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Track 11: The Death Of The Old Ways

Track 11. The Death of the Old WaysMarch and Slow Reel – Heaton Chapel / Julia Delaney

The failure of the Jacobite cause in Ireland and the success of William III in retaining the throne is widely seen in popular culture as a victory of Protestantism over Catholicism. This view has been exacerbated by the activities of the Orange Order. However, in reality, the Williamite War was an extension of the war that was ongoing in Europe between France on one side and Spain and Holland on the other. Ireland was involved in this war only because of its geographical location. France supported James in Ireland in order to gain control of England from William. William could not allow Ireland to be used as a base from which the French could launch attacks and distract him from defending Holland against French incursions. William, despite being protestant, was supported by the pope and Catholic Spain was one of William’s allies. Therefore, in terms of the overall politics of the war, religion was of very little importance. What was of importance, as with almost all wars, was money and land.

In Ireland, the accession of James to the throne of England had given hope to the Catholic landlord class because of the fact that James had made moves to improve the rights of Catholics in England (which was the main reason he was deposed). Their own economic interest was served by supporting James as they hoped that the Cromwellian settlements would be revoked enabling them to return to ownership of lands which they, or their ancestors had owned in pre-Cromwell times. The majority of Ireland's arable land was at the time owned by less than one-sixth of the total population, the land-owning minority being almost completely members of the Protestant landlord class. It was financial interest that determined the sides of the aristocracy in Ireland. For the majority of the population who possessed no land, there was only the hope that things would be better under James - an idea for which there was very little evidence. Despite this, for many years after the war, Irish Catholics maintained a sentimental attachment to the Jacobite cause, portraying James and the Stuarts as the rightful monarchs who would have given a just settlement to Ireland (including self-government and restoration of confiscated lands) and supported Catholicism.

Aodhagán O’Rathaille is credited with creating the first Aisling poem (a type of poem where Ireland is potrayed as a beautiful woman who bewails the current state of affairs and predicts an imminent revival of fortune, usually linked to the return of a Stuart King to the English throne.) This style of poetry was often copied in later years.

The end of the Williamite War was also the end of a turbulent and violent episode in Irish history. The quick succession of the Desmond Rebellions, the Nine Years War, the Cromwell Campaign and eventually the Williamite War, plus the cultural and economical drain as result of the Flight of the Earls and the Flight of the Wild Geese, had brought an end to the old ways. There was no longer any significant number of Irish gentry to support the arts and traditions of the bards and the Irish language, music and history declined very quickly. The English Protestant ruling class passed a series of laws aimed at oppressing the native Irish and maintaining their position of privilege and wealth over a subject population.

The march and slow reel which comprise this set give the impression of a battle fought and ultimately lost. This battle was the attempt to keep Irish language and music alive in the years following the Williamite War. The conclusion was the effective death of the bardic tradition and the loss of a huge wealth of tradition. The inclusion of a modern compostition in this set is a tribute to those who continue to try to keep Irish music and language traditions alive. The resurgance in the playing of traditional music over the last four decades is a clear indication that the battle has not been lost yet.

The march Heaton Chapel was composed by fluter Kevin Crawford and refers to the area of Manchester that his wife is from. Julia Delaney was named by the great tune collector Captain Francis O’Neill in honour of the wife of uilleann piper Bernard Delaney.

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