‘Follow me up to Carlow’ is a ballad which was written by P J McCall. The ballad celebrates the victory by Fiach McHugh O’Byrne over an English army of 3,000 soldiers at the Battle of Glenmalure in 1580. P J McCall was a songwriter and poet who was a native of Dublin, Ireland. His father John was from Clonmore, Co Carlow and his mother Eliza May Newport was from Rathangan, Co Wexford. Apart from his writing McCall also collected several old Irish airs.
Patrick Joseph McCall was born at 25 Patrick Street, Dublin on March 6th 1861. His father was a historian, folklorist, writer and patriot who ran a public house and grocery shop on Patrick Street. P J went to school in St Joseph’s Monastery, Harolds Cross and spent his summer holidays in Rathangan in Wexford. Living among the people of Rathangan he heard the ballads and music of the locality.
P J McCall would later become famous as the author of songs such as: ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’, ‘The Boys of Wexford’, ‘Boolavogue’, ‘The Lowlands Low’, ‘Kelly the Boy from Killanne’ and many other ballads. ‘The Boys of Wexford’, ‘Boolavogue’ and ‘Kelly the Boy from Killanne’ were written to commemorate the 1798 Rising.
In 1900 P J McCall married Margaret Furlong, the sister of the poet Alice Furlong. In 1902 he took over his father’s business which included editing Old Moore’s Almanac. However he was able to organise his business affairs so well, he could concentrate on his literary and political activities. The McCall family home became a centre for writers and musicians.
In 1902 McCall was elected to represent the Wood Quay ward in Dublin and he became a Poor Law Guardian. He was a member of the Pan-Celtic Society, a literary association which had been founded in Dublin in 1888. When it later became the Irish National Literary Society McCall was its first Honorary Secretary.
P J McCall, poet and composer of songs such as, ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ died aged 58 in the year 1919 On This Day.