Catalogue information

LastDodo number
Drawings / paintings
From fife to harp
Art object
Art Movement / style
Technique used
37 x 26.5 cm
Series / hero
Collection / set
Addition to number
Original political cartoon on board in pen and ink published in Punch magazine, 1914, shows British prime minister Herbert Asquith dressed in Scottish attire and playing a fife (flute) while thinking ‘One more bonnie tootle (on this delicious instrument) - and then back to that dreary old harp’. Asquith was the leader of the government which in 1911 planned the Third Home Rule Bill for Ireland. This bill, introduced in April 1912, made no provision for a special status for Protestant Ulster within a country - Ireland - with a Catholic majority. Ulster Protestants wanted no part of a semi-autonomous Ireland which did not take its interests into account, and smuggled in weapons and formed armed volunteer paramilitary groups. Some British army officers threatened to resign rather than move against Ulstermen with whom they identified as loyal British subjects. Asquith’s own Secretary of State for War resigned on the issue and he was forced to take on the job himself. The legislation for Irish Home Rule was due to come into effect in April 1914, allowing for the two-year delay under the Parliament Act following its defeat in the House of Lords. At the crucial moment Asquith retired for a time to East ‘Fife’ in Scotland, for which he was Member of Parliament, and is shown here being reluctant to return to London and the ‘dreary old harp’ (with the shamrocks representing Ireland). Such was the risk of civil war that the Cabinet were discussing allowing the six predominantly Protestant counties of north-east Ulster to opt out of the whole arrangement, but the bill was duly passed unchanged. However, it was not implemented due to the outbreak of the First World War in September that year, a war which would bring much more dramatic changes for Ireland. Board size 37 x 26.5 cm, image size 33 x 25 cm, signed lower left, caption in ink in lower border, and published in ‘Punch 15 April 1914' (written in red ink bottom right). A few scattered foxing marks, otherwise in very good condition.