The ballad takes the tune of another Irish ballad, "The Wearing of the Green" and was first published in Casey's 1866 collection of poems and songs “A Wreath of Shamrocks". The lyrics refer to the outbreak of the 1798 rebellion in County Wicklow county Wexford as United Irish rebels convey the order to rise. The air of hope and optimism associated with the ultimately doomed rebellion was intended to provide inspiration for rebels "Who would follow in their footsteps" preparing to take to the field in another doomed venture, the Fenian rebellion of 1867.
Often sung by The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem among others, the song remains popular and the tune widely recognized in Ireland today as it is often taught in schools, played regularly at official and sporting events and has been covered by a wide variety of musicians. The song is also referenced in the final line of the final entry of Bobby Sands hunger strike diary.