Robert Emmet and Songs of Rebellion: Gilbert Lecture 2003

Robert Emmet and Songs of Rebellion: Gilbert Lecture 2003

The political events which led to the founding of the Irish state, especially the Easter Rising of 1916, are currently being widely celebrated in Ireland. These events gave rise to many nationalist songs, which were themselves in a line of descent from earlier such songs, most of them in the English language and dating from the 19th century. To understand the patriotic songs of the 1913−1923 period, it is necessary to refer to the earlier traditions from which they sprang.

The video presented here is of a lecture on the tradition of patriotic songs centred on Robert Emmet, the leader of an unsuccessful 1803 rebellion in Dublin and an icon for future generations. The songs belong to both literary and vernacular registers, are found in Ireland and Irish America, and reflect developing national political trends of more than a century.

The lecture was given by Nicholas Carolan, then director of ITMA, on 23 January 2003 in the Oak Room of the Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of Dublin and itself the venue for many political happenings of the 1916 decade, including the meeting of the first Dáil. It was illustrated by the singing of Dubliner Barry Gleeson, and was delivered at the invitation of the Dublin City Public Libraries as one of its annual Sir John T. Gilbert Commemorative Lecture series. City Councillor Dermot Lacey, then Lord Mayor, presided. The lecture was later given several times in Dublin and outside in the course of 2003, and the text was published in booklet form with an accompanying CD by the City Library service in 2004 and again in a collection of Gilbert lectures in 2009.

For a new related collection of song material from the Decade of Commemorations on this site, see Erin Remember 1916 & Other Songs from the Decade of Commemorations

With thanks for permissions to singer Barry Gleeson and Dr Máire Kennedy, Dublin City Library & Archive; and to Orla Henihan who recorded the original lecture on video.

NC, PH, MG & TH, 1 February 2016