Lament for the Civil War

by Edward Culleton

My father was a man of peace

A gun he never carried

Though he often spoke of the civil war

And of the friendships sadly severed

Some for the patriot’s dream

Of an island free from foreign rule

And some for the gains hard won

And freedom to win more freedom.


He had good friends on either side

And never sought to judge them

He mourned the lives of brave young men

Caught up in the coils of history.


What drove some on to fight their own

With the war already over?

Not so, they said, it’s not done yet

We stand for the Republic ever.


Dream on, dream on, we had nothing left

With which to fight the empire.

The people spoke, we must obey

And forge our nation’s future.


And now with tempers raised

And reason out the window

O sad the day it came to pass

They rushed to fight each other

Though some had trained in freedom’s fight

The very men who faced them


My father knew some men who fell

Surrender not their nature

Cut down in their neighbour’s hearing

As they made a run for freedom


He knew the man who led the troops

A family man and fearless

Who had joined the Free State army

When his family faced starvation.


Nearly fifty years had passed

When I met an old survivor

Who remembered well that fateful day

And his dash from the lethal ambush.


For him the bitter wounds had healed

And all now lived in harmony

What mattered most was peaceful land

To which all could give allegiance.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author.

Cover Image: Gutted interior of a building. UCD Archives. Desmond FitzGerald Photographs. P80/PH/97