Notes and Narratives
Edited By Una Hunt and Mary Pierse
France, Ireland and the Jacobite Cause in Richard Murphy’s The Battle of Aughrim
Richard Murphy’s long historical poem The Battle of Aughrim (1968) has been praised for its objectivity and documentary-like overview of a major military encounter on Irish soil which took place on 12 July 1691 outside Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. The conflict was between a French-led Irish Jacobite army loyal to the deposed King James II and a Dutch-led Williamite army defending the Protestant and English interest of William of Orange who had claimed the English throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. This was a decisive battle, of greater historical importance than the Battle of the Boyne of 1690, since it was at Aughrim that the Jacobite army was effectively destroyed, thus leading to the Treaty of Limerick and to the flight of the Wild Geese in October 1691. These events would confirm the Protestant, Anglo-Irish Ascendancy in Ireland for over two centuries.
Murphy’s poem is exceptionally aware of the presence of history in the consciousness and imaginations of Irish people; a well-known line from the poem insists on the presentness of the past in Irish culture: ‘The past is happening today’.1 This viewpoint is affirmed by Audrey S. Eyler and Robert F. Garratt2 who argue that:
The persistence of history in recent politics and cultural development dramatically demonstrates the tenacious grip of the past upon the contemporary Irish imagination. This historical sense seems inextricably bound to a crisis of identity, the logical result of living in a bifurcated society in which Gaelic and British...
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