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IRELAND'S NATIONAL ANTHEM Amhran na bhFiann O'Cearnaigh (Peadar)
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IRELAND'S NATIONAL ANTHEM Amhran na bhFiann O'Cearnaigh (Peadar), Peadar Kearney, The earliest Autograph Manuscript of the National Anthem. A folded page probably from a copy-book, bearing the text of A Soldier's Song by Peadar O'Cearnaigh, written in pencil on both sides of the page in his autograph manuscript throughout, with his signature in Gaelic letters written several times in ink; and with the music written in pencil in tonic sol-fa on a separate sheet, possibly in another hand. Fold marks, worn but intact. With a manuscript letter of provenance written and signed by Seamus de Burca of Dublin (biographer and nephew of Peadar O'Cearnaigh), dated 10 March 2000. Peadar O'Cearnaigh (1883-1942) was undoubtedly the most influential Irish song-writer since Thomas Moore. Many of his songs, such as ''Down by the Glenside (The Bold Fenian Men)'' and ''The Tri-coloured Ribbon,'' have entered the popular tradition, to such an extent that they are sometimes mistakenly regarded as traditional in origin. He came of a notable family; Brendan Behan's mother Kate Kearney was his sister. He was a life-long Republican, though not a narrow one. He taught Irish in the Gaelic League, where his students included the young Sean O'Casey, and he worked as a props-man in the early Abbey Theatre, where his friend Nellie Bushell was a receptionist. He jointed the IRB in 1903, became a member of its Supreme Council, and was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers. In Easter Week he fought in Jacob's Factory, escaping capture afterwards, but was interned in Ballykinlar in 1920-21. He was a friend of Michael Collins and many others. The words of ''A Soldier's Song'' were written in 1907, when Peadar felt that the national clubs which were burgeoning at the time needed a rousing marching tune. As was his habit, Peadar worked on the song for a while with his musical collaborator Paddy Heeney, until Paddy produced a tune that seemed to fit. In his biography of Peadar O'Cearnaigh, Seamus de Burca describes how Peadar's friend Nellie Bushell possessed 'a manuscript copy of The Soldier's Song which she took down from the lips of the author on the very night the words and music were wedded.' This is the earliest reference to the present manuscript, whose provenance derives directly from Nellie Bushell. In later references De Burca states the handwriting is O'Cearnaigh's. We have compared the manuscript with other attested documents written by Peadar O'Cearnaigh, and there is no doubt that the words of the song are in O'Cearnaigh's very distinctive hand. Presumably the description of Nellie 'taking it down' refers to the music, which she may have written down from Peadar's singing. Neillie was a good friend, who shared Peadar's politics as well as his interest in theatre. Seamus de Burca's biography describes how she helped him escape arrest after the Rising by providing shelter and fresh clothes. A Soldier's Song gradually became popular in national circles. The words were published in the IRB's newspaper ''Irish Freedom'' in 1912, and when the Irish Volunteers began in 1913, it soon became their marching song. Liam O'Briain, in his memoirs, describes how some two thousand marching Volunteers broke into A Soldier's Song, sending an electric current coursing through his veins. It was the anthem of the independence movement, long before it was officially selected by the politicians. The present manuscript, worn and faded though it be, is a unique memento of the days when Irish Independence was just an aspiration held by a few: the earliest autograph manuscript of the National Anthem. Provenance: The author to Nellie Bushell, to Micheal O hAodha (director of the Abbey Theatre), to De Burca Rare Books, to the present vendor. An inscribed copy of Seamus de Burca's biography of Peadar Kearney is included with the lot.
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