The Irish National Anthem, Amhrán Na bhFiann, was originally composed in English by Peadar Kearney (1883-1942) in 1907 and titled ‘The Soldier’s Song’. It has three verses but only the chorus was officially designated the national anthem.
Peadar Kearney, uncle of the author and playwright Brendan Behan, was co-founder of the Irish Volunteers. Kearney composed the words of the song. Kearney and Patrick Heeney composed the music. Patrick Heeney, born in Dublin in 1881, was an employee of the Postal Service. He died in 1911 in Dublin.
The text of the song was first published in the monthly magazine ‘Irish Freedom’ in 1912. The song was used as a marching tune by the Irish Volunteers and was sung by the rebels in the General Post office, Dublin, during the 1916 Rising.
The song increased in popularity and remained popular as an Army tune and was played at many military functions. The Irish Free State in 1922 did not adopt any official national anthem.
‘The Soldier’s Song’ was considered unsuitable in words and music, and so Thomas Moore’s ‘Let Erin Remember’ was used as the anthem for the state at the 1924 Olympic games in Paris and other events abroad. Other unofficial anthems were ‘God Save Ireland’ composed by Timothy Daniel Sullivan (1827-1914) and ‘A Nation Once Again’ by Thomas Osbourne Davis (1814-1845).
In 1923, ‘The Soldier’s Song’ was translated into the Irish language by Liam Ó Rinn, chief translator of the Oireachtas, who was involved in the Irish version of both the 1922 Constitution and the 1937 Constitution.