Eoghan Harris: Why the rural spalpeens left and took the Queen's shilling
Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00
"I wish the Queen of England, Would write to me in time,And place me in some regimentAll in my youth and prime..."
The Rocks of Bawn rang in my mind while I watched Sean O Mordha's The Home Place about the Irish family farm. The ballad's class politics are clear. The spalpeen who sings it would rather fight for the Queen of England than work for Sweeney the strong farmer.
The land of Ireland has always loomed large in my mind. My mother came from the small farmer class of Co Roscommon. In the Fifties I carried water in a bucket from a well, was driven to mass in a horse and trap, saw my grand-mother chop the head from a hen for the Sunday dinner.