“Ireland's Glory”


In 1776 "we were lazy and slavish," "Our woman were sluts and their husbands all slovens" and "The King was a god." But "Our peasants grew smart," "We could look at a King without much admiration" and "From a nation of slaves we've emerg'd into glory"


The complete title of Zimmermann's text is "Ireland's Glory" or "A Comparative View of Ireland, in the Years 1776 and 1783."

Zimmermann p. 36: "Street ballads we were used then [1724 and 1725] as a form of protest by the Anglo-Irish "garrison," but this protest was not so much nationalism as the reaction of planters merely demanding the same rights as were enjoyed by the people of Britain. A spirit of independence awoke among the Anglo-Irish when a Volunteer army was raised, in 1779, to check a possible invasion from the combined forces of France, Spain and Holland. Martial enthusiasm extended to the Catholic population. Eventually some 80,000 men were in arms. With the example of the revolution achieved by their "fellow subjects" in America, they became conscious of their force and began to claim the removal of economic disabilities, (song [Zimmermann] 2). They enforced freedom of trade in 1780 and legislative independence in 1782. Songs reflected the increased feeling of self-confidence, (song [Zimmermann] 3)."

The text states

But great was the change in the year seventy-seven.

We then were inspired by a spark sent from heaven.

Moylan speculates that the Battle of Saratoga may have been that spark. - BS

Possibly, but there were plenty of events in Ireland which might have inspired it. For example, 1778 saw the repeal of most of the anti-Popery act of 1704, giving Catholics much greater land and worship rights (see Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry, _A History of Ireland_, pp. 183-184); I believe this was proposed in 1777. The same period saw the rise of the Volunteers, which included Catholics; Terry Golway, _For the Cause of Liberty_, p. 51, reports that there were 40,000 armed Volunteers by 1778, and Mike Cronin, _A History of Ireland_, p. 99, says there were 80,000 two years later. Cronin, p. 98, mentions much other legislation passed in the late 1770s. Obviously this was largely in response to the American rebellion, but any of these several events might have helped inspire the song. (See the notes to "The Song of the Volunteers.")

1782 was indeed the year of Irish semi-independence, as Grattan's Parliament gave Ireland what would later be called "Home Rule." The economy also improved.

(We should note that Ireland had had a parliament before that, but had had very little real power. For one thing, the British had held absolute veto power on legislation through a trick known as Poynings's Law, which had hobbled the parliament since 1494. Plus the British parliament retained the right to deal with Irish surpluses -- see, e.g., Cronin, p. 95. And, until Lord Townshend changed the rules in 1767, parliaments were elected for the life of the monarch, which of course made it completely unresponsive to events; see Cronin, p. 96).

The old Irish parliament had to be absolutely unified to accomplish anything, and even then, the British could find ways to get around their legislation. Grattan's more independent parliament changed that.

There were, sadly, three problems. One was that the parliament and electorate were still Protestant. The second was that England still controlled Irish trade -- and still had a veto under Poynings's Law.

And third, while it was an independent parliament, it wasn't a particularly representative parliament. As in England, there were many "rotten" boroughs. Robert Kee, in _The Most Distressful Country_ (volume I of _The Green Flag_), p. 36, notes that "once the independence of the Irish parliament had been technically granted, the English government's hold over it was actually tightened by its systematic ever-increasing outlay of Crown patronage in Ireland."

Gradually Irish optimism turned to disillusionment, ending in the 1798 rebellion and the Act of Union. The truly sad part is, Grattan's Parliament *did* represent progress, and the biggest single concession England made until the 1920s. Had Ireland been a little more patient, a century of violence could perhaps have been saved. - RBW


  1. Zimmermann 3, "Ireland's Glory" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Moylan 11, "Ireland's Glory" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. BI, Zimm003


Author: unknown
Earliest date: c.1783 (Zimmermann)