Over time, there were various revolts including the 1798 Rebellion, that is commemorated in the song The Minstrel Boy. The lyrics were written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) based on The Moreen, an old Irish aire. The uprising was ruthlessly suppressed by the British, who then imposed direct rule from London. Even in modern times Northern Ireland has been administered in this fashion.
The deliberate impoverishment of the Irish resulted in squalid living conditions and their dependence on the potato for food. Repeated failures of the potato crop from 1845-1850 were due to the blight caused by Phytophthora infestan, and mass starvation loomed. The British response was largely ineffective and ultimately punitive. This resulted in the deaths of about a million Irish, forced evictions and the migration of another million. The song Skibbereen reflects the horror and suffering of this tragedy. It may be noted that England was the richest and most powerful nation in the world with a vast empire during this period. Emigration, primarily to America and Canada, continued unabated as many Irish sought a better life. CD tracks that recall this include Skibbereen, Leaving of Liverpool and An Irish Lullaby. Many of the Irish also ended up in Australia, but this was often a somewhat less voluntary departure, since the British used Australia as a penal colony from 1791-1853.
By the First World War, the Irish again had become restless and revolted on Easter Monday in 1916. The British responded severely in suppressing the rebellion, but the seeds were sown for ousting the British from most of Ireland. After the war, fighting started anew. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) fought a guerilla war and the British responded with undisciplined former soldiers who came to be called the Black and Tans. After much fighting, however, the IRA prevailed and the British partitioned Ireland and retained parts of six counties in the North, which continues to be a source of serious conflict. The track The Boys of the Old Brigade commemorates this victory.
Let us now turn to happier songs without a lot of historical significance. The Kerry Dance and Old Maid in the Garret certainly fit into this category. We can travel to Wales for two lullabies, Suo Gan and All Through the Night and then go to Scotland for Green Grow the Rushes 0. We can also go on a journey by sea with Drunken Sailor combined with South Australia. Finally, there is Danny Boy, a song whose lyrics were written by an Englishman who needed an accompanying melody. The tune Aire for Derry, from Ireland of course, was sent to him by a relative in the United States and the result was Danny Boy. Talk about a journey!
Other tracks by Mary Behan Miller are also available on "Some Keltic, Some Knot" and "Keltic Beginnings" as a member of the group Keltic Kaleidoscope.
Check out the artist's website:
1. An Irish Lullaby
2. North Americay
3. Boys of the Old Brigade
4. O'Carolan's Draught
5. Suo Gan
6. Old Maid in the Garrett
7. Green Grow the Rushes, O
8. Drunken Sailor/South Australia
10. Kerry Dance
11. Leaving of Liverpool
12. George Brabazon
13. All Through the Night
14. Fanny Power
15. The Minstrel Boy
16. Danny Boy