Thomas MacDonagh was an Irish writer and patriot who was executed by the British after the failed 1916 rebellion in Dublin.

He was born in County Tipperary in 1876, became a schoolteacher, and gravitated toward the Irish cultural revival through the Gaelic League. Like many of his educated contemporaries, MacDonagh supported the cause of Irish independence from Britain, which eventually led him to participate in the Easter rising and become one of its leaders.

MacDonagh was one of seven signatories to what is now known simply as "The Proclamation." It was issued by the Irish Volunteer Army during the uprising and mainly declared war and Irish independence. To the occupying British, it was, therefore, an act of treason.

After the failure of the rebellion, all seven signatories of The Proclamation were executed within a few months. Their deaths became a turning point in the fight for Irish independence, as they became martyrs to Irish people worldwide.

Their sacrifice, which some historians say was pre-planned and entered into knowingly, set in motion a series of events that eventually led to Irish independence in 1921.

Martin Butler is from the same small village as MacDonagh and has long been fascinated by his life and writings. In this collection, he chooses some of his favorite poems and asks his extensive network of musicians, actors, and singers to help him deliver the readings. There is music throughout, as well as some songs of rebellion.

The result is a beautiful, visceral representation of MacDonagh: the poet, the patriot, and the Irishman in love with his country, proud of his heritage, and determined to see its independence from enemy occupiers.

All tracks are from the CD, Poems & Songs from The Woodland's Edge, which Butler produced. You can listen to the album in its entirety here:

Two additional pieces of music are used in the radio segment:

"An Chuilfhionn," Aine Minogue and Druidstone, The Vow

"All Through the Night," Kim Robertson, Celtic Voyage

Words and Music is a feature of A Celtic Sojourn. If you have a suggestion for a poem, a reading, or a piece of music that would fit the series, send an email to and put "Words and Music" in the subject line.