"Garryowen" is an Irish tune for a jig dance. It has become well known as a marching tune in Commonwealth and American military units, most famously George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry Regiment.

History Edit

Garryowen, meaning "St John's acre" in Irish, is the name of a neighbourhood in Limerick.[1] The song emerged during the late 18th century, when it was a drinking song of young roisterers in the city. An alternate title is "Let Bacchus's sons be not dismayed".

Let Bacchus's sons be not dismayed,
But join with me, each jovial blade;
Come booze and sing and lend your aid
To help me with the chorus:
Instead of spa we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to gaol
From Garryowen in glory!
We are the boys that take delight in
Smashing the Limerick lamps when lighting,
Through the streets like sporters fighting
And tearing all before us.
We'll break windows, we'll break doors,
The watch knock down by threes and fours;
Then let the doctors work their cures
And tinker up our bruises.
We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run;
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.
Our hearts so stout have got us fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garryowen in glory.[2]

Sung to the tune "Auld Bessie", it obtained immediate popularity in the British Army through the 5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons.[citation needed]

It was published with additional lyrics in Thomas Moore's 1808 "Irish Melodies".[3] Beethoven composed two arrangements of the song during 1809–1810 (published 1814–1816 in W.o.O. 152 and W.o.O. 154) with the title, "From Garyone my Happy Home", with lyrics by T. Toms, on romantic themes. The arrangements were part of a large project by George Thomson to engage prominent composers of his time to write arrangements of the folk songs of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.[4] The composer Mauro Giuliani arranged the tune in Arie Nazionali Irlandesi nr.1-6 Op.125 (Six Irish Airs). The Bohemian composer Ignaz Moscheles included the tune in his op. 89 Souvenirs de l'Irlande, "Recollections of Ireland", for solo piano and orchestra.

British military units Edit

A very early reference to the tune appears in the publication The Life of the Duke of Wellington by Jocquim Hayward Stocqueler, published in 1853. He describes the defence of the town of Tarifa during the Peninsular War, late December 1811. General Hugh Gough, commanding officer of the 87th Regiment (later the Royal Irish Fusiliers), under attack by French grenadiers, drew his sword, tossed his scabbard, and called on his men to stand with him until the enemy should walk over their bodies. The troops responded with the "Garryowen".[5]

It was used as a march by the 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) during the Peninsular War.[5]

Garryowen was also a favourite during the Crimean War. The tune has been associated with a number of British and Commonwealth military units, including the Liverpool Irish, the London Irish Rifles, the Ulster Defence Regiment, and the Irish Regiment of Canada.

US military units Edit

In early 1851, Irish citizens of New York City formed a militia regiment known locally as the Second Regiment of Irish Volunteers. The group selected "Garryowen" as their official regimental marching song. On 12 October 1851, the regiment was accepted officially as part of the New York Militia and designated the 69th Infantry Regiment (the famed "Fighting 69th"). It is presently known officially as the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry and is part of the 42nd Infantry Division.[6] The song is heard several times throughout the Warner Bros. movie The Fighting 69th (1940), starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, and Alan Hale, Sr., which chronicles the World War I exploits of the regiment.

7th Cavalry Edit

It later became the marching tune for the American 7th Cavalry Regiment during the late 19th century. The tune was brought to the 7th Cavalry by Brevet Colonel Myles Keogh and other officers with relations to the 5th Royal Irish Lancers and the Papal Guard. As the story goes, it was the last song played for Custer's men as they left General Terry's column at the Powder River.[6] The 7th Cavalry became a part of the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921. The word "Garryowen" was used often during the Vietnam War by soldiers of the 1st Cavalry as a password to identify each other. It became the official tune of the division in 1981.[7] The words Garry Owen now form part of the regimental crest.

The tune became the name for bases established by the cavalry in various conflicts. The most recent was Contingency Operating Site Garry Owen in the Maysan Province of Iraq.[8] FOB Garryowen was established in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 8–10 in June 2008 by the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.[9] There was also a Camp Garry Owen north of Seoul, Korea, which housed part of the 4th Squadron of the 7th Cavalry.

Theodore Roosevelt considered it "the greatest fighting tune in the world."[5]

References Edit

  1. ^ "Garraí Eoin/Garryowen". The Placenames Database of Ireland. Retrieved 14 May 2023.
  2. ^ Lover, Samuel. Poems of Ireland. London: Ward, Lock & Co. p. 122.
  3. ^ "We May Roam Through This World", Library Ireland
  4. ^ "Beethoven: Folksong Settings" by Barry Cooper [1] Archived 19 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c "The Greatest Fighting Tune in the World", T.P.'s Weekly, Vol. 6, (Thomas Power O'Connor, Holbrook Jackson, eds.), Walbrook & Company, 1905  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ a b "Garryowen", The 1st Cavalry Division Association
  7. ^ "The Legend of Gary Owen", The 7th U.S. Cavalry Association, June 27, 2016
  8. ^ Brown, Alan S., "Soldiers take lead in supporting COS GARRYOWEN", US Army
  9. ^ "Forward Operating Base (FOB) Garry Owen", U.S. Airforces Central Command

Sources Edit

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