The Fields of Athenry

I great modern song set during the Irish famine of the late 19th century.  It was written by singer-songwriter Pete St. John in the 1970s, but by far the most successful version has to be this one recorded by Paddy O’Reilly in the ’80s.

The Fields of Athenry

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young girl calling
Micheal they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyn’s corn
So the young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.

Chorus:
Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It’s so lonely ’round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you’re free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.

Chorus

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Old Skibereen

I’ve recently been reacquainted with this beautifully sad famine song. Sinead O’Connor‘s version once again is so heart-felt and passionate.

The first known publication of the song was in a 19th-century publication, The Irish Singer’s Own Book (Noonan, Boston, 1880), where the song was attributed to Patrick Carpenter, a poet and native of Skibbereen. It was published in 1915 by Herbert Hughes who wrote that it had been collected in County Tyrone, and that it was a traditional song. – Wikipedia

Old Skibereen

O, father dear I often hear you speak of Erin’s Isle
Her lofty scenes, her valleys green, her mountains rude and wild
They say it is a lovely land wherein a prince might dwell
So why did you abandon it, the reason to me tell

My son, I loved my native land with energy and pride
Till a blight came over all my crops and my sheep and cattle died
The rents and taxes were to pay and I could not them redeem
And that’s the cruel reason why I left old Skibbereen

‘Tis well I do remember that bleak November day
When the bailiff and the landlord came to drive us all away
They set the roof on fire with their cursed English spleen
And that’s another reason why I left old Skibbereen

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