Nationalist Songs on Sheet Music, early 1900s

Most published Irish political songs, whatever their shade of opinion, are to be found on ballad sheets, chapbooks and songsters, mainly dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Aimed at the general non-music-reading public, they carry only the words of the songs, not their music.

The music of political songs, however, is to be found, in sheet-music form, again dating from these centuries but aimed at the musically literate. These songs also represent different political opinions, from the loyalist Volunteer movement of the late 18th century to the separatist nationalist movements of the early 20th.

With a new rise of nationalist feeling from the beginning of the 20th century, and especially after the 1916 rebellion and the 1922 foundation of the Irish Free State, a number of small sheet-music firms in Dublin specialised in the publication of Irish national songs. These were arranged for voice and piano, and were often literary in tone; their subject matter varied from the past glories of Irish history to contemporary political issues.

The selection of 20th-century Dublin-published sheet music of national songs presented here from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive was published by the Art Depot, the Gaelic Press, the Kearney Brothers, Quinn & Co, and Whelan & Son. It is arranged as far as possible in chronological order by subject.

With thanks for the donation of sheet music to Paul Deegan, Bríd Hetherington, Seamus Kearns, Mrs Caroline Mullan, the Library of the National University of Ireland Galway, Nellie Walsh, & Waltons Ltd of Dublin. ITMA would always welcome the donation of other materials of this kind which are not yet in its collections (check our catalogues here), or of their loan for copying.

NC & MG, 1 December 2010