19th Century Nationalism in Music

“A Nation Once Again”, Thomas Osbourne Davis (1844)
Written by one of the co-founders of the Young Ireland movement, the lyrics to this song first appeared in The Nation.  It is somewhat unusual in deploying Classical allusions, including references to the Spartan 300 at Thermopylae and the Roman Horatii (a popular Republican myth thanks to Jacques Louis-David’s famous 18th century painting).  Davis, a member of the Ascendancy and graduate of Trinity College, is commemorated in a statue on College Green.


“God Save Ireland”, T. D. Sullivan (1867)
This song was written in the aftermath of a controversial episode during the Fenian agitation of the mid-1860s.  In 1867, a group of Fenians in Manchester besieged a police wagon carrying three recently-arrest members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  During the attack, several police were killed; this in turn sparked a brutal round up of Irish immigrants with suspected ties to the IRB in British cities throughout the west Midlands.  28 men eventually faced trial for the attack and the proceedings were marred by a number of problems which cast doubt on the fairness of the process.  The “noble hearted three” referenced in the song are the “Manchester martyrs”, the three men executed for the attack.  The tune is taken from “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp”, a Union Army marching song from the American Civil War.


“Down by the Glenside/Bold Fenian Men”, Peadar Kearney (1917)
Kearney, best known for writing Ireland’s national anthem (“Soldier’s Song”) wrote this in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising as a commemoration of the 1867 Fenian Rising.  The old woman is a reference to the myths associate with Kathleen ni Houlihan.



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