March 16, 2008
Sunday Music: "The Fields of Athenry", by Paddy Reilly
Paddy Reilly is one of my favorite singers, and this is maybe his best song. "The Fields of Athenry" is set in County Galway during the Great Famine.
"The Fields of Athenry" is a folk song about the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849), composed in the 1970s by Inchicore songwriter Pete St. John and first recorded by Irish ballad singer Danny Doyle. It tells the story of the famine through first-person narrative, recounting the tale of a prisoner who has been sentenced to being transported to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food to feed his starving family.
Trevelyan in the lyrics refers to Charles Edward Trevelyan, a senior British civil servant in the administration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin Castle, who saw the Famine in classic Malthusian theory as a natural means of "controlling excessive population." Trevelyan is widely blamed for the inadequacy of the British Government's response. His reports to London underestimated the severity of the Famine and overestimated the problems that could arise in providing assistance to the starving.
Trevelyan's corn: The term "corn" usually means wheat in Ireland. However, according to Paddy Reilly being interviewed on RTE radio, this was a reference to maize imported from America into Ireland for famine relief. A quantity was stolen from storage in Cork. The Irish were unfamiliar with the grain. As it was meant for seed, it proved too hard to mill for flour and was used mostly in gruel. This phrase is also a play on words, as Trevalyan is a Cornish name. ( from wikipedia )
The scenes in this video are not from Ireland--they're from Holland, Wales and Cornwall. But I hope you like them!
By the way, Paddy Reilly owns an authentic Irish pub in New York City. It has the first and perhaps the only, all-Guinness tap service in the world. Really good.