Mudcat Café message #433921 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #2053   Message #433921
Posted By: Big Tim
05-Apr-01 - 01:54 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Fields of Athenry (Pete St.John)
Subject: RE: Fields of Athenry
I've been on four continents and 28 countries, I've been in Athenry too, and found it no better or worse than than anywhere else in the world. In fact I found it as pleasant and peaceful as anywhere else in Ireland and I've been in all 32 counties. Victoria, I agree with you on another thread but not on this one.

Here is a selection from a Pete St John interview in the "Daily Record" newspaper (Scotland's most popular) Feb 19 1999. "It's a song about the potato famine in Ireland, it's that simple. I'd gone to Galway and read some Gaelic tracts about how tough life was in those dreadful times. The people were starving and corn had been imported from America to help them but it was Indian corn with a kernel so hard that the mills here in Ireland couldn't grind it. So it lay useless in stores at the docks in Dublin. But nobody trusted tha authorities, the Crown, to tell them the truth so hundreds of starving Irish marched on the city to get the grain. Some were arrested and shipped off to Australia in prison ships. I wrote a ballad about [in 1979], inventing Michael, Mary and a baby - a family torn apart because a husband stole corn to feed his family...all this information came from Galway so I set the song in Athenry, a little Galway village where the potato fields lay empty". The article was in the "Daily Record" becos the Song has acquired a controversial reputation here after being adopted by the fans of (Glasgow) Celtic, a "Catholic" football team. Pete finished up "it's a song about hard times in Ireland's history, a bit like Flower of Scotland is the same to the Scots. But bigotry? It's about as sectarian as I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles".

I can't vouch for the accuracy of Pete's research, but that is what the man has placed on record.

Recently I read Alexander Irvine's autobiographical novel "The Souls of Poor Folk" (1921)set with his family (which was Protestant) in Antrim town during the famine era. His family was starving, the boy (the young Irvine) stole some turnips from a field but his mother, the saintly heroine of his other great little novel "My Lady of the Chimney Corner", made him take them back.