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Broadside ballad entitled 'Shiel's Rights of Man'


This ballad begins: 'I speak in candour, one night in slumber, / My mind did wander near to Athlone, / The centre station of the Irish nation, / Where a congregation unto me was shown.' Unfortunately, no publication details are included on the sheet.

Illustrated with woodcuts depicting religious images, this broadside appears to be a political ballad in support of the Irish Home Rule Movement. The writer makes repeated references to a female character called Granua (also spelt Grainne). The daughter of the mythical Irish warrior and folk hero, Finn McCool, Granua is also used as a symbol for Ireland - much like the figure of Britannia is employed as a symbol for Great Britain. Another interesting reference is the inclusion of the famous phrase, 'The Rights of Man', which suggests that the writer was familiar with the anti-establishment works of Thomas Paine (1737-1809).

Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.

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Probable period of publication: 1870-1890   shelfmark: RB.m.143(013)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Shiel's Rights of Man'
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