The struggle for an independent Ireland, from the 1803 Rebellion of Robert Emmet through the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s, inspired a number of songs written and published in the United States from the mid-1800s to the early decades of the 1900s. Many of the songs' lyrics rely on historic Irish imagery from throughout history, and much of the cover art is reminiscent of other Tin Pan Alley era Irish American illustrations.
The Fenian Rising of 1867 generated two pieces of sheet music in our collections. Although only the cover of "When Erin Shall Stand 'Mid the Isles of the Sea" exists, it evokes famed nationalist Robert Emmet as inspiration. "When Fenians Fight for Freedom" is dedictaed to Fenian wives and daughters, likely written in wake of the failed rising. Set as an Irish jig, the song's lyrics wraps its heroes in green and uses Wolfe Tone's United Irishman green harp flag as a symbol.
Read more about the Fenian Rising and examples from our sheet music collections in the post A Musical and Artistic Glimpse Inside the Fenians…150 Years Later on our CelticMKE blog, The Analog Beat.
A major political crisis over Home Rule or Irish self-government occurred before the outbreak of the First World War. The Third Home Rule Act was signed into law in September of 1914, although operation of the Bill was suspended during the war. The start of the war in 1914 temporarily defused armed tensions between Unionists and Nationalists. A total of 206,000 Irish served in the British forces during the war.
Several pieces of sheet music celebrate the politicians forwarding the Home Rule movement leading up to 1914. The cover of "Dear Ireland When You're Free" features drawings of Charles Stewart Parnell and Robert Emmet. "Home-Rule for Ireland" celebrates the passing of the Home Rule Act and politician John Redmond's contributions. "Since Home Rule's Come to Ireland" paints a joyous, united Ireland that fails to note the impending discord.
1916 Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence
A handful of pieces of sheet music in the collection reflect on the Easter Rising of 1916. "Sacrifice For Erin" deals with a captured and executed Irish Volunteer, and the cover features the green harp flag associated with the United Irishman. "The Orange, The White, And The Green : The Song of Erin's Flag" celebrates the Irish tricolour flag, raised about the General Post Office during the Rising. "Soldiers of Erin" also features the Irish tricolour; this setting by Victor Herbert benefited the Gaelic League of Ireland.
Several pieces of sheet music published during the Irish War of Independence depict Eamon de Valera, and "Up! Erin Up!" was dedicated to the Friends of Irish Freedom, an Irish American organization that raised funds to assist dependents who fought in the Rising. Many other songs expressed Irish American support of Ireland during the War of Independence, including "We're With You Dear Ireland" and "Here's To Old Ireland."