The Fields of Athenry

The Fields of Athenry

"The Fields of Athenry" is an Irish folk ballad set during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1850) about a fictional man from near Athenry in County Galway who has been sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia, for stealing food for his starving family. It is a widely known and popular anthem for Irish sports supporters.


"The Fields of Athenry" was written in the 1970s by Pete St. John.cite web|url=|title=What are the most frequently asked Questions about your work?|last=St John|first=Pete|date=2003-01-01|work=Official website|accessdate=2008-09-21] A claim was made in 1996 that a broadsheet ballad published in the 1880s had similar words; however folklorist and researcher John Moulden found no basis to this claim, and Pete St. John has stated definitively that he wrote the words as well as the music. [ [ Cantaria: Contemporary: Fields of Athenry ] ] [cite book|last=Haines|first=Robin F. |title=Charles Trevelyan and the Great Irish Famine|publisher=Four Courts|date=2004|pages=p.25|isbn=1851827552]

The song was first recorded in 1979 by Danny Doyle, reaching the top ten in the Irish Singles Chart. The most successful version was released by Paddy Reilly in 1983. While peaking only at number four, it remained in the Irish charts for 72 weeks. [cite web|url=|title= Facts and Figures — Longest in the Charts|work=The Irish Charts|publisher=Irish Recorded Music Association|accessdate=2008-09-21]

The convict says his crime is that he "stole Trevelyan's corn"; a reference to Charles Edward Trevelyan, a senior British civil servant in the administration of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin Castle, and to the "Indian corn" (maize) imported from America by the government for famine relief. The song is sometimes considered a "rebel song". Supporters of Irish republicanism sometimes chant additional lyrics during the chorus; shown in italics in the following: "Where once we watched the small free birds fly - "oh baby, let the free birds fly" / Our love was on the wing - "Sinn Féin" / We had dreams and songs to sing - "IRA" / It's so lonely round the Fields of Athenry." [ [ Gary Og - Fields of Athenrye (Live)] ] When used by Celtic fans, this has led to charges of sectarianism. [cite news|url=|title=Celtic players deny sectarian chants|date=2006-01-06|publisher=UTV|accessdate=2008-09-21]


Other artists to have recorded versions include Frank Patterson, Ronan Tynan, Brush Shiels, James Galway, The Dubliners, Boston-based American group Dropkick Murphys, Yonkers based group Shilelagh Law, California punk band No Use for a Name, New Zealander's Hollie Smith and Steve McDonald, The Durutti Column, and by the Canadian group The Tartan Terrors. Serbian bands who recorded the song include Orthodox Celts and Tir na n'Og. It was also recorded by a Polish band called Carrantuohill and in 2005 by a Hungarian folk-rock band [ Sacra Arcana] .

A reggae version of this song was recorded by the Century Steel Band in the early 1990s.

The Dropkick Murphys recorded a punk-rock version of this song on their 2003 album Blackout, as well as a softer version they recorded specially for the family of Sergeant Andrew Farrar, an American Marine killed in Iraq. [cite web | url= | title=Drop Kick Murphy's discography - The Fields of Athenry, Farrar version ] Blaggards blended the song with Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues in a medley called "Prison Love Songs". [cite web | url= | title=Review of Blaggards' "Standards"] Second-generation Irish Londoners, Neck, also recorded a "psycho-ceilidh" version of the song. Other punk versions of the song have been recorded by the bands No Use for a Name, The Tossers, and the Broken O'Briens.

Sporting anthem

The song was adopted by Republic of Ireland national football team supporters during the 1990 World Cup, and by Celtic F.C. supporters in the early 1990's. [Kenny, Colum. "Moments that Changed Us", Gill & Macmillan, 2005] [Herald article, 10 April 1996, cited at]

The song is also associated with the Munster, London Irish and Ireland rugby union teamscite news|url=|title=Story of a Song|date=2006-09-30|work=Irish Independent|accessdate=2008-09-21] as well as Galway and Gaelic games supporters.Fact|date=September 2008

"The Fields of Anfield Road" is sung by Liverpool supporters to the same tune, but with suitably adapted lyrics referencing their history and stadium.

At the Beijing Olympics boxing final featuring Irish boxer Kenny Egan, Tom Humphries of the Irish Times noted,

"By the time Egan and Zhang emerged the great rhythmic roars of "Zhang! Zhang! Zhang!" competed to drown out the lusty warblings of a large Irish contingent who returned to singing of the problems of social isolation in rural Athenry. [] "

In film

The song is sung in the movie "Veronica Guerin", by Brian O'Donnell, then aged 11, a street singer in Dublin. [] It is also sung a cappella by a female character at a wake in the controversial 1994 movie "Priest". It also appears in "Dead Poets Society" (an anachronism, as the film is set in 1959) and "16 Years of Alcohol". An "a cappella" version of the first verse and chorus can be found during a singing contest judged by "Janeane Garofalo" in the film "The Matchmaker".


See also

* List of Irish ballads
* Irish rebel music
* Other rugby anthems:
** Flower of Scotland
** Ireland's Call
** Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (sung by England fans)

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  • The Fields of Athenry — es una balada folk irlandesa escrita por Pete St. John en los años 1970, que narra las desventuras de un joven irlandés durante la Gran Hambruna de la patata del siglo XIX, durante la cual es deportado a Australia por robar comida para su familia …   Wikipedia Español

  • The Fields of Athenry — ist ein Lied über die Irische Hungersnot zwischen 1846 und 1849. Das Lied, das in den 1970er Jahren von dem Iren Pete St. John geschrieben und u. a. von dem irischen Sänger Paddy Reilly aufgenommen wurde, erzählt von einem Mann, der, um seine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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