The Fields of Athenry

27 Mar

the_fields_of_athenryLike all countries, Ireland has a national anthem that is continuously sung to represent Irish pride. The National Anthem: Amhran na bhFiann, or The Soldier’s Song in English, was written by Peadar Kearney in 1907. The anthem first appeared published in the Irish Freedom newspaper five years later but did not receive its deserved fame until it was sung at the Easter Rising of 1916. This song is still constantly sung today, however it appears Ireland is adopting a second National Anthem as well.

Although I have been living in Ireland for almost three months, I still consider myself a tourist. I do a majority of the things that normal tourists do; I visit the bars filled with tourists, I visit all the attractions recommended for tourists, and most importantly, I shop like a tourist. I cannot count on two hands how many times I have visited the Irish gift shop, Carroll’s. While in a Carroll’s store, any customer has the pleasure of listening to their Irish music Cd that is played on repeat. One of the songs that I heard on one of my numerous visits to this store continuously stuck in my head. I could not make out the actual words sung by the Irish man, but I constantly caught myself humming the catchy tune.

Last week, I have the pleasure of traveling to the western coast of Ireland with our class. On one of our bus excursions, lyrics were distributed and the bus erupted with the song known as The Fields of Athenry. As soon as I heard the chorus of this song, I knew this was the tune that I had been humming in my head for months. The Fields of Athenry is a song remembering the time of the devastating potato famine in Ireland. During this time, an overabundance of Irish men were taken from Ireland and sent to Australia on prison ships. It appears that this song about imprisonment, famine, and separation is catchy not only to me, but also a plethora of Irish citizens.


When Pete St. John wrote the song in the 1970s, he thought he was simply writing another Irish Ballad (Coughlan, 2012). Years later, this song has become much more than another ballad. Tuesday night, March 26th, I had the pleasure of attending the Ireland verse Austria FIFA World Cup Qualifying game at Aviva Stadium. When there was only five minutes left of play during the normal time of the game, all the Irish fans in the stadium burst in song to The Fields of Athenry. At first, I thought it was ironic that the fans chose a song that I was lucky enough to know the lyrics to so I could sing along. But than, once the game ended and the crowd erupted in the same song again, I realized it was not just irony; this song has become a new national anthem in Ireland.

The Fields of Athenry has become the unofficial anthem for Irish sports fans at major events (IMD, 2013). Since this song is about the most difficult time in Ireland’s history, it evokes strong pride in the Irish today. In the words of the song write, Pete St. John, “I’m delighted I have a song — we have a song — that can be sung with pride” (Coughlan, 2012). The Fields of Athenry has been adopted by the Irish society as the new, unofficial national anthem of Ireland. I have never felt more Irish than I did Tuesday night singing this song at the top of my lungs with the Irish football fans surrounding me.


Coughlan, Aiden. (2012). How the Fields of Athenry became our new national anthem. The Irish Independent.

Irish Music Daily (IMD). (2013). Fields of Athenry – love set against the Great Famine.


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