Erin Remember 1916 & Other Songs from the Decade of Centenaries

Sound recording was introduced to Ireland in the late 19th century when cylinder recording machines were used for the professional and amateur recording of Irish traditional music. But sound technology was not to play a significant role in documenting Ireland’s musical memory until three to four decades later. To learn more about what songs were known or sung during the Decade of Centenaries in Ireland (1912–1922), we have turned to the printed collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

The collection of 37 items below builds on an earlier digital collection of printed material Nationalist Songs on Sheet Music, early 1900s. Other items have now been added to reflect the range of political, cultural and social change at play during this eventful period in Irish history: the Home Rule Movement, the Gaelic League, the Dublin Lock Out, World War I, the 1916 Rising and what lay beyond.

The Home Rule Song Book featured in the collection looked to the writings of earlier nationalist poets and song writers as sources of inspiration for its political aspirations, a feature also evident in the cultural activities of the Gaelic League, formed in 1893.  An intense revival of interest in Irish language, song, music and dance opened opportunities for members to learn and perform. Songs arranged with piano accompaniment and to suit the taste of the musically literate found an audience among such Gaelic Leaguers. These included the works of Thomas Davis (1814–1845) such as 'A Nation Once Again' and 'The West’s Asleep', the latter captured here from a recording of singer Donncadh O’Finn at the 1907 Oireachtas in Dublin.

Other more immediate concerns faced the thousands of Dubliners whose harsh living and working conditions were brought to light and challenged during the Dublin Lockout (1913–1914). From this period we have included works of the Irish Citizen Army members James Connolly and Countess Markievicz.

Across Europe international politics were to draw an estimated 200,000 Irishmen to fight in World War I. While 'Keep the Home Fires Burning' and 'It’s a Long Way to Tipperary', presented below, captured the popular imagination, the recent discovery, by Irish Times journalists Derek Scally and Ronan McGreevy, of sound recordings of Irish prisoners of war recorded in Germany in 1917, and now held in the Lautarchiv Humboldt University Berlin, evoke this period as nothing else can.

We end this printed collection with a wide variety of Dublin-published nationalist sheet music, reflecting the events of Easter Week 1916, the subsequent execution of the leaders, and the 1922 foundation of the Irish Free State.  
The ITMA collections in 73 Merrion Square contain more song collections relating to this period. We look forward to sharing information on new discoveries during 2016.

With thanks for the donation of sheet music, books & ballad sheets to Paul Deegan, Bríd Hetherington, Seamus Kearns, Mrs Caroline Mullan, the Library of the National University of Ireland Galway, Máirtín Ó Flathartaigh, Nora & Colm Ó Laoghaire, Nellie Walsh, & Waltons Ltd of Dublin.

GT & MG, 1 February 2016