A mysterious stranger joined the men around the fire at Andy Lemon's Inn and rode on into the snow. "Two winters more, then the Trouble Year": the French are defeated. Some time after that the singer sees the stranger hanged at Downpatrick gaol
Moylan: "The poem was written in 1918 as a recitation."
Moylan: "Upon hearing of Emmet's arrest, Thomas Russell hurried to Dublin to attempt a rescue." He was taken there by Town Major Sirr. "Russell had been the United Irish organizer in Co. Down. After his conviction for treason he was hanged in Downpatrick on the 21st of October 1803." I am too dense to connect Moylan's dots and make Russell's execution the subject of Wilson's poem. Others, seeing more clearly, make the connection. [Personally, I can connect too many dots -- e.g. an alternate possibility is that Emmet is hanged in 1803, the French are defeated two years later at Trafalgar, and then someone else is hanged the time after that. - RBW] See, for example, "Man from God-knows-where," June 23, 2005, at the Newry Journal site. Also, from the Down County Museum site article on "Thomas Russell" states that Russell was the gaol's most famous prisoner known now to many County Down people as "the man from God knows where" from Wilson's ballad "which generations of school children learnt!"; the museum site has information about Russell's career and documents related to the trial.
Town Major Sirr is a frequent villain in Dublin incidents after "the Troubles"; see, for example, "Henry Downs," "Edward (III) (Edward Fitzgerald), "The Major" and the notes to "Who Killed Cock Robin?" (II). - BS