A ‘Dark Man’ of Dublin Songs: Finding Joseph Sadler

Catherine Ann Cullen is the inaugural Poet in Residence at Poetry Ireland, and an award-winning poet, songwriter and children's writer. ITMA is delighted to host a new blog on her recent research into the life of an all but forgotten 19th century Dublin street poet and ballad seller, Joseph Sadler. As well as enriching our knowledge of Dublin history and song, this substantial piece of research provides important context for Sadler material found in ballad sheets held in the ITMA Collection.

Catherine Ann Cullen 1 crop 1200
Catherine Ann Cullen

If you were asked to name a street poet and ballad seller who walked a small patch of Dublin’s Liberties in the 19th century, you’d immediately think of ‘Zozimus’ or Michael Moran. But there was another bard who made a name for himself in the decades after Moran died in 1846, and whose songs have been all but forgotten. Joseph Sadler flourished from about 1853 to 1873. He was a newspaper seller as well as a balladeer, and his songs were based on the news of the day. His name survives on some dozen broadsheets, most of them printed by Peter Brereton of Dublin, and scattered in collections in Ireland, England, Scotland and America. Among his subjects were politics and religion, especially in songs on the concerns of Irish Catholics.

In February this year, I gave a paper on Sadler for Broadside Day, an annual conference run by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. In a chapter for a forthcoming book from The Ballad Partners, I have catalogued Sadler’s works for the first time, including some songs found in newspapers, and pieced together the scant biographical details we have of this jobbing writer of news ballads in Victorian Dublin.

For this blog post, I have recorded three samples from Sadler songs. As far as I can tell, these are the first recordings of his songs ever made, and they have not been heard since Sadler sang them over 150 years ago.
Catherine Ann Cullen, 2021

I first encountered Sadler when I gave a paper about nuns in broadside ballads at Broadside Day in February 2020. His Lines Written on the Nunnery Bill, held in the Helen Hartness Flanders collection in Middlebury, Vermont, is the earliest of his songs that survive. The subject of the song is a controversial set of proposals to the House of Commons in 1851-3 to allow the police to search convents for women being held against their will.

You lovers of honour, of truth and fair play
I’m sure you’ll allow that we live in queer days,
The ladies of mercy to [k]nock them about
In your life did you ever hear such a come out?
Newdegate is the fomentor of this bea[u]tiful[?] tale,
But in it I’ll tell you he’ll certainly fail…

Sadler’s ballad excoriates the extraordinarily named Charles Newdigate Newdegate, a Tory MP and chief proponent of the bills, which were defeated in June 1853. The song was written around then, because it ends by saying of Newdegate:

His vile efforts, thank heaven, they are all in vain,
His sad disappointment now torments his brain
Our nunneries and convents they’re triumphing still
We’ll dance Garryowen on the Nunnery Bill.

What else did this defender of the Catholic sisters produce? The search for Sadler is complicated by the variety of spellings used for his name, including Saddler, Sadlier and Sadleir. I have deferred to the Sadler spelling, following the Catalogue to the Bradshaw Collection, which refers both ‘Saddler and ‘Sadlier to the entry for Sadler. This collection of material relating to Ireland was amassed by Henry Bradshaw, University Librarian at Cambridge in the late 19th century. In 1916, the library published a catalogue of the collection which includes the most comprehensive index of Sadler’s works, with seven ballads in total. These are:

● Lines on Doctor O'Connor, Bishop of Saldis

● Lines written on the Nunnery Bill

● Militia Boy

● New Song on the Glorious Victory of the Popes Brigade

● ⸺ ⸺ Last Dublin Election

● ⸺ ⸺ O'Connell Monument

● Pope's Triumph over Garibaldi

One of these ballad sheets, A New Song on the O’Connell Monument, also held at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, includes the intriguing information that the author was ‘Joseph Sadler, a dark man’. This detail proved key to discovering more about the life and work of Sadler.
Catherine Ann Cullen, 2021

A New Song on the O'Connell Monument / Composed by Joseph Sadler, A Dark Man. Digital Copy held in ITMA courtesy Dublin City Library and Archive

What did the printer mean by the phrase, ‘a dark man’? The Irish-English dictionary, Dineen, tells us that the Irish phrase ‘fear dorcha’, literally ‘a dark man’, means ‘a blind man’. With the information that Sadler was blind, I was able to find mentions of him in several periodicals and newspapers. One occurs in The Irish Builder in April 1878, where Sadler is already described as a figure from the past, despite having written ballads earlier in the same decade:

These were the times when Blind Biddy or Peggy, with her babe in her arms, and Blind Sadler warbled and howled their plaintive ditties, or fierce Repeal or war songs.

The idea that Sadler was singing ‘Repeal’ songs, urging the repeal of the 1801 Act of Union, which abolished the Dublin parliament in favour of direct rule from London, suggests he was plying his trade before the period for which we have print evidence of his songs. Such songs were a feature of Irish tradition from the Act’s inception to the 1840s, when there was a vigorous popular movement for Repeal.

A column from the Irish Times in 1935 reminisces about Sadler on the streets about sixty years before, that is, around 1875, and gives us a tantalising taste of a lost ballad:

“Saddler" was a blind man, who contrived to earn a living by delivering newspapers and singing ballads in the streets in that portion of Dublin called “the Liberty."... this ballad singer was a poet as well as a newsvendor, and wrote most of his ballads, which he sung to an appreciative audience usually in Thomas street on a Saturday night. "Saddler" generally paraded that part of Thomas street which lies between Francis street and Meath street, followed by a large crowd... One verse from “Saddler's" collection ran as follows:

”Oh, so well ye may wear yer high-polled cap,
And yer artificials so gailey,
Wid yer jigget of mutton tied up in yer lap,
That you got be the death of Peg Haley.”

I am unable to ascertain who Peg Haley was, but the ‘high-polled cap’ and ‘artificials’ suggest a judge’s or barrister’s wig and cap. This newspaper piece also gives us valuable information about Sadler’s performance area, a 200m or two-minute walk along Thomas Street between Meath and Francis Streets in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties.

Another reminiscence, in Dublin Historical Record in 1940, identifies not only where Sadler lived, but also gives more details of his occupation:

Passing along Arran Quay the morning traveller might at one time have been astonished at the sight of a blind man engaged in delivering newspapers, distributing them unerringly to the proper houses. This “character," Joe Sadler by name, could actually distinguish the various journals merely by feeling the paper… Joe lived in Barrack Street, since renamed Benburb Street, and, before entering the newspaper business, had been a street poet.

It’s poignant that all that is left of the balladeer in this piece is the fact that he ‘had been a street poet’: none of the specifics of his songs have survived. The detail that he could distinguish the newspaper by its feel evokes not only the highly developed sense of touch of a blind man, but also Sadler’s life with the printed page, from broadside ballads to newspapers.

Sadler’s home on a street named for its Royal Barracks (now the National Museum of Decorative Arts, Collins Barracks) may have contributed to his propensity for writing songs about soldiers. One such song, listed in the Bradshaw catalogue as ‘Militia Boy’ and referred to elsewhere in the same index as ‘Militia Boy Discharged’, was kindly photographed for me by Cambridge Library. It’s a clear copy with no printer named but with the amusing author credit, ‘by Joseph Sadlier, nothing to John Sadlier’. John Sadlier was an MP and a fraudster who committed suicide in London after his Tipperary Bank failed in 1856, and the ballad was no doubt written around this time. The broadsheet also gives us the air of the song as ‘Your honor, don’t cry’.

You lads and lasses, great and small, pay attention to my song,
It is well worth your notice, and won’t delay you long.
I’m a poor discharged Militia Boy, I mean to let you know
And since they have gave me the bag, I know not where to go

The song has two choruses:

Oh! Your honor I really would subdue
A 94 gun battery if made out of burgoo.

Burgoo, which features in another Sadler song below, was a kind of thick porridge served on British Navy ships. The second chorus runs:

Oh, dear cookey, darling, have you got a bone of meat
Begone, you coward, with scorn she said, and swept away the plate.

The Cashel Ballads Collection at Trinity College Dublin has what appears to be a bootleg of this same ballad with no author credit, no air given, and some considerable variation in the words. It is printed by Haly in Cork, with the title The Poor Militia Boy, and opens:

You lads and lasses both great and small, come [listen to my?] song;
I will sing to you a verse or two will not detain you long...

There is just one chorus, which appears as part of a verse in the Bradshaw version:

Oh! your honour, if I could get employ -
For goodness’ sake now won’t you help a poor Militia Boy?

Both versions of the song end with the threat of the poor house, or worse, hanging over the soldier. The one with the Sadlier credit has:

It’s into some old poorhouse or a jail they will me cram,
Although I know my prayers I’m induced to say god dam.

The Haly version from Cork eschews the cursing and gives us some Hiberno-English instead:

If I’m not called up in haste, oh, wirristhrew! I’ll cry.
Then quick march to the poor-house goes the poor Militia Boy

‘Wirristhrew’ comes from the Irish ‘A Mhuire, is trua’ or ‘Mary, it’s a pity’.

The line, ‘hunger stares me in the face’, appears in both versions, and echoes another Sadler song with the tabloid title, Peace Not Praties, where a soldier returns ‘starvation for to stare’. Peace not Praties, one of two songs credited to Sadler (in this case named ‘Sadleir’) in the Cashel Ballads Collection at Trinity College, remembers the Irish soldiers who returned from the Crimean War as beggars. Like the Militia Boy song, this one appears to have been written around the time the war ended in 1856. Peace Not Praties, to the air of ‘Larry Doolan's Jaunting Car’, stresses that the Irish contribution to victory was ‘not without great cost’:

Cheer up you lads and lasses, in country and town,
After all we bragg[e]d and boasted, the bear made us lie down
The sword it now lies sheathed, but not without great cost
For many a clever fellow poor Erin by it lost.

CHORUS: Rejoice you lads and lasses through[ou]t old Erin's shore,
For we've got peace—not praties—the war it is all o'er.

Peace Not Praties, song / Catherine Ann Cullen, singing in English; Joseph Sadler, composer

There is a bitter sophistication here, with Sadler inviting listeners to ‘cheer up’ and ‘rejoice’ in every chorus, while the verses describe the sacrifices and losses of the battles: ‘But the wounded men who have come home they ought to curse the war’. The British flag is damned with faint praise, with another mention of that porridge:

Long life, success, and fortune, to the white, red and blue,
May they always be victorious in eating stif[f] burgoo.

The final verse starkly juxtaposes the overflowing celebrations and the hungry returned soldiers:

Come fill your glasses to the brim—let the toast go merrily round,
We'll drink a health to those poor men are begging thro' the town;
At Balaclaya they fought keen and elsewhere I declare,
But some they have returned home, starvation for to stare.

The fact that the song is set to the air of Larry Doolan’s Jaunting Car, a rollicking dance tune, further points up the contradictions.

A New Song on the Glorious Victory of the Popes Brigade / by Joseph Sadlier. Digital Copy held in ITMA courtesy Dublin City Library and Archive

Two other military songs of Sadler’s survive, both with a papal theme: The Pope’s Triumph over Garibaldi and A New Song on the Glorious Victory of the Pope's Brigade at Peruga [sic]. The first of these mentions a meeting ‘in Marlborough St church the other day’. This church, off Dublin’s O’Connell Street, is St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, and one such meeting is mentioned on the church’s website as having occurred in January 1860:

There were 23,753 signatures on a requisition to the archbishop to call a general meeting in January 1860 to protest at the invasion of the Papal States. The collection on that occasion began the annual tribute known as Peter’s Pence.

Sadler’s song celebrates money collected at a meeting: ‘All acted most generous in this grand ap[p]eal / In behalf of the Pope may their purse never fail.’ Garibaldi was thwarted several times in his attempt to march on or overthrow Rome (in 1860, 1862 and 1867 for example), so it is difficult to date the ballad for certain, but the meeting and collection mentioned in Sadler’s ballad suggests a date of January 1860.

The Bodleian Collection has two copies of this ballad in two different editions, Harding B 26 (517) and (518), both printed by Peter Brereton but headed with different woodcuts. 518 is the better quality print, although the title has ‘Trumph’ rather than ‘Triumph’. Sadler is named only on 518, so 517 is an example, possibly one of many, where Sadler’s ballads have no apparent author.

Sadler’s second song celebrating a papal victory, this time in Perugia, is in P.W. Joyce’s scrapbook collection at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, among other collections.

Rejoice you sons of Erin’s Isle,
Attention pay now for a while,
Those lines we’ll surely make you smile,
Our brave brigade is[ ]victorious...

Commanded by O’Reilly sure,
Their enemy that day did floor…

Sadler, of course, highlights Irish participation in the war, including the name of the leader of the Irish brigade, Major Myles O’Reilly. An interesting aspect of the ballad is Sadler’s urging his listeners to rely on him as their source of news, rather than on other unreliable sources (including, it seems, ‘the lying [Irish] Times’), in the equivalent of today’s ‘fake news’:

The durty news they spread about,
That all ou[r] brave boys got the rout,
Here up and down then was the shout,
The Pope he was defeated.

Of the lying TIMES now be aware,
For it there is many a s[n?]are,
The truth to you I will declare,
I would have you all be watchfull.

Detail: Lines on the Expected Testimonial of his Grace the late much Lammented Rev'd Doctor O'Connor Bishop of Saldis / by Joseph Salder. ITMA Collection.

Other members of the Catholic hierarchy feature in three Sadler songs. Lines on the expected testimonial of His Grace the late much lammented [sic] most rev'd Doctor O'Connor, Bishop of Saldis, marks the death of Daniel O’Connor, on 10th July 1867 as Sadler with his love of dates tells us. O’Connor, born in Limerick in 1786, was appointed Bishop of Madras and Saldes, India, in 1834. He returned to Ireland in 1842 and spent the rest of his life at the Augustinian house at St John's Lane, Dublin, becoming known as the ‘St John's Lane bishop’ and admired for his work with the poor and the sick. St John’s Lane runs into Thomas Street, where Sadler is known to have performed.

Lines on the Expected Testimonial of his Grace the late much Lammented Rev'd Doctor O'Connor Bishop of Saldis / by Joseph Salder. ITMA Collection.

A second elegy (or ‘elicy’ as the broadsheet has it) on a senior cleric marks the death of the Very Rev’d Dr Spratt. The poor printing by Peter Brereton is responsible for this elegy being credited to a non-existent writer. (Brereton is the subject of an MA Thesis written by Colin Neilands of Belfast, entitled The Worst Printer Ever.)

In the catalogue of the Bradshaw Collection, the entry preceding Joseph Sadler is for a Job Sadler, listed as author of "An Elicy …on the Very Rev’d Dr. Spratt”. The printing of this ballad is fraught with errors. Instead of ‘BY JOE SADLER’ after the title, it has ‘EY JOB SADLER’. This transposition of the E and B has created the non-existent ‘Job’. The subject of the ballad was a Carmelite priest born in Cork Street, Dublin, whose asylum for blind women may have given him special appeal for Blind Joe Sadler. He died in May 1871, making his elegy one of the latest of Sadler's known ballads. Our newspaper/balladeer, as usual, gives us the exact date.

The harbourless he shelter’d and nourish’d them wi[t]h truth
H[i]s stud[d]y was to ea[s]e them with fond soli[c]itude

Long may be remember’d the 27 of May
When from his sacred office Dr Spratt was call’d away

Copies of the ballad can be found in several collections, including at Notre Dame and Middlebury, where the song is credited to Job Sadler. However, the National Library of Ireland catalogues its copy with ‘by Job Sadler [i.e. Joseph Sadlier]’, and uses the default spelling of Sadlier for its four holdings of his works.

A senior Catholic cleric based in England is the subject of another Sadler ballad. A New Song on the Departure of His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman from Ireland, concerns a visit by the then Catholic Archbishop of Westminster to Ireland in 1858. This broadsheet is in the Cashel Ballads Collection, and includes the verse:

The sixteenth of September, in Booterstown that night,
Surgeon O’Reilly of renown displayed a splendid sight,
Green bows and lovely arches, as you may understand,
In honour of his eminence, blessed Cardinal Wiseman.

Sadler’s inclusion of the date once again identifies his ballads with news reports. Wiseman was born in Seville with Irish connections. His heritage contributed to the warm reception for his visit, ‘which the enthusiasm of Irish Catholics transformed into a kind of triumphal progress’. These three songs on prominent clerics, along with ballads on the papal army and in defence of nuns, confirm Sadler as writing for the majority in his city haunts: the poor, Catholic Irish.

Local politics, also with a Catholic slant, inspire three other ballads. A New Song on the O’Connell Monument celebrates the laying of a foundation stone for a statue of Daniel O’Connell (1775 – 1847), ‘the Liberator’ and leader in the fights for Repeal and for Catholic emancipation, which he helped to secure to a limited degree in 1829. The statue was proposed in 1862 and completed in 1883 in Sackville Street, the main street subsequently named for O’Connell himself:

Prepare you gallant Irishmen, prepare without delay,
For the 8th of August sure will be a glorious day,
In honour of O’Connell brave as you may plainly see,
A grand Procession we now will have to Daniel’s memory.

The ballad looks forward to the laying of the foundation stone, and credits O’Connell with fighting for many Catholic causes. Sadler opines that if O’Connell were still living, Ireland would have ‘a charter… for her University’. A Catholic University had been set up in 1854 by Cardinals Newman and Cullen, among others, but its degrees were not recognised by the British establishment.

Two songs are concerned with the fallout from the general election of 1868 in Dublin. A New Song on the Last Dublin Election refers to the voiding of the result after the election official of the successful candidate, Sir Arthur Guinness, was found guilty of fraud and bribery. A court later found that Guinness was unaware of the fraud, but he did not stand in the by-election of 1870. (He was returned to parliament in 1874.)

The ballad is set to the rousing air of the ‘The Shan Van Vocht’, a song that rejoices at the hoped-for arrival of French troops in Ireland to fight in the Rebellion of 1798. The ballad by Sadler (‘Saddler’ on this broadsheet) replaces the poor old ‘Shan Van Vocht’ with a more vibrant symbol of Ireland, the ‘green gown lass’. Sadler’s ballad reflects the suspicions of Dubliners and was written between the voiding of the 1868 election and the by-election, which dates the song c1869-70.

Waterloo was bought for gold, says the green gown lass
May be Dublin too was sold, say[‘]s the green go[wn lass]
But they’l[l] wither and decay Their share will melt away
Before the month of ma[y] says the green[‘]gown [lass].

The Green Gown Lass, song / Catherine Ann Cullen, singing in English ; Joseph Sadler, composer

Another Sadler song on the same election, never recorded among his printed ballads, is contained in a letter published in the Freeman’s Journal in August 1870. An anonymous correspondent from ‘Mowld’s Terrace’ describes the treatment of Sadler at the hands of the police, and includes the entire text of a satirical song, The Orange Repealers, set to the air of ‘Billy O’Rourke’. (I have quoted only part of the song below.)

Peace be with the days of Zozimus and his fellow bards, where the people of Dublin were allowed to be taught their political duties in song and ballad. Last night, on my way home, I stopped awhile at the corner of Ash-street, to hear Joe Sadler's sweet baritone give out a stave on the coming election, when two ruthless helmeted Janizaries of the law rushed upon our latest bard.

The Orangemen all are comin' to town,
To kiss the Cardinal's ring, Sir,
They'll knock Rath-row and the Bird's Nest down,
And this is the song they'll sing, Sir.

Hurrah for the Pope...

The Freemasons over the Croppies’ graves
Will build antient Irish crosses…

And they'll go to Mass and they'll sign the Cross
And all join in Ould Ireland’s weal, Sir.

The Orange Repealers, song / Catherine Ann Cullen, singing in English ; Joseph Sadler, composer

The song reflects Catholic suspicion of some wealthy Protestants who were campaigning for Home Rule, the restoration of the Dublin-based parliament abolished in the 1801 Act of Union. It lampoons the ’Orangemen’ who are seeking reform, slyly suggesting they will be attending Mass and celebrating the rebel dead. Rath Row and the Bird’s Nest were two sites associated with the evangelical Irish Church Missions. The Orange Repealers confirms Sadler’s politics as first and foremost those of a partisan Catholic, making a mocking case for the Protestant Home Rule candidate King-Harman, who was ultimately defeated in the by-election by Corrigan, a Catholic who ran as a Liberal.

Sadler uses the unusual Hiberno-English word ‘shandheradan’ in this song, for a vehicle in which converts to Protestantism will travel. The word is not listed in the Oxford Dictionaries online but is in my New Shorter Oxford as ‘shandrydan, L18, origin unknown, a kind of chaise with a hood, and later any rickety… vehicle’. The word is clearly of Irish derivation, ‘shan’ being the anglicised ‘sean’ or ‘old’, as seen in the Shan Van Vocht. The second part of the word may be from the Irish ‘dearraide’ (seclusion) or ‘dordán’ (a deep sound, hum, buzz etc). It serves as a further example of the use of Irish-derived words in the English spoken in Dublin at the time.

The letter that includes this song is notable for several reasons: it gives us the only description we have of Sadler’s singing voice, and styles him ‘our latest bard’, although surviving print evidence puts this song towards the end of his balladeer life. It also shows us Sadler walking a few minutes’ further south in the Liberties, still close to Thomas Street, on the ‘corner of Ash-street’.

Perhaps surprisingly, along with lamenting the sad state of his countrymen under British and Protestant rule, Sadler could celebrate empire when it was expedient. Lines Written on the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales: Huraw for Punchestown (to the air of Hur[r]aw for [the] King and his jacke[t] so blue) commemorates the visit of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra to the Punchestown races in Kildare in 1868. Enrichment and extravagant spending is a main theme:

Al[l] poverty lef[t] me indeed without fail
When I looked on the Princess and young Prince of Wales...

Young and old there in thousands and money like hail,
More power and success now to the Prince of Wales...

Until he came over sure here we’d no fun
Soon thousands they got s[i]lver after he come
And the old rusty g[o]ld that was long lying bye
The arrival of the Prince here th[e]n made i[t] to fly

Clearly the balladeer hoped that some of the ‘money like hail’ would fall on himself. The ballad is in the Crawford Collection in the National Library of Scotland.

Two murder ballads are credited to Sadler, though he surely had many more in his repertoire. Lines composed by Joseph Sadleir on the tradgical [sic] occuranee [sic] that took place between Patrick Kilkenny, and his sweetheart Margret Farquahar, tells the story of Kilkenny, hanged for the murder of Farquahar in Dublin in 1865, with a warning to ‘ye married men and single of high and low degree’. Victim-blaming is to the fore in this song, on the basis that Margaret had another man in her sights. Apparently it was ‘her barbarous equivocation’ that brought Kilkenny ‘to an untimely grave’, rather than the fact that he murdered her.

On the part of pat[t] Kilkenny the wo[u]rld can[‘]t perseive,
It Was his constancy leaves him in a dismal grave,
She became the mistress of his Heart the deed already shows,
Her barbarous equiv[o]cation caused trouble grief & woe,

He courted her for 5 long years and still he never knew,
That in America She had another in her view,
And swore she'd wed Kilkenny remember well the same,
Now for this tale of sorrow the maid herself’[s] to blame,

Kilkenny was the last person to be publicly hanged in Kilmainham; subsequent hangings were done within the prison walls. A later murder-execution ballad by Sadler is held at the Irish Traditional Music Archive and appears to be the only existing copy. Lines written on Montgomery tells the dreadful true story of the only policeman ever to be hanged in Ireland for murder. Thomas Montgomery, a Police Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary in Omagh, Tyrone, murdered William Glass, a bank clerk who was studying to become an RIC officer. Montgomery’s motive was to clear a debt built up through extravagance and speculation.

Lines written on Montgomery / composed by Joseph Sadler. ITMA Collection Courtesy: Dublin City Library and Archive

An unusual aspect of this ballad is that it begins with a conversation between the balladeer, ‘Darbey’, and his ‘Dolly’, reflecting the fears of an ordinary woman if such a murderer is allowed to go free. It goes on to celebrate the law, which convicts and condemns Montgomery:

Dolly, why do you now seem in a rage,
She answered me Darbey we live in a queer age,
If butcher Montgomery don’t suffer said she,
For our lives will you tell me where is the safety...

Hurrah for the law, hurrah for it still,
Montgomery will pay for it say as you will...

But justice thank heaven here leaves him no hope,
For the blood of poor Glass he’ll die by the rope.

Sadler also highlights the interest generated in the case of a wealthy and respected man brought down by his greed, harking back to traditional ballad motifs of wealthy suitors:

Three hundred a year and a horse for to ride,
And a sword to be sure by the gentleman’s side,
We see the old story fulfilled now in truth
It’s not honour or honesty all wears fine cloth,

These two murder ballad are more professionally printed than many other Sadler works, with borders around the text and few errors. No printer is credited on either. The 1873 Montgomery song is the last known of Sadler’s, but he was still active on the streets of Dublin some years later. Under the headline, ‘Robbing a Blind Man’ The Irish Times gives us an intriguing account of a court case that shows his ferocity and resourcefulness:

A man named Murphy was charged with having stolen the sum of 1 10s from a blind man named Saddler, on Ellis’s quay. The prosecutor deposed that he had the money in his hand when the prisoner came up and snatched it from him. He caught hold of the robber and left the mark of his teeth on his hand, and then communicated with a policeman giving as a means of identification the teeth marks on the hand. The prisoner was soon after captured and had the marks described... The prisoner was remanded.

Detail: Sketches of Irish character in Dublin, 1881 / Harry Furness. ITMA Collection

I have not found a registration of Sadler’s birth, but he is without doubt the Josephus Saddler of 61 Conolly's Court who married Catharina (Catherine) Barlow of 5 Flag Alley on 18 August 1861 in St Catherine’s Church on Meath Street. Flag Alley is one of the short streets that intersects with Ash Street, where Sadler was heard singing in 1870. Conolly’s Court, more than half an hour’s walk from the Liberties, in the notorious Monto area of Dublin, may have been mistaken by the registrar for Connor’s Court, a lane beside Island Street at the centre of Sadler’s known haunts. Catherine’s death certificate in March 1890 gives her surname as Sadlier, her age as 84, her address as 41 Watling Street, and her profession as ‘News Dealer wife’. Here, Sadler is remembered once more as a seller of papers rather than a bard. When he died nine months later in December 1890 at the South Dublin Workhouse, he is recorded as ‘Joseph Sadlier’, a widower, aged 70, from Island Street, with no named profession.

Island Street runs into Watling Street close to the Liffey Quays and just across the bridge from Barrack or Benburb Street where Sadler once lived. Joseph, Catherine and her granddaughter MaryAnne seemed to have been living in Watling Street when Catherine died. MaryAnne had moved around the corner into Island Street before she married in 1895, and Joseph may have lived with her there for some months.

Fraser's Map of Dublin and its Suburbs, 1855. Courtesy: UCD Digital Library http://digital.ucd.ie/view/ivrla:4198


Sadler’s fifteen works are brought together here for the first time, and listed below. Along with the seven songs credited to him in Bradshaw, and the eighth erroneously credited to Job Sadler there, his songs can be found in the Cashel Ballads Collection at Trinity College Dublin, the Crawford Collection at the National Library of Scotland, the P.W. Joyce scrapbooks, the Leslie Shepherd collection and the Dan Milner Collection at the Irish Traditional Music Archive, the Helen Hartness Flanders Collection at Middlebury, Vermont, and Notre Dame, the Bodleian Ballads at Oxford University, as well as in the Freeman’s Journal and the Irish Times. There are many other songs that may be Sadler’s, and part of my ongoing study will involve textual analysis of these to determine whether or not they can be added to this list.

Sadler has been overshadowed by Zozimus, whose nickname, along with some fine ballads, has guaranteed him lasting fame. The songs of Zozimus captured the lost weaving trade of Dublin in Ye Men of Sweet Liberties, and humorously set The Finding of Moses between the Nile and the Dodder. By contrast, many of Sadler’s songs are truly ephemeral, based on news stories from the papers he sold on the streets.

Perhaps it takes some effort to ‘pay attention’ to Sadler, and to reclaim him as more than a news dealer: as a balladeer who trod a short but proud path in the Liberties, and whose songs reflected the stories of the day, especially as they affected the Catholics of his city.
Catherine Ann Cullen, 2021

List of Sadler songs identified to date:

An Elegy on the Much Lamented Death of the Very Rev’d Dr. Spratt

Lines on the expected testimonial of His Grace the late much lamented most rev'd Doctor O'Connor, Bishop of Saldis

Lines composed by Joseph Sadleir on the tragical occurance that took place between Patrick Kilkenny, and his sweetheart Margret Farquahar

Lines Written on the Nunnery Bill

Lines Written on the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales: Huraw for Punchestown

The Militia Boy Discharged

A New Song on the Departure of His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman from Ireland

A New Song on the Glorious Victory of the Popes Brigade

A New Song on the Last Dublin Election

A New Song on the O'Connell Monument

The Pope's Triumph over Garibaldi

Lines Written on Montgomery

The Orange Repealers

Peace Not Praties

Peg Haley (fragment)

Works quoted and consulted:

Anon of Mowld’s Terrace, ‘To the Editor of the Freeman [a Letter Including the Full Text of Sadler’s Song, The Orange Repealers]’, Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, 15 August 1870), section Letters to the Editor, p. 4

Breathnach, An t-Athair Pádruig, ed., Songs of the Gael: A Collection of Anglo-Irish Songs and Ballads Wedded to Old Traditional Irish Airs, Second (Dublin: Browne and Nolan Ltd, 1921), Irish Traditional Music Archive, Gráinne Yeats Collection, p. 156 https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/text/songs-of-the-gael-2
Brown, Lesley, ed., The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 2 (N-Z) P. 2811

Church Record, ‘St Catherine’s Church, Meath Street, Dublin, Marriage Records 1861 No 65’, 1861, irishgeneology.ie, Church Records Section https://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/display-pdf.jsp?pdfName=st.catherine_mf_1811-1857_ma_0198
Costello, Con, ‘Glorious Punchestown: 150 Years Old’, History Ireland, 8.2 (2000), 27–32
Cullen, Catherine Ann, ‘Punks, Pretty Novices, and Persecuted Virgins: Nuns in Broadside Ballads from the Glorious Revolution to the Nunneries Inspection Bill’, in Printers, Pedlars, Sailors, Nuns: Aspects of Street Literature, 1st edn (London: The Ballad Partners, 2020), I, 58–69

Dineen, Rev. Patrick S, ‘Fear Dorcha’, Foclóir Gaedhilge Agus Béarla: An Irish-English Dictionary (Dublin: Irish Texts Society / The Educational Company of Ireland, 1975), p. 359
Doyle, Carmel, ‘Daniel O’Connor’, Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009 https://www.dib.ie/biography/oconnor-daniel-a6586
Doyle, Robert, ‘The Pope’s Irish Battalion 1860’, History Ireland, 18.5 (2010), 26–29

Gahan, Robert, ‘Some Old Street Characters of Dublin’, Dublin Historical Record, 2.3 (1940), 98–105, p. 99
Gallagher, SC, Paul, ‘Daniel O’Connell, the Barrister’, Irish Judicial Studies Journal, 1 (2017), 70–89 pp. 84-87
Golden, J.J., ‘The Protestant Influence on the Origins of Irish Home Rule, 1861–1871’, The English Historical Review, 128.535 (2013), 1483–1516, p. 1504
Griffith, Richard, Griffith’s Valuation: 1, Rath Row, St Mark’s, Dublin, Dublin County of the City (Dublin, 1854) http://griffiths.askaboutireland.ie/gv4/z/zoomifyDynamicViewer.php? file=087108&path=./pix/087/&rs=12&showpage=1&mysession=2769653128520&width=&height=

Hoey, Christopher Clinton, ‘The Rise and Progress of Printing and Publishing in Ireland. Part Twenty’, The Irish Builder, XX.440 (1878), 114–15, p.115
Hunter-Blair, Oswald, Nicholas Patrick Wiseman (New York: Robert Appleton Co, 1912), XV http://www.newadvent.org/cathe...

Irish Civil Records, ‘Death Certificate for Catherine Sadlier’, 1890, irishgeneology.ie, Civil Records https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/deaths_returns/deaths_1890/06117/4746468.pdf
———, ‘Death Certificate for Joseph Sadlier’ https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/deaths_returns/deaths_1890/06090/4737793.pdf
———, ‘Marriage Record for Mary Anne Barlow’, 1895, irishgeneology.ie, Civil Records https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/marriage_returns/marriages_1895/10527/5834332.pdf

Kinealy, Christine, Repeal and Revolution: 1848 in Ireland (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013)

Larkin, Emmet, ‘The Devotional Revolution in Ireland, 1850-75’, The American Historical Review, 77.3 (1972), 625–52 https://doi.org/10.2307/1870344

McCarthy, Dermod, ‘About St Mary’s Pro Cathedral’, St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, n.d. https://www.procathedral.ie/about-us/
Moylan, Terry, ed., A Living Voice: The Frank Harte Song Collection (Dublin: Craft Recordings, 2020) pp 11,12, 283
Murphy, David, ‘Ireland and the Crimean War 1854-6’, History Ireland, 11.1 (2003), 34–38, p. 35
———, ‘John Francis Spratt’, Dictionary of Irish Biography, 2009 https://www.dib.ie/biography/spratt-john-francis-a8212

n.a., ‘A Desperate Character’, Freeman’s Journal (Dublin, 4 May 1887), p. 3

Neilands, Colin, ‘The Worst Printer Ever: A Study of the Brereton Broadside Ballads Contained in W10 of the Bigger Collection, Held by the Central Reference Library, Belfast’ (unpublished Masters, Leeds, 1983), Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/409990
Noel, Gerard, Dublin City Writ: Motion for New Writ. HC Deb 14 June 1869 Vol 196 Cc1784-93, 1869 http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1869/jun/14/motion-for-new-writ#S3V0196P0_18690614_HOC_216

Ó Doibhilín, Mícheál, ‘Kilmainham Executions 1796-1924’, Kilmainham Tales, n.d. https://kilmainhamtales.ie/executions-1796-1924.php

Quidnunc, ‘Saddler’, The Irish Times (Dublin, 12 November 1935), section An Irishman’s Diary

‘Robbing a Blind Man’, The Irish Times, 25 July 1876, section Court Reports

Sadler (Saddler), Joseph, ‘Lines Written on the Nunnery Bill’ (Dublin, 1853), Helen Harkness Flanders Collection, Special Collections, Middlebury College Library, hhfbc157-nunnerybill https://archive.org/details/hhfbc157-nunnerybill
Sadler (Sadleir), Joseph, ‘Lines Composed by Joseph Sadleir on the Tradgical [Sic] Occuranee [Sic] That Took Place between Patrick Kilkenny, and His Sweetheart Margret Farquahar’ (Dublin, 1865), National Library of Scotland Crawford Collection, English Ballads https://digital.nls.uk/english-ballads/archive/74897719
Sadler, Job [actually Joseph], ‘An Elicy on the Much Lamented Death of the Very Rev’d Dr Spratt’ (Dublin, 1871), Helen Harkness Flanders Collection, Special Collections, Middlebury College Library https://archive.org/details/hhfbc153-revddrspratt
Sadler, Job ie Joseph, ‘An Elicy [Sic] on the Muuch [Sic] Lamented Death of the Very Rev’d Dr Spratt [Sic]’ (Dublin, 1871), National Library of Ireland, Joly Collection
Sadler, Joseph, ‘A New Song on the O’Connell Monument’ (?Dublin, c1862), Irish Traditional Music Archive, P.W. Joyce, Ballad Sheet Scrapbooks I, part 3 https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/manuscript/ballad-sheet-scrapbook-1-part-3
———, ‘Lines on the Expected Testimonial of His Grace the Late Much Lammented [Sic] Most Rev’d Doctor O’Connor, Bishop of Saldis’, 1867, Irish Traditional Music Archive, Leslie Shephard Collection https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/text/dr-oconnor-bishop-of-saldis
———, ‘Lines Written on Montgomery’, 1873, Irish Traditional Music Archive, P.W. Joyce,Ballad Sheet Scrapbook I, Part III https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/manuscript/ballad-sheet-scrapbook-1-part-3
———, ‘Lines Written on the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales: Huraw for Punchestown’ (Dublin, 1868), National Library of Scotland Crawford Collection, Crawford.EB.1985 https://digital.nls.uk/74892658
Sadler, Joseph, ‘The Poor Militia Boy’ (Cork, c1860), John Davis White Collection, Cashel Ballads, vol 3 https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/concern/works/05741t100?locale=en
Sadler, Joseph, ‘The Pope’s Triumph Over Garibaldi’ (Dublin, c1867), Harding, Harding B 26 (517) and (518) http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/view/edition/3999
Sadler (Sadlier), Joseph, ‘A [New] Now Song on the Daeprture [Sic] of His Eminence Cardinal Wiseman from Ireland’ (Trinity College Dublin, c1860) https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/concern/works/ft848r82w?locale=en
———, ‘A New Song on the Glorious Victory of the Pope at Peruga [Sic]’ (Dublin, c1860), Irish Traditional Music Archive, P.W. Joyce Scrapbooks https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/itma.dl.printmaterial/joyce_microsite/scrapbooks/sb1-3.pdf
———, ‘Peace Not Praties’ (Cashel, Co Tipperary, c1857), John Davis White Collection, Cashel ballads. Volume 3 https://doi.org/10.48495/0c483k832
Sayle, Charles, A Catalogue of the Bradshaw Collection of Irish Books in the University Library Cambridge, 3 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 3 (INDEX) P. 1632

Thom, Alexander, Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory for the Year 1862 (Dublin), Library Ireland, p. 74 https://www.libraryireland.com/Dublin-Street-Directory-1862/74.php

Catherine Ann Cullen is the inaugural Poet in Residence at Poetry Ireland, and an award-winning poet, songwriter and children's writer. She has published three poetry collections: A Bone in My Throat (Doghouse 2007), Strange Familiar (Doghouse 2013) and The Other Now: New and Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2016). The latest of her three children’s books is All Better! Poems on Illness and Recovery (Little Island, 2019). She has presented at international conferences on ballads and on children’s literature, and published chapters on broadside ballads with the Ballad Partners, Steve Road and David Atkinson, based on her papers to Broadside Day 2019, 2020 and 2021. She organised ‘Living Ghosts: A Tribute to Frank Harte in Poetry and Song’ at Poetry Ireland for the Frank Harte Festival 2020 with An Góilín. Catherine Ann won the nationwide Business to Arts Award for Best Use of Creativity in the Community 2017 for her work as A&L Goodbody Writer in Residence in East Wall, Dublin. She is a former producer for RTÉ Radio 1 and has a PhD in Creative Writing from Middlesex University.

ITMA would like to sincerely thank Dublin City Library and Archive and UCD Digital Library for permission to include material in this blog.

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