For All Their Wars Are Merry: An Examination of Irish Rebel Songs is one of those books that makes history interesting and fun. Well for me anyway.
I am a quarter Irish and I have the freckles and pastey white skin that burns rather than tans to prove it. My family emigrated to the US in the later half of the 1800s to Wisconsin where they took up farming and or mining. Undoubtedly I have very distant relatives still back in Ireland somewhere. Figuring out which Patrick, John, James and Mary Dunn belong to my family has been a challenge since there are so many of them with the same name. Sullivan and White are just as bad to research. But, I digress.
This book was of special interest to me. Besides the family connection, I’ve always had a fondness for Ireland and it’s strange sense of humor. If there is a way to make something fun, the Irish are the ones that know how to do it. Heck, their funerals are rowdy affairs with drinking and merry making.
The main text is relatively short, about 45% of the book. but those pages are packed with interesting facts and observations about the songs created and sung, some for memorial purposes and some for antagonizing the enemy, by the rebel armies and terrorists of Ireland.
Declan’s book starts off with the distinctions between the groups who created and used these songs. (Introduction: The Limits of Terror – How to Define a Terrorist and a Rebel and Chapter 1: A Brief Hisotry of the Irish Rebel: A Sketch of Rebellion)
Then he goes into the songs themselves, putting them into categories and looking at each of the categories individually.
Chapter 2: Heroes and Hatreds: Examining Songs of Irish Rebel Heroes
Chapter 3: The Rebels Whom Bards Forgot: Rebels Who Were Not Honored
Chapter 4: Dances With Armalites: The Rebel Songs of Humor
Chapter 5: Wrap the Flag Around Me, Boys: Examining Irish Memorial Songs
Chapter 6: Soldiers and Bombers: The Self-Image of the Rebel
Chapter 7: Apologies and Other Oddities: The Irish Rebel as Catholic
Finally he compares and contrasts the Irish Rebel Songs with those of the Italian Mafia.
After that is the fun part: the lyrics to the songs. There is an extensive appendix with all of the songs. And there’s an extensive list of footnotes if you’re interested in that sort of thing. Normally I skip footnotes, but in this case, I might not.
Over all fascinating look into a bit of Irish culture.