Croppies lie down

In Brief

"Croppies lie down" is an Orange song dating from the time of the 1798 rebellion, its name referring to the close-cropped hair of the rebels (like that of the revolutionaries in France, and unlike the powdered wigs of the British and Anglo-Irish ruling classes). The song depicts the Catholic rebels as cowardly traitors, and mockingly revels in their defeat by brave loyalists.

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The rebels of the 1790s looked to America and France for inspiration, given the revolutions that had recently taken place in both countries. Their leadership came from a group called the Society of United Irishmen, a group of Protestant liberals in Belfast who welcomed Catholic members and dissenters and advocated for Catholic emancipation, but whose reform efforts were effectively blocked in the Irish Parliament. When war broke out between Britain and France in 1793, the Society was forced underground. It made common cause with the Catholic agrarian group called the Defenders, gained members across Ireland (200-300,000, nearly 5% of the population), and turned to the revolutionary goal of getting England out of Ireland. In 1796 Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Society's leader, traveled to France and secured promises of an invasion force. But the Expédition d'Irlande, a fleet of ships with 14,000 seasoned French troops and heavy stocks of war matériel, could not land at Bantry Bay in bad weather in 1796, and returned home. Tone, who was with the force, said that "England has had its luckiest escape since the Armada." Much smaller French efforts were made to help the rebellion that finally took place in 1798.

In contrast to the Shan Van Vocht, written at about the same time, which proclaims that "The French are in the bay, and the Orange will decay," Croppies Lie Down ridicules the French:

Should France e'er attempt, by fraud or by guile,
Her forces to land upon Erin's green isle,
We'll show that they ne'er can make free soldiers slaves,
They shall only possess our green fields for their graves;
Our country's applauses our triumphs will crown,
Whilst with their French brothers the croppies lie down.
 
JH 2012