We Won't Let Our Leader Run Down
DESCRIPTION: The Irish Parliamentary Party and Gladstone want to condemn Parnell. "Give Parnell the thing he requires, Home Rule and Prosperity ... then he will retire." "He has fought for prosperity unto the last, That is what the people say in Ireland"
EARLIEST DATE: 1891 (Zimmermann)
KEYWORDS: Ireland nonballad political
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Zimmermann 89, "We Won't Let Our Leader Run Down" (1 text)
Bodleian, Harding B 26(671), "We Won't Hear our Leader Run Down," unknown, n.d.
cf. "The Bold Tenant Farmer" (subject of Charles Stewart Parnell) and references there
NOTES: "In December 1889, Parnell became involved in a divorce that was to end his political influence and the trauma of this divorce probably hastened his early death.... Parnell managed to split the party that represented many of the people of Ireland at Westminster - the Irish Parliamentary Party. Some sided with Parnell while others did not." He married the divorced woman in June 1891 and died in October. (source: "Charles Stuart Parnell" at History Learning Site) - BS
We should note that almost all sources spell Parnell's name "Charles Stewart Parnell."
In fact the situation was even more complicated than the above can describe. Parnell (1845-1891), who had helped found the Land League and won major rights for Irish tenants (see "The Bold Tenant Farmer"), had for long led the Irish parliamentary faction -- which he had finally welded into a cohesive enough block that it generally held the controlling hand in the British House of Commons.
Since he was in alliance with Prime Minister Gladstone, who wanted Home Rule for Ireland, a Home Rule bill were introduced in 1886. But the political opposition in the Lords, and the overwhelming revulsion caused by the Phoenix Park murders (for which see, e.g., "The Phoenix Park Tragedy"), caused it to go down.
And then there was Parnell's Great Indiscretion. In 1880, before his power had even reached its peak, he had begun an affair with Katherine O'Shea, the wife of Captain William O'Shea, a Home Rule M.P. (Fry/Fry, p. 259). Their first child was born in 1882; although she died, they had two more children in 1883 and 1884.
Some men might have gotten away with this (Bill Clinton, anyone?). It was harder for Parnell. According to O'Connor, p.16, Parnell "was a landlord and an aristocrat who challenged the aristocracy and defied the landowners. He was not witty or eloquent as traditional Irish leaders had been. He was cold and often disdainful." In other words, his power was based on his opinions, not his personality. He didn't charm anyone -- except "Kitty" O'Shea.
Exactly how Parnell and Captain O'Shea felt about each other is not entirely clear (Kee, pp. 85-86, 112-113; also Fry/Fry, p. 259). But by 1886 O'Shea resigned from Parliament, and in 1889, he divorced his wife. Parnell married her in 1891 (Fry/Fry, p. 260). If Parnell had resigned, his platform might have survived. But he didn't, and it didn't; he was voted out of office in 1890 (Wallace, p. 140).
It will tell you what the politics of the time were like that a preacher in the run-up to the election of 1892 said, "Parnellism is simply love of adultery and all those who profess Parnellism profess to love and admire adultery" (Kee, p. 117).
Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely, p. 256, write that "Parnell's fall deprived the Irish Party of a leader whose genius was irreplaceable, and seriously injured the home rule cause among the British public. It was all the more tragic because, in the supreme crisis of his life, Parnell abandoned the stern realism that had hitherto governed all his political conduct and allowed his passion and pride to overmaster him. His refusal to accept even a temporary retirement forced an excruciating decision on a majority of his party."
Parnell tried to rebuild his support by a series of lectures and speeches, but collapsed and died not long after (Kee, p. 115, who writes, "He died at Brighton with his wife by his side on 10 October, and his body was brought into Kingston harbour on... 11 October, and buried in Glasnevin cemetary. The chances of Home Rule for the next twenty years were buried with him."
Despite his final failure, Parnell became part of Ireland's folklore. O'Connor, p. 18, writes, "[His] coffin was drawn in silence through Dublin past stricken crowds who stood in the streets in numbers that have never been equalled since.... To an extent it is true that the Irish never got over Parnell's death...." - RBW
Last updated in version 2.8
- Fry/Fry: Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry, A History of Ireland, 1988 (I use the 1993 Barnes & Noble edition)
- Kee: Robert Kee, The Bold Fenian Men, being volume II of The Green Flag (covering the period from around 1848 to the Easter Rising), Penguin, 1972
- Moody/Martin/Keogh/Kiely: T. W. Moody, F. X. Martin, and Dermot Keough, with Patrick Kiely, The Course of Irish History, fifth edition, 2011 (page references are to the 2012 paperback edition)
- O'Connor: Ulick O'Connor, Michael Collins & the Troubles: The Struggle for Irish Freedon 1912-1922, 1975, 1996; first American edition published as The Troubles (I used the 1996 Norton edition)
- Wallace: Martin Wallace, A Short History of Ireland, 1973, 1986 (I use the 1996 Barnes & Noble edition)
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.