The Fields of Athenry
|The Fields of Athenry
by Edward Bellamy
The Fields of Athenry Edward Bellamy
Pete St. John is known as the author of this song, at least in its popular form, but the words go back to a broadsheet ballad that was published in the 1880's. One of them was published by Devlin in Dublin with a simple tune, which is very different than that of the modern song. The broadsheet lyrics are below the St. John lyrics.
Excerpt from an article that appeared in The Glasgow Herald for 10 April 1996:
The song was written in 1979 and recorded by Paddy Reilly, whose best-selling single launched an album of the same name. However, over the past 17 years more than 400 cover versions have been made with conservative estimates on single sales put at five million. The song was based on a true story of the fate of one young couple during the Irish famine.
The song tells the story of Lord Trevelyan who brought a supply of corn back from America in a bid to battle starvation during the potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately it was Indian corn too hard to be milled, so useless. However, local people thought it would save them and so broke into the stores, were arrested, and subsequently deported to Australia.
"The song could be about anyone Scots, Irish, English. It is about poor innocent people and how they are victims of natural disasters. It's easy to say why it's been so popular in Glasgow because in 1846, the year the song's set, over 150,000 Irishmen, women, and children fled to the city where many were treated with generosity. But I've heard the song sung everywhere from San Francisco to Melbourne."
By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling "Michael, they have taken you away, For you stole Trevelyan'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 cut me down. Now you must raise our child with dignity."
By a lonely harbor wall, she watched the last star fall As the prison ship sailed out against the sky For she lived to hope and pray for her love in Botany Bay It's so lonely round the fields of Athenry.