“The Boys of Sandy Row”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1987 (OrangeLark)
Keywords: violence Ireland nonballad political religious


Orangemen, remember King William who "ended Popish sway." Presbyterians, defend your rights "from Fenians and Papists vile." At Sandy Row we made the Papists "fly like chaff before the wind." Toast Johnston. Remember the Boyne and Derry Walls


The chorus is "Then band together firmly, and Popery overflow, Like to your gallant brethren, the boys of Sandy Row."

OrangeLark: "[The song] refers to the riots of 1857 over the open-air preaching of Rev. Hugh 'Roaring' Hanna and other Protestant Evangelicals... Despite the reference to William Johnston [see 'Bangor and No Surrender' and references there] the song may have been written 1868 by which time he was already well-known as a champion of Orangeism through his editorship of the _Downshire Protestant_"

I wonder if the riots referred to are not the 1872 riots in Belfast opposing the parade in support of Home Rule on Lady's Day (the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin). Both Rev. Hanna, Catholics from the Pound and Protestants from Sandy Row were involved [again, as they were in 1857] (source: Neil Jarman and Dominic Bryan, _From Riots to Rights; Nationalist Parades in the North of Ireland_ (1997), pp. 13-14). That date would also make toasting William Johnston more reasonable. Johnston was, admittedly, a public figure in 1857, the date of "his first and unsuccessful bid to enter Parliament as the Member for Downpatrick"; in the 1860's he bacame "the leading campaigner against the unpopular Party Processions Act of 1850. It was his opposition to this legislation which was to make William Johnston of Ballykilbeg a folk-hero." (source: Ian McShane, "William Johnston of Ballykilbeg" on OrangeNet site).

On the other hand, the reference to Johnston may be to one of the Presbyterian Ministers of that name involved in the 1857 conflict (see Holmes, cited in Historical References, above). [But William Johnston fits very well; see in this index the notes to "William Johnston of Ballykilbeg." - RBW]

For background on "Derry Walls" see "Derry Walls Away" and its Notes.[Also "The Shutting of the Gates of Derry." - RBW

For background on the Fenians see Notes to "A Fenian Song (I)." - BS

Historical references


  1. OrangeLark 25, "The Boys of Sandy Row" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, OrLa025