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Songs of 1798 - The Year of the French
The Autobiography of James (Jemmy) Hope
Irish Brigade - songs and history of the '98 Rebellion.
AS MENTIONED elsewhere in this issue, 1998 is the bicentennial anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion led by the Society of United Irishmen. As we predicted in our last issue, this has triggered the release of a rash of celebratory publications. Three of these have so far come our way. Irish Brigade is the least attractive looking of these. It seems to have been run off on someone's dot-matrix computer printer. The graphics are poorly reproduced and the cover is uninspiring. Despite this flaw, the booklet isn't too bad as far as content goes. There are 31 songs and verses of the period. The songs' histories and authors are not mentioned. If you know nothing about these songs you need not look in here for enlightenment. However, the second half of tile pamphlet is much more useful. A brief chronology of' the Rebellion is followed by a glossary of such items as 'Croppies', 'Dissenters' and 'pitchcapping' as well as portraits of leading figures in the rebellion.
One major failure of this booklet is its suggestion that only Catholics had to pay tithes to the protestant episcopal church - the so-called 'Church of Ireland' - and were barred from most public offices. In fact, this also affected Presbyterians and other 'Dissenters' who also did not accept the claims of the Anglican church.
Songs of 1798 is a much better publication all over. This one has a full-colour cover and is well illustrated with many original line drawings. Unlike Irish Brigade, each song has an introduction telling something of the story behind it. Authors are credited where this is known. Many of the songs concentrate on events from July to September 1798 when Humbert, the French revolutionary general, landed a small force in the west of Ireland. Sonic of the songs are in French, some are in Irish gaelic but most are in English. A few even have musical notations. As a souvenir this booklet is extremely good value at only £2.50.
Even better value is Farset's timely re-issue of the autobiography of Jemmy Hope. This first appeared in 1846 in R R Madden's very rare The United Irishmen.- Their Life and Times. The old British and Irish Communist Organisation published a duplicated edition in 1972 but this has been long out of print. Farset are to be congratulated for bring this rare work back into general circulation at a mere £1.50.
Hope's autobiography is preceded by an introduction from Ian Adamson - a former Lord Mayor of Belfast who has done much to enable Ulsterfolk to gain a new appreciation of our homeland's history. Also included in a useful historical background to the rebellion in Ulster and Madden's original 1846 preface with his own personal impressions of Hope as an 80-ycar old man. "His private character is most excellent he is strictly- moral, utterly fearless, inflexible, and incorruptible. The most eminent leaders, both of 1798 and 1803, had a thorough confidence in him." We'd all be much better men if this could be said of us!
Much has been written and is likely to be written over the course of this bicentenary year about the motives of those who, like Hope, joined the Society of United Irishmen. The provisional republican movement and their former comrades in the O'Bradaigh faction will seek to claim them as their own.
Something similar happened in 1898 when the IRB and their front groups hijacked the memory of the United men to successfully advance their own narrow sectarian agenda. A simple reading of this autobiography will show the absolute world of difference between Hope's ideas and aspirations and those of the bloody IRB and their modern IRA successors. Sinn Féin’s claim to honour the memory of Hope, McCracken and Munro is brazen clothes-stealing. It cannot be taken seriously.
Hope tells of his upbringing, his membership in the Roughfort corps of the Volunteer Movement and how and why he joined a new political reform association in June, 1795. He tells of the dire situation in Ulster where "manufacture and commerce, fictitious capital, fictitious credit, fictitious titles to consideration presented the numberless interests of the few in opposition to the one interest of the many." He had a very high view of Samuel Neilson's newspaper, The Northern Star, which he saw as 'the moral force of Ulster’ which sowed the seeds of truth over the land. His loyalty to Henry Joy McCracken was never broken: "When all our leaders deserted us, Henry Joy McCracken stood alone faithful to the last."
Hope was not a socialist but he was anxious to see social justice and popular democracy. He believed in putting "the means of life and comfort within the reach of the industry of the nation." He hated the human misery caused by "the concentration of a nation's wealth in the hands of a few great capitalists" and "the fraud, money-jobbing, and a reckless spirit of commercial gaming, that follows in the train of usury'' This very same system is still causing untold misery today. Radical Ulster-nationalists should seek to emulate Jemmy Hope and finally sweep all this rottenness away forever.
A THIRD WAY FOR ULSTER
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