The song in its original form, Séarlas Óg (meaning "Young Charles" in Irish) refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie and dates back to the third Jacobite rising in 1745-6.
In the early 20th century it received new verses by the nationalist poet Padraig Pearse and was often sung by IRA members and sympathisers, during the Easter Rising. It was also sung as a fast march during the Irish War of Independence.
Since 1916 it has also been known under various other titles, notably Dord na bhFiann (Call of the Fighters) or An Dord Féinne. The latter title is associated with Padraig Pearse in particular. This version is dedicated to the pirate or "Great Sea Warrior" Gráinne Ní Mháille (Grace O'Malley). She was a formidable power on the west coast of Ireland in the late 16th century.
The song has been sung widely by ballad groups such as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, The Cassidys, Noel McLoughlin, The McPeake Family, Thomas Loefke & Norland Wind, and the Wolfe Tones. Óró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile was also sung by sean-nós singer Darach O'Cathain, Dónall Ó Dúil (on the album Faoin bhFód) and by Nioclás Tóibín. The song has received more modern treatments from John Spillane, The Twilight Lords, Cruachan, Tom Donovan, and Sinéad O'Connor. There is also a classical orchestral version by the Irish Tenors. Óró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile was also used in the 2006 film The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
The number and variety of performances indicates how widely known the song is. It was widely sung in state primary schools in the early and middle 20th century.
The air was "borrowed" and used for the popular Sea Shanty, What shall we do with a drunken sailor. Boxer Steve Collins used the song as his ring entrance music for all seven of his WBO supermiddleweight title defenses in the mid nineties.