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Thread: 'The Fields of Anfield Road': What does this song mean to you?

  1. #1 Default  
    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    07/03/11:
    For a while I've been looking into the Irish connection to Liverpool for my next History and Football installment and the topic of the Fields of Anfield Road/Fields of Athenry cropped up in a thread in FD. Unfortunately it got locked due to the behaviour of some posters but I thought I'd make a thread out of the two posts I made in there.

    The timing couldn't be better. The entire crowd was in full voice singing that song at the match yesterday. I was listening to the game on the radio as I was driving at the time. It simply gave me goosebumps. Due to the Irish connection to Liverpool, there is no better club to adapt the original 'Fields of Athenry' as a club anthem.

    So what does 'The Fields of Anfield Road' or indeed (especially if you're Irish) its original version 'The Fields of Athenry' mean to you? Here's what I had to say:

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I love both songs.

    For those of you not familiar with the original:

    "By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling,
    Michael 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.


    Michael and Mary, two young lovers with a child who are torn apart by poverty and the famine. During the famine of the 1840's an effort was made by the British Government was made to import cheap Indian* maize from America in an effort to feed the millions of people who were literally starving to death due to the failure of their staple crop, the potato, to the blight. This corn was nicknamed 'Peel's Brimstone' by the Irish, named after Prime Minister Robert Peel due in part to it's bright yellow colour, due in part to the fact it was hard and difficult to digest (causing diarrhoea). He had tried to repeal Britain's Corn Laws (which protected wealthy British Farmers by imposing high tarrifs on imported grain, making foreign grain too expensive for the Irish farmers) in 1845 but had fierce oppostion by English gentry and politicians. He secretly ordered the import of the cheap Indian meal in 1846 without the knowledge of his conservative ministers to help feed the starving Irish. The Civil servant who was responsible for distributing the corn and overseeing relief operations was Charles Trevelyan (hence Trevelyan's corn). He was overly bureaucratic and non too fond of the Irish either. He claimed that the famine was "mechanism for reducing surplus population" and "The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. …The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people". (Incidently, it's quotes like this that lead some Irish to describe the Famine as the Irish Holocaust as they believe the British government deliberatly did nothing to help the Irish so that they would be eradicated as a population)
    Trevelyan only once visited Ireland, and that was to Dublin (where the impact of the famine wasn't as severe). He implemented 'public works' programmes to provide employment (at a pittance) to the Irish so that they could afford the 'one penny per pound' corn. Even this was not enough to sustain the hungry who were used to surviving on 14 pounds of potatoes a day. (A monotonous, yet healthy diet). Plus the corn needed to be ground twice before it was fit for consumption and Ireland had very few mills that could process this grain. There was also insubstansial supplies to feed the hungry and as supplies ran out.... more desperate people turned to crime in an effort to steal the corn 'so the young might see the morn'
    As a result, Michael in the song... and many others like him were bound for the prision ship and the penal colonies of Australia.

    *Indian, meaning native American.

    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.


    In this verse Michael, hearing Mary's cries replies to her. It also gives another side to the story of the famine. That of the rebel fenians (or Young Irelanders)
    In 1848, rebellions and social uprisings were happening throughout Europe, and Ireland was no different. A group calling themselves the Irish Confederate called for an Irish Parliament (having been abolished in 1801) that would have full legislative powers in Ireland. They did not advocate full rebellion but neither did they say they would use exclusively peaceful means. Their goal was independence of the Irish nation and they held to any means to achieve that which were consistent with honour, morality and reason. They became known as the 'Young Irelanders'. Led by William Smith O'Brien and Thomas Meagher (names largely forgotten in Irish republican history) they believed they could achieve a bloodless rebellion through the united efforts of Irish landlords and tenants. (Irish landlords also 'suffered' as a result of the famine as many tenants were unable to pay rents so very often they paid for their passage to England or America). The British government however declared a suspension of 'Habeas Corpus' meaning they could arrest and imprision the Young Irelanders without trial. Smith O'Brien and others decided to resist and fight. The main revolt took place in the village of Ballingarry in Co. Tipperary. A stand-off occured in a farmhouse where the police then fired unprovoked at the rebels. This led to an exchange of shots and subsequently the rebel leaders were arrested. They were initially charged and found guilty of treason and sentenced to death but this was commuted and the were to be transported to the penal colonies in Australia and Tasmania.
    Given that Michael says that 'against the famine and the crown I rebelled' and that the 'prision ship' is waiting to transport him to the colony, another interpretation is that he was perhaps involved with the fenians and young Irelanders, even though Athenry is in Galway and not Tipperary. For Mary; She's left holding the baby.

    By a lonely harbour wall She watched the last star falling
    And that prison ship sailed out against the sky
    Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
    For her love in Botany Bay,
    It's so lonely round the fields of Athenry.


    I feel this is the saddest verse. She is watching her love go to a far off land. It's likely she'll never see him again. Yet the middle line still has a note of optimism, of hope. That she may one day be reunited with him. It almost embodies the Irish spirit. That no matter how bad things are, there is always hope for the future and there are always the happy memories of the past. This is echoed I feel, in the 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.


    For a fleeting moment it harks back to a simpler more innocent time, when they were were in love and had dreams for the future. Ultimately it's a sad song, but it has a strong sense of resiliance and of hope. To never give up no matter how bad things get. It's this message too that really serves as a connection to the adapted version that we all like to sing in Anfield.
    (and really relates to the club)

    That to follow....
    Last edited by tweepie; 8-3-11 at 18:51. Reason: To change a few bits and add an intro
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  2. #2  
    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    So, what of The Fields of Anfield Road?

    I was watching documentary a couple of months ago on RTE (Irish television channel for those who don't know) that was about 'The Fields of Athenry' and it's popularity in various sporting events in Ireland.

    They did a section about The Anfield Road Version in that programme.

    Many believe that it dates back to the mid 1990s to when the Republic of Ireland football team played The Netherlands in a once off qualifier in Anfield for the 1996 European Championships. (I remember that game)

    As you can imagine, the Irish contingent to the stadium would have been fairly substansial, many of whom were probably also Liverpool fans. A number of Locals (and Liverpool fans) also attended that game. The Irish connection to Liverpool was always strong (dating back to the famine, incidentally, when many Irish immigrants landed first in Liverpool and unable to go any further chose to settle there.) A number of scousers attending that game as spectators did so to cheer on the Irish as they had Irish lineage (through a parent or grandparent). The Fields of Athenry was sung often (and loudly) by the Irish supporters during that game. A great tune, is it any wonder it was adapted by the kopites?.

    The documentary also mentioned the Fields of Anfield Road being released to raise funds for Hillsborough on the 20th anniversary. As they had to get the permission of the composer of the original, Pete St. John, to release the record, he was interviewed and mentioned how he felt humbled that they wanted to use his tune for a charity record with such an important cause.

    The adaptation of the Fields of Anfield Road, I feel, also alludes to the dark days of our club's history (the Hillsborough verse) just as the original is about a dark episode in Ireland's history (the famine).
    But it also refers to our club's great past. Those who are no longer with us (Shanks and Paisley) but whose legacy lives on.
    The original, is also about the legacy of those who are no longer with us. (Those who died in the famine, but also the descendants of the million or so who left Ireland who now live around the world).
    Finally the original song is about hope in the face of adversity. And what is our club's anthem YNWA about if it is not hope in the face of adversity?
    (When you walk through a storm.... walk on with hope in your heart).

    In my opinion, given the strong connection between the City of Liverpool and Ireland. (Mc Kenna, the first manager was Irish, we've had countless Irish players over the years) there is no better club to adapt the song and make it it's own. It even plays homage to a great Irish Player in it: 'Heighway on the wing'.
    I for one, as an Irishwoman, and as a Liverpool supporter love hearing both versions.

    Last edited by tweepie; 7-3-11 at 22:54.
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    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    Since the posts were done a few days ago and just copied here, they are halfway down the forum... So a little bump for attention.






    (I should be banned for spamming really)
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    I love the song myself, i also love guitar version by helen marshall,in the video of anfield, it made me cry with pride, i had a message off the lovely helen herself, thanking me for my comments of her version of the song ,it made my day, ynwa jft96,.
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    Tweepie that was a genuinely fantastic read. I was getting goosebumps as I read and I actually felt sadness come over me as I read the verses. It's one thing to sing the song but when you actually look at the words, written down in front of you, it truly reminds you of what a beautiful song it is and makes you feel proud and passionate to be Irish.

    I remember being in Tasmania years ago and visiting Port Arthur, one of the biggest jails that the Irish were sent to. You could read lists of names on the walls- all so familiarly Irish to me. I'm delighted that the song is sung round Anfield, and I wholeheartedly agree about the strong connection between Ireland and Liverpool.

    Thanks for the bump, and great research. Really enjoyed that. Repped (tomorrow- seems like I went on a bit of a rep bender today)
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    The Irish connection is still there: Carragher, Kelly, and hopefully Coady and Flanaghan.
    The Scouse influence hopefully will gain further momentum in the years to come.
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    Intresting , thanks for posting.
    Last edited by KingKev75; 8-3-11 at 08:59. Reason: Greened for luck :o)
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    Really enjoyed that, being from the north of Ireland and a liverpool fan i'm familer with both version which i love. When being on the KOP at the last derby match the feeling of excitment and pride when you hear the KOP break into song with the fields of anfield road just makes the hairs no the back of your neck stand up.FANTASTIC.
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    Outstanding

    Please post this on the Kop as well, would like to feature it there!
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    tweepie i have always loved both versions of the song. Well done in explaining the history behind the original and the connection to the adaptation we sing at Anfield as some folks may not be familiar with what the original song is about.

    I was lucky enough to be at Anfield this year for Kennys return as manager against the bitters, when the Kop broke into the song it gave me goose bumps. When we got to the bit that mentions King Kenny i looked across the pitch to where Kenny was standing and for some strange reason my vision went all blurred.

    In my opinion the Fields of Anfield Road or more correctly the verse that is sung at Anfield is just as important and as evocative as YNWA. The KOP and Annie Road where certainly belting out the first verse with great gusto last Sunday.
    Last edited by Dave00; 8-3-11 at 14:20.
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    Quote Originally Posted by taffykopite53 View Post
    I love the song myself, i also love guitar version by helen marshall
    You and me both, it's a fantastic arrangement of the song. Helen's really talented and if you've not already you should check out her other recordings on Youtube
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    ceredred is offline Welsh dolphin-whisperer
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt-CM View Post
    You and me both, it's a fantastic arrangement of the song. Helen's really talented and if you've not already you should check out her other recordings on Youtube
    Thanks for the link Matt, I've subscribed to her youtube page.
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    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt-CM View Post
    Outstanding

    Please post this on the Kop as well, would like to feature it there!
    Done.

    http://thekop.liverpoolfc.tv/_39The-...36/173471.html


    Thanks for the responses everyone.
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    Just want to say I'm glad I can say I had somewhat of a part to play in bringing this idea to light... shame people took the wrong view of what i was saying... hope this thread doesn't go the same way!
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    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanCarter View Post
    Just want to say I'm glad I can say I had somewhat of a part to play in bringing this idea to light... shame people took the wrong view of what i was saying... hope this thread doesn't go the same way!
    You started the ball rolling with the thread Dan, I just moved it to here!.

    Don't worry, the threads in this forum tend to move a bit slower. It's about quality of discussion, not quantity. Anybody starts trying to create mayhem in here.... they will experience my wrath. And they don't want to mess with me!!
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    tweepie is offline LFC Forums Moderator
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    Fergal Keane's 'Story of Ireland' is on BBC1 at the moment.
    He is covering the story of the Famine in this episode.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweepie View Post
    Fergal Keane's 'Story of Ireland' is on BBC1 at the moment.
    He is covering the story of the Famine in this episode.
    Someone tell John Bishop. He is under impression we ran out of tea bags.
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    Thanks for this post tweepie it brought back great memories from the 80's of visiting Flannagans in Mathew St every sunday to watch "Cream Of The Barley" they regularly sang "The Fields Of Athenry" and the atmosphere was always electric. We always got there early and queued outside so we could get the best seats by the stage, there would be at least 6 of us and the guiness and sing-songs would go on all night. I was a friend of PJ Mcarthy at the time (only because we were there every week) and after Flanagans closed we would go to a club with them for more beer and singing (can't remember the clubs name) I play the Bodhran and would sometimes accompany PJ in a Bodhran duet, a bit like dueling Bodhrans really...great times and a great song

    YNWA
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweepie View Post
    Fergal Keane's 'Story of Ireland' is on BBC1 at the moment.
    He is covering the story of the Famine in this episode.
    Tweepie, have you listened to any of the BBC radios 'History of Ireland'?. It's every day, 15 or so mins, radio 7 3pm bbciplayer.

    Did you know for instance, that the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, was started by a Liverpudlian. Once the biggest shipyard in the world. Google their site for history of connectins with Liverpool and Ireland.

    Some members of my extended Irish family, moved to Liverpool to work in the then busy docks, which payed better than H/W. The 'uncles and cousins' came to stay for a few days, where we were living in London, just a short distance from Wembely. They took me to my first Liverpool game, 1965 FA cup final, told me I must support Liverpool. Well as an eight year old you don't argue with big Irish/Scouse dockers. Liverpool from that day on.

    Many Irish went via Liverpool to the USA, but some lost there money for the passage by gambling, so ended up staying in Liverpool.

    There is also a football team in Uruguay called Liverpool, because of the ships that used to transport coal which were mostly from Liverpool.

    I can't watch the tv prog here, but the radio prog is very interesting, worth a listen.

    Great thread by the way.
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    Just noticed this as I sit in a Liverpool Hotel in the wee hours of the morn, just a couple of days after witnessing my first live match at Anfield.

    More pertanently, this past evening I heard the original "Irish" version in a pub from a local band. When they started playing it, I said to the Mrs. "Oh, they're doing the "Fields of Anfield Road!" Imagine my shock when the lyrics they were singing were not the same as the ones I started yelling out! :FP:

    Thanks for the insight into this everyone, as I was a little confused at the time. However, I did put 1 and 1 together.

    Having said all that, are'nt all Football songs created from some tune or another anyways. Apart from the immortal YNWA!?
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    BTW - "The Fields Of Anfield Road" now means a hell of a lot more to me than it ever did before! (And thats in a good way! )

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    I have often heard the tune of the entertainer from the movie the sting sung at games.
    And of course Pet Shop Boys song "Go west" has been used quite a lot with the words changed.
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    Excellent, what a great read that was
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweepie View Post
    Fergal Keane's 'Story of Ireland' is on BBC1 at the moment.
    He is covering the story of the Famine in this episode.
    Im pretty sure he attributed
    I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race
    To Yeats instead of Joyce. But one of Famine was decent enough.
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    Quality post Tweepie, i love both songs. As an Irish man i love the fact the mighty Reds sing this.

    Two quality songs, very emotional stuff.
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    The song for me means a lot as it's got the passion of our club in it, and after YNWA, this song is my favourite one connected to LFC.

    Especially the part where they mention Shankly, as he is the daddy of the club and forever will be.
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    I feel since I started this whole idea I might as well give my two cents:

    It will be difficult for anyone to find a song that is twice the age of me, that means so much to so many people

    Fields of Athenry is this song, a song sung with such passion by the Irish that my English roommate actually thought it was our national anthem. But maybe in some ways it is; our unofficial anthem.


    It is at the sole of what it means to be Irish, coming together in the face of adversity, putting a brave face on and saying we know we are at a disadvantage but we will beat whatever is in our path.

    I was at the Aviva when Ireland beat England in rugby recently, hearing Fields of Athenry flow around the stadium, it felt as if I was part of a clan, every supporter was a friend or family member I was yet to meet. People who years from know I feel I could meet and say to them "I was there", we could rejoyce in this monumental achievement. Athenry is a battlecall, a swan song, a ballad and a anthem. Sung equally in victory and in defeat, it is cherised by myself and most Irishmen.

    This song is however a sad song, it brings a tear to my eye more often than not. This is a man who is being sent to Australia because he stole some corn for his wife and baby during the Famine.

    I feel people should be educated on the origins of the song, when I first posted this topic in FD, some people admitted to thinking Anfield Road was the original.

    I must admit, initially I felt uncomfortable with Anfield Road. It was taking a song I loved, and being misused, my childhood sweetheart being lead astray. I now I see that all the reasons it rings so true to us here in Ireland, are also evident in Liverpool.

    We both have continually had to rise up and overcome adversity, and will have to again

    But with the words of Pete St John in my heart, adversity is something which I will never face alone.

    I truely will never walk alone
    Last edited by DanCarter; 12-5-11 at 13:53.
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    Fantastic post. I really enjoyed reading this
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    By a lonely prison wall
    I heard a young girl calling
    Michael 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.

    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.

    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 harbor wall
    She watched the last star falling
    As that prison ship sailed out against the sky
    Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
    For her love in Botany Bay
    It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

    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.


    This is the where the song comes from, Athenry is a small town just outside galway in the west of ireland.
    Liverpool and Ireland have a massive connection because of the the great irish Famine, were hundreds of irish people moved to england to find work in England and a home.

    And always for people that didnt know this is somewhat a irish rebellion song "against the famine and th crown". im irish and when i first heard it being sung in anfield to be honest i hated it, but its grown on me.
    Last edited by Rushie10; 11-7-11 at 16:19. Reason: more info
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