NA BUACHAILLÍ BÁNA
The Right Hon Denis Browne was High Sheriff of County Mayo in 1798. He was a brother of Lord Altamont and dealt savagely with those who had participated in the Rising or helped in any way. It was said that for months afterwards, he had a man hanged in Castlebar every day. Sometimes he presided personally at the executions.
Richard Jordan of Rooskey, who with Séamas Bán Ó Máille, led the capture of Claremorris, was informed on, but Denis Browne in a letter to Lord Hardwick said "it would be difficult to find an unprejudiced jury to try him." A courtmartial was arranged and Jordan sentenced to death. Browne arranged the execution for Claremorris, where the prisoner "committed the acts of treason of which he was convicted". He then added, in his letter to the Lord Lieutenant:
"I shall not fail to attend there and will further your Excellency’s intention of making the example as impressive as possible."
The Secret Service List shows that the informer who betrayed Richard Jordan was paid one hundred guineas.
It was estimated that Denis Browne had 200 men hanged, 200 transported and 100 more pressed into service in the British Army overseas or salt mines on the Continent.
Dúghlas de hÍde collected the song Na Buachaillí Bána in County Mayo in 1903 and published it as a song ascribed to Antaine Ó Reachtabhra. The song had never before been written down because it would have been too dangerous. (There is a record in a manuscript in the British Museum of a man being arrested in Oranmore for drinking the toast, "That the King’s skin may be converted into boats for Bonaparte", which wish was inserted in a song that was sung in ale-houses and whiskey-shops.)
Dúghlas de hÍde records that the tree used as a gallows in Castlebar was still standing in 1903, but by the time Richard Hayes was researching his Last Invasion of Ireland in the 1930s it had been uprooted by a storm.
Denis Browne was called "Donnacha an Rópa" by the people of County Mayo and their feelings about him were well expressed in the first stanza of Na Buachaillí Bána, excellently translated by de hÍde, who described it as "giota fíochmhar".
A Dhonncha Brúin ‘s deas do chraithfinn lámh leat
Agus ní le grá duit ach le fonn do ghabháil (góail)
Cheanglóinn suas thú le rópa cnáibe
Agus chuirfinn mo "Spír" i do bholg mór.
Mar is iomaí buachaill maith chuir tú thar sáile
Thiocfas anall fís is cúnamh leo
Faoi chultaibh dearga agus hataí lása
‘S beidh an droma Francach a’ seinm leo!
If I got your hand, it is I would take it
But not to shake it, O Denis Browne,
But to hang you high with a hempen cable
And your feet unable to find the ground.
For it’s many’s the boy who was strong and able
You sent in chains with your tyrant frown;
But they’ll come again, with the French flag waving
And the French drums raving to strike you down!