“The Downfall of Heresy”


Gladstone, supported by the Queen, has undone Cromwell's proclaimed Church. Salvation comes only through the true Church and not "where every man could preach" following Luther. "The Parson now must emigrate And leave his handsome dwelling place"


Zimmermann p. 99: "We find many allusions to the 'Wheel of Fortune', an image of the precariousness of things in life..... It provided the Irish ballad-writers with a refrain suggesting the idea of revolutionary changes" and Zimmermann quotes part of a chorus slightly different from the one found here. The Bodleian version is

The lofty wheel is moving round

The side that's up is getting down

A rotten Creed can not be sound

When lost is the foundation

Zimmermann p. 99 is a fragment; broadside Bodleian 2806 b.9(128) is the basis for the description.

Gladstone drafted the Irish Church Disestablishment Act and Queen Victoria intervened in its behalf. The act "ends the legal link between Church and state in Ireland, abolishes the tithe and ecclesiastical courts.... It confiscates the Church's property...." (Source: "26 July 1869 Irish Church Disestablishment Act" on the Channel4.com site) - BS

By 1869, Catholics no longer suffered significant legal discrimination in Ireland (they could own property, join parliament, etc.) -- except in one regard. They still paid tithes to the Anglican church. Not directly -- the Tithe War had taken care of that (see, e.g., "The Battle of Carrickshock"). But landlords were still required to come up with the money. This particular rule was still around mostly because the tithes had supported many otherwise-useless clergy members. The Disestablishment Act did its best to phase them out.

This sounds minor today. It was not minor at the time. Even if you ignore the predictable sectarian complaints, the Protestant Ascendency was written into the Act of Union. British law has a great deal of respect for precedent; this was more like Americans amending the constitution than simply passing a law.

The irony, of course, is that the act, as it gave greater rights to the majority of the Irish, created grievances among the Protestants. Which would cause trouble later on, since the Protestants no more wanted to be ruled by Catholics than the Catholics wanted to be ruled by Protestants.

We should note incidentally that Queen Victoria was not particularly fond of disestablishing the Church -- though that may be because the proposal came from Gladstone, whom she disliked and strongly disagreed with.

She of course was not the only one. For an example of the Irish Protestant reaction, see "Let Recreant Rulers Pause." - RBW

Historical references

  • July 26, 1869 - Irish Church Disestablishment Act

Cross references


  • Bodleian, 2806 b.9(128), "A New Song on The Downfall of Heresy" ("Good people all attention pay"), P. Brereton (Dublin), c.1867


  1. Zimmermann, p. 99, "A New Song on the Downfall of Heresy" (1 fragment)
  2. BI, BrdDownH


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 19C (broadside, Bodleian 2806 b.9(128))
Found in: Ireland