and misunderstandings....

The song tells the story of one Irish exiled soldier in the wild geese army (Fergus O'Farrell) and his love (Eily McMahon, the flower of Finae) and references various famous battles.
"He fought at Cremona, she hears of his story He fought at Cassano,
she’s proud of his glory. Yet sadly she sings Siubhail a Ruin all the day
O come home my darling, come home to Finae."
Siubhail A Ruin...is an old Gaelic song, it’s translation meaning..
‘Walk my secret love’.

An explanation of some other references mentioned:
"Lord Clare on the field of Rammillies is charging;
Before him the Sassanach (Gaelic reference to the English) squadrons enlarging;
Behind him the Cravats, their sections display.
Beside him rides Fergus and shouts for Finae."

The word "Cravats", who were they?
In the French army there was cavalry composed exclusively of Croats called the "Royal - Cravate." This section existed from 1664 to 1789. These soldiers gave to the world the necktie called "la cravate" by the French. So the use of the word "Cravats" by Davis in the song would relate to the Croatian cavalry who fought at Rammillies.
The wild geese were defeated in Rammillies. All these battles (Cremona, Cassano, Rammillies) are part of the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The story of the wild geese can be perused on http://www.thewildgeese.com

The French were utterly routed at Ramillies by the combined British and Dutch forces under the Duke of Marlborough. The French lost 8,000 killed and wounded, with 7,000 being taken prisoner.
The battle in which the Irish Brigade saved the day was at Fontenoy on May 11th 1745 when the British troops under the command of the Duke of Cumberland (who later became famous or infamous as the "Butcher" Cumberland following the Battle of Culloden) got their comeuppance. "Fontenoy" a poem describing the battle was also written by Thomas Davis.

The hero, Fergus O' Farrell (a wild goose who joined the War of Spanish Succession with his sire-land, under the command of Lord Clare and his Clare Dragoon’s, fought his first battle in Cremona (1702) and his last in Rammillies (1706) where he died (I guess, it is not said in the song). Now, why does the song say that "Eight long years have passed...." (for Eily, who is alone in Finae)? The years passed should be not more than four or five (from the beginning of the war 1701 till Fergus' death in Rammillies, 1706), of course the exiled wild geese were banished from their native land in Ireland some years before these battle dates and so may explain the gap in years.
Regarding the "eight long years" there is no date given when Fergus left Ireland so it's fair to assume that he left in the late 1690s. Don't forget Thomas Davis was an ardent Irish patriot and Clare's Dragoons had met the British before in battle in Ireland as part of the Jacobite opposition to Wm of Orange before their exile as part of the Treaty of Limerick 1691 which saw the flower of Ireland’s fighting armed resistance to the Williamite Protestant rule exiled to France, Portugal and Spain where their fighting battalions integrated with the Catholic armies of their European allies. Also in the "Flower of Finae" it mentions "That flag's the sole trophy of Rammillies' fray" so it is possible that one of the Brigade could have snatched a British flag in the heat of battle.

"......... Saxons backward reeled before the charge of Clare's Dragoons" ?
there is a reference to the battle standards won at Ramillies by the Wild Geese being displayed in "Ypres' choir"

"Ypres' choir" would refer to the section of a church - I think it's between the nave and the altar, but my ecclesiastical/architectural knowledge is somewhat shaky. In some churches Protestant in the Ireland & in the UK with certain associations, that's where military/historical flags are displayed.

Some confusion over 'captured' colours may have been caused by the similarity of French colours in the Seven Years' War to their counterparts in the British military. Have a look at http://members.tripod.com/TomGr/france1.htm for some examples

Ramillies, May 1706:
Overall the battle was a defeat for the French (including the Irish Brigade) but Clare's Dragoons counterattacked, regaining their own flag and capturing a British Regiment's flag also (the "Buffs"?). The Irish Brigade flag (carrying the harp symbol) was displayed at the Benedictine convent in Ypres up until the First World War when the convent was destroyed (remember there were several battles at Ypres in WW1) and the nun's that we’re based there later moved to Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, in Ireland, where the Brigade flag is still on display. A great story I think. Incidentally I would highly recommend a visit to the exceptionally picturesque Kylemore Abbey if anyone is ever visiting Galway in Ireland.

Now where is Finae:
FINAE, a village, in the parish of FAVORAN, barony of DEMIFORE, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 6 miles (N. W.) from Castle-Pollard, on the road from Old castle to Granard, and in the confines of the county of Cavan; containing 241 inhabitants. In 1331, Sir Anthony Lucy, Lord-Justice, defeated the Irish forces near this place, after an obstinately contested battle; and in 1644, Gen. Monroe routed a detachment of Lord Castlehaven's army here, where also, in 1651, the parliamentarian forces under Cols. Hewson and Jones obtained a victory over the royalists, commanded by Pheagh Mac Hugh O'Byrne, and took the village by storm. The counties of Westmeath and Cavan are separated at this place by a stream connecting Lough Shcelin with Lough Kinale, and over which is a stone bridge of nine arches. The village consists of 45 houses, badly built, and in a state of dilapidation. Fairs are held on March 17th, the Saturday before Whitsuntide, Sept. 18th, and Nov. 15th.

— Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) by Samuel LewisCourtesy & copyright of Mel Lockie
 
Posted: 21st March 2019
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