Amhrán na bhFiann

Amhrán na bhFiann
Amhrán na bhFiann
English: The Soldier's Song

National anthem of

Lyrics Peadar Kearney, 1907 (Liam Ó Rinn Irish translation, 1923)
Music Patrick Heeney / Peadar Kearney, 1907
Adopted 1926
Music sample
Amhrán na bhFiann (Instrumental)

"Amhrán na bhFiann" (Irish pronunciation: [ˈəuɾˠaːn̪ˠ n̪ˠə ˈvʲiːən̪ˠ]) ("The Soldiers' Song" in English) is the national anthem of Ireland. The music was composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, and the original English lyrics were authored (as "A Soldiers' Song") by Kearney. It is sung in the Irish language translation made by Liam Ó Rinn. The song has three verses, but the national anthem consists of the chorus only. The Presidential Salute, played when the President of Ireland arrives at an official engagement, consists of the first four bars of the national anthem immediately followed by the last five.[1]




"A Soldiers' Song" was composed in 1907, with words by Peadar Kearney and music by Kearney and Patrick Heeney.[2] The first draft, handwritten on copybook paper, sold at auction in Dublin in 2006 for €760,000.[3] The text was first published in Irish Freedom by Bulmer Hobson in 1912.[2] It was used as marching song by the Irish Volunteers and was sung by rebels in the General Post Office (GPO) during the Easter Rising of 1916.[2] Its popularity increased among rebels held in Frongoch internment camp after the Rising,[2] and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, a large proportion of the IRA's men and apparatus became the National Army. The "Soldiers' Song" remained popular as an Army tune, and was played at many military functions.[2]

Official adoption

The Free State did not initially adopt any official anthem.[2] The delicate political state in the aftermath of the Civil War provoked a desire to avoid controversy.[4] Ex-Unionists continued to regard "God Save the King" as the national anthem,[2] as it had been for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and as it was for other Commonwealth Realms such as Australia and Canada. W. T. Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, on 28 April 1924, expressed opposition to replacing the "Soldiers' Song", which was provisionally used within the State.[4] Sean Lester, Publicist at the Department of External Affairs considered "The Soldiers' Song" to be "hardly suitable in words or music".[5] and favoured the music, though not the words, of "Let Erin Remember".[5] This was used as the anthem for the state at the 1924 Olympics in Paris,[2] and other events abroad for the next two years.[5] The Dublin Evening Mail held contests in 1924 and 1925 to find verses for a new anthem; the first produced no sufficiently good entry, and the second's winning entry was soon forgotten.[2]

There was concern that the lack of an official anthem was giving Unionists an opportunity to persist with "God Save the King".[5] The "Soldiers' Song" was widely if unofficially sung by nationalists,[5] and on 12 July 1926, the Executive Council decided to adopt its as the National Anthem,[5] with Cosgrave the driving force in the decision.[5] This decision was not publicised.[2] On 20 June 1926, Osmond Esmonde asked in the Dáil what the National Anthem was. Ceann Comhairle Michael Hayes stated 'If the Deputy desires to investigate any problem in regard to the National Anthem, he cannot ask a question of the President. The President cannot be asked to define what is the National Anthem. It is not part of his functions.' Esmonde then asked Minister for Defence Peter Hughes what 'as far as the Army is concerned' was the National Anthem; Hughes responded simply 'The "Soldiers' Song."'[2][6]

In 1928, the Army band established the practice of playing only the chorus of the song as the Anthem, because the longer version was discouraging audiences from singing along.[4] Also in 1928, Chief Justice Hugh Kennedy, returning from an official trip to North America, reported that an official arrangement of the music was "very badly needed" for circulation abroad.[4] This was produced in July 1929 by Colonel Fritz Brasé, director of the Army band.[2] This consisted only of the chorus, and was published under the title "The Soldier's Song", rather than "A Soldier's Song" or the "Soldiers' Song".[2]

The anthem was played by Radio Éireann at closedown from its inception in 1926. Cinemas and theatres did so from 1932[2] until 1972.[7] Peadar Kearney, who had received royalties from publishers of the text and music, issued legal proceedings for royalties from those now performing the anthem.[2] He was joined by Michael Heeney, brother of Patrick Heeney, who had died in 1911.[2] In 1934, the Department of Finance acquired the copyright of the song for the sum of £1,200.[2][8][9] Copyright law changed in 1959, such that the government had to reacquire copyright in 1965, for £2,500.[2][10]

In the Dáil debate preceding the original acquisition of copyright, there was discussion of the song's merits or lack thereof. Frank MacDermot said, "Leaving out sentiment, I must confess, from both a literary and a musical point of view, I would regard the “Soldier's Song” as, shall we say, a jaunty little piece of vulgarity, and I think we could have done a lot better.".[11] Thomas F. O'Higgins responded, "National Anthems come about, not because of the suitability of the particular words or notes, but because they are adopted generally by the nation. That is exactly how the “Soldiers' Song” became a National Anthem in this country. It happened to be the Anthem on the lips of the people when they came into their own and when the outsiders evacuated the country and left the insiders here to make the best or the worst of the country. It was adopted by the people here before ever it was adopted by the Executive Council".[11]

The anthem is recommended, but not required, to be taught as part of the civics syllabus in national schools.[12]


The Governor-General of the Irish Free State was the King's representative and, as such, Unionists considered that the appropriate Vice Regal Salute was the Imperial Anthem "God Save the King" rather than the Free State Anthem. In 1929, Governor-General James McNeill refused to attend a public function in Trinity College when he learned that the university intended to play "God Save the King" rather than "The Soldiers' Song" during his visit.[2] In 1932, Éamon de Valera became President of the Executive Council; as part of his campaign to abolish the office of Governor-General, he forbade the Army band to play "The Soldiers' Song" in McNeill's presence.[2]

Irish version

The Irish language translation that has become the usual text to be sung was the work of Liam Ó Rinn (1888–1950), later the Chief Translator of the Oireachtas,[2] who was involved in the Irish versions of both the 1922 Constitution and the 1937 Constitution. Although Sherry says the Irish version was first published in An tÓglach (the magazine of the Irish Defence Forces) on 3 November 1923,[2] an almost identical text had been printed in the Freeman's Journal on 3 April 1923, under Ó Rinn's pen name "Coinneach".[13][14] It may have been written as early as 1917.[2][15] Several earlier translations had been made, which Ó Rinn criticised as unreadable.[13] These were in literary Classical Irish, whereas Ó Rinn favoured the living vernacular spoken in Gaeltacht areas.[13] Other Irish translations were made, including one sung by Claisceadal in University College Galway in December 1931.[16] From the 1930s, the Gaelic Athletic Association encouraged singing the anthem in Irish at its matches.[2] The text of the Ó Rinn version was printed in the 1933 edition of An Camán.[2] The text was printed in the programs of matches at Croke Park, and the crowd was led via the public address system by singers from St Patrick's College of Education and Conradh na Gaeilge.[17]

In recent decades, the English version has been almost totally eclipsed, and many Irish people do not realise it is the original.[2] The English version was sung in Canada during a state visit by President Mary McAleese in 1998,[18] and at the 2004 Ryder Cup in the United States. The latter prompted objections from Fáilte Ireland,[19] and what Gaeltacht Minister Éamon Ó Cuív called "an outcry" from viewers in Ireland.[20][21]

"FF" on the cap badge of the Irish Defence Forces.

The Irish version is a free translation of the English; in particular, “Sinne Fianna Fáil” is not a literal translation of “Soldiers are we”. Fianna Fáil, variously translated as "Soldiers of Destiny", "Warriors of Destiny" or "Soldiers of Ireland", is from the Irish Fianna ("band of warriors") of Fál ("destiny", "Ireland"). As an Irish name for the Irish Volunteers, it was an alternative to Óglaigh na hÉireann. The initials “FF” appeared on the Volunteer badge, and subsequently on that of the Irish Army.[22] On 2 April 1926, "Fianna Fáil" was chosen as the name of Éamon de Valera's new political party. Since the Irish version of the anthem became popular in the 1930s, there has been intermittent resentment of the party name's occurring in it.[2][23] Publishers Browne & Nolan printed a version in 1938 substituting "Sinne laochra fáil" for "Sinne Fianna Fáil" (laochra = "heroes", "warriors"), which is occasionally heard instead.[2]

It is unclear whether the official anthem is the music alone, or the text also.[2] Both the English and Irish texts appear in Facts about Ireland, published by the Department of Foreign Affairs,[2][24] and on the official website of the Department of the Taoiseach.[1] However, no Irish version has been officially adopted,[2] and Ó Rinn, unlike Kearney and Heeney's estate, never received royalties.[2] A memorandum in the Department of the Taoiseach on 5 April 1958 discussed five distinct Irish translations, noting that Ó Rinn's was the best known; it suggested that, if it were to be officially endorsed, the spelling and grammar should be standardised and the words "Fianna Fáil" changed to "laochra Fáil" to avoid party-political associations.[15]

Political implications

The song is regarded by many nationalists as the national anthem of the whole island of Ireland, and it is therefore sung, for example, at Gaelic Athletic Association matches held in Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic of Ireland. Unionists, however, reject this use of "Amhrán na bhFiann". At international games played by the all-island rugby union team, the specially commissioned song "Ireland's Call" is used; "Amhrán na bhFiann" is used only within the Republic. "Ireland's Call" has also been adopted by all-island teams in some other sports. There is some debate about whether the words of the anthem are inappropriate. Questions in the Dáil have been asked by John Browne in 2000;[25] Derek McDowell in 1995;[26] Trevor Sargent in 1993;[27] Frank MacDermot in 1932.[28] In a debate during the 2011 presidential election, two of the seven candidates were open to changing the anthem.[29]


"Amhrán na bhFiann" is usually sung or played in march time. Different tempos may be used, however, and the verse and chorus are occasionally played. Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ), the Irish national broadcasting company, played an orchestral version in a slow tempo at the close of transmission from 1962 onwards. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, when Michelle Smith won three gold medals in swimming, the verse and chorus were played in a lively tempo.


The lyrics are those of an Irish rebel song, exhorting all Irish people to participate in the struggle to end the hegemony ("despot" over "slave") of the English ("Saxon foe") in Ireland ("Inisfail"). There are allusions to earlier Irish rebellions, and to support from Irishmen from the United States[30] ("a land beyond the wave") and elsewhere (for example, Republican leaders such as Éamon de Valera and James Connolly were born in New York and Scotland respectively)


The chorus is the established National Anthem. Slight variations exist in published versions; the following texts are from the Department of Foreign Affairs' sheet music.[31]

Irish version
Amhrán na bhFiann
English version
The Soldiers' Song

Sinne Fianna Fáil,[fn 1]
atá faoi[fn 2] gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
thar toinn do ráinig chughainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna baoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,[fn 3]
Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaig amhrán na bhfiann

Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the "bearna baoil",[fn 4]
In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal,
’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal,
We’ll chant a soldier's song

  1. ^ Literal translation: "We are the Warriors of Fál (Ireland)"; "fáil" is also used to mean destiny,
  2. ^ faoi and faoin may be written and fén, respectively
  3. ^ Literal translation: "For love of the Gael, towards death or life"
  4. ^ bearna baoil is Irish for "gap of danger"


The anthem consists only of the chorus of the song. The original has three verses, set to a slightly different tune. The lyrics of the verses are as follows:

Amhrán na bhFiann
A Soldier’s Song
Seo dhíbh, a chairde, duan Ógláigh We’ll sing a song, a soldier’s song
Caithréimeach bríomhar ceolmhar With cheering rousing chorus
Ár dtinte cnámh go buacach táid As round our blazing fires we throng
’S an spéir go mín réaltógach The starry heavens o’er us
Is fonnmhar faobhrach sinn chun gleo Impatient for the coming fight
’S go tiúnmhar glé roimh thíocht don ló And as we await the morning’s light
Fé chiúnas chaomh na hoíche ar seol Here in the silence of the night
Seo libh, canaídh Amhrán na bhFiann We’ll chant a soldier’s song
Sinne Fianna Fáil... Soldiers are we...
Cois bánta réidhe, ar ardaibh sléibhe In valley green, on towering crag
Ba bhuadhach ár sinsir romhainn Our fathers fought before us
Ag lámhach go tréan fén sárbhrat séin And conquered ’neath the same old flag
’Tá thuas sa ghaoth go seolta That’s proudly floating o’er us
Ba dhúchas riamh dár gcine cháidh We’re children of a fighting race
Gan iompáil siar ó imirt áir That never yet has known disgrace
’S ag siúl mar iad i gcoinne námhad And as we march, the foe to face
Seo libh, canaídh Amhrán na bhFiann We’ll chant a soldier’s song
Sinne Fianna Fáil... Soldiers are we...
A bhuíon nach fann d’fhuil Ghaeil is Gall Sons of the Gael! Men of the Pale!
Sin breacadh lae na saoirse The long-watched day is breaking
Tá sceimhle ’s scanradh i gcroíthe námhad The serried ranks of Inisfail
Roimh ranna laochra ár dtíre Shall set the tyrant quaking
Ár dtinte is tréith gan spréach anois Our camp fires now are burning low
Sin luisne ghlé sa spéir anoir See in the east a silv’ry glow
’S an bíobha i raon na bpiléar agaibh Out yonder waits the Saxon foe
Seo libh, canaídh Amhrán na bhFiann So chant a soldier’s song
Sinne Fianna Fáil... Soldiers are we...


  1. ^ a b "National Anthem". Department of the Taoiseach "Youth Zone" web page. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af Sherry, Ruth (Spring 1996). "The Story of the National Anthem". History Ireland (Dublin): 39–43. 
  3. ^ Gartland, Fiona (13 April 2006). "First draft of national anthem sells for €760,000". The Irish Times: p. 7. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d Allen, Gregory (13 October 1984). "The National Anthem". The Irish Times: p. 19. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Dudley Edwards, Owen (21 April 1976). "Choosing of the Irish Flag and Anthem". The Irish Times: p. 13. 
  6. ^ "Ceisteannea—Questions. Oral answers. - Saorstát National Anthem.". Dáil Éireann - Volume 16. 20 July, 1926. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  7. ^ Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Playing of National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 258 - 27 January, 1972
  8. ^ Acts of the Oireachtas, Appropriation Act, 1934
  9. ^ Written Answers. - National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 609 - 08 November, 2005
  10. ^ Committee on Finance. - Vote 18—Miscellaneous Expenses. Dáil Éireann - Volume 214 - 02 March, 1965
  11. ^ a b In Committee on Finance. - Vote 75—National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 50 - 22 November, 1933
  12. ^ Written Answers. - National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 374 - 03 November, 1987
  13. ^ a b c "Coinneach" (3 April 1923). "Roinnt Versaiochta" (in Irish). Freeman's Journal: p. 2. 
  14. ^ "Aistritheoir" (in Irish). Bibliography. Royal Irish Academy. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  15. ^ a b de Bréadún, Deaglán (1991-02-27). "Tuarascáil: Téacs 'Amhrán na bhFiann' in amhras fós" (in Irish). The Irish Times: p. 13. 
  16. ^ "Amhran na bhFiann" (in Irish). Connacht Sentinel: p. 2. 1931-12-29. 
  17. ^ Ó Síochán, Seán (1 September 1984). "Individualistic style has disappeared". The Irish Times: p. 39. 
  18. ^ Buckley, Geoffrey (23 October 1998). "The National Anthem". The Irish Times: p. 15. 
  19. ^ Reid, Philip; John O'Sullivan (18 September 2004). "Oakland Hills Diary: Striking right note". The Irish Times: p. 31. Retrieved 2009-03-15. 
  20. ^ Ó Cuív, Éamon (31 October 2004). "World heritage lost if Irish dies". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  21. ^ Priority Questions. - Irish Language. Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 09 November, 2004
  22. ^ The Earl of Longford; Thomas P. O’Neill (1970). "Chapter 21". Éamon de Valera. Dublin. ISBN 978-0-09-104660-6. 
  23. ^ Mulcahy, Richard (2 December 1958). "Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1958—Second Stage (resumed).". Dáil Éireann - Volume 171. p. col.1316. Retrieved 2009-03-14. "Fianna Fáil, stemming from those years which we must regard as very unfortunate, slipping its hand into the “Soldier's Song”, which became the National Anthem, and taking its name out of it so that school children and people who wanted to honour the country in the National Anthem, and wanted to cement the country's institutions, would be expected to sing “Sinne Fianna Fáil”." 
  24. ^ Facts about Ireland. Department of Foreign Affairs. 2001. ISBN 0-906404-28-2. 
  25. ^ Ceisteanna–Questions. - Northern Ireland Issues. Dáil Éireann - Volume 526 - 22 November, 2000
  26. ^ Written Answers. - National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 457 - 17 October, 1995
  27. ^ Written Answers. - National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 429 - 08 April, 1993
  28. ^ Oral Answers. - The National Anthem. Dáil Éireann - Volume 44 - 16 November, 1932
  29. ^ "Presidential candidates in TG4 debate". Dublin: RTÉ. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  30. ^ Williams, W. H. A. (1996). 'Twas only an Irishman's dream: the image of Ireland and the Irish in American popular song lyrics, 1800-1920. University of Illinois Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-252-06551-4. 
  31. ^ "National Anthem (sheet music)" (JPEG). Department of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 

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  • Amhran na bhFiann — Amhrán na bhFiann (engl. The Soldier’s Song) ist die Nationalhymne der Republik Irland. Sie wurde 1907 von Peadar Kearney, einem Onkel des bekannten Liedertexters Brendan Behan, auf Englisch geschrieben und 1926 ins Irische übersetzt. Die Melodie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Amhrán na bhFiann — es el himno nacional de la República de Irlanda. También conocido por su traducción al inglés como A Soldier s Song (la Canción de un soldado). Así mismo es conocido también como Amhrán Náisiúnta na hÉireann/National Anthem of Ireland (Himno… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Amhran na bhFiann — …   Википедия

  • A Soldier's Song — Amhrán na bhFiann (engl. The Soldier’s Song) ist die Nationalhymne der Republik Irland. Sie wurde 1907 von Peadar Kearney, einem Onkel des bekannten Liedertexters Brendan Behan, auf Englisch geschrieben und 1926 ins Irische übersetzt. Die Melodie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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