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Soldiers are we - God save our anthem!


IT WAS suggested during the Presidential Election campaign that we should consider changing our National Anthem. Changing the lyrics, and possibly the music.

It showed two things, I think. Firstly, the absolute banality of some of the levels of debate in the campaign, and secondly the passion we still possess for our Amhran na bhfiann.

Sean Gallagher was open to changing it, feeling it to be too militaristic in modern times -

"We're children of a fighting race, that has never known disgrace, And as we march, the foe to face, We'll chant a soldier's song." That, by the way, is the bastardised version of our anthem. It should never be printed 'as Bearla', let along sung that way. Cockney-accented Irish soccer players with Grannies from Munster take note.

It is militaristic. What National Anthem isn't? The British, American, French and German tunes involve a similar call to arms.

Indeed one wag texted the radio station last week to suggest that Gallagher should change the first line of our Anthem from 'Sinne Fianna Fail' to 'Sinne Fianna Fail, from which I resigned as a member last January'.

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What does Gallagher suggest? A rousing chorus of The Sawdoctors' N17 before State occasions, to mark the daily departure of our young educated masses to foreign shores ? "The Boys Are Back in Town" for his (former) Fianna Fail colleagues? Or "My Lovely Horse" as composed by Frs Ted and Dougal. Changing it? I don't think so. We've been down this road before.we've already partly adopted that ghastly tune, Ireland's Call, as our Anthem appendix. What country in the world, but ours, has two National Anthems?

The Phil Coulter compromise introduced, apparently, to appease our Rugby players of a Unionist background. I wonder if many of them care less about what words they sing, however badly, before a game.

Ireland's Call should be condemned, as it regularly is, to teenage drunken nights out in Tenerife.

I'm tempted to put forward the argument that the National Anthem of any country is only a song, but that's probably akin to suggesting that nobody should be offended by the burning of any national flag, as it's only a piece of cloth.

What is it about Anthems that make grown men cry, crowds sing out of tune at the top of their voices, roomfuls of people stand to attention at a moment's notice, no matter how infirm or incapacitated they may be ?

The history of our National Anthem is most interesting, but hardly relevant in this day and age.

Written by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney in 1907, it was only officially confirmed as our Anthem in 1926. At one stage, before Independence, God Save Ireland was our unofficial anthem, and there was me thinking that Luke Kelly had written that song himself.

At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, the Irish team's entrance was accompanied by the anthem of "Let Erin Remember". It seems the anti-british lyrics were a bit dodgy, but the melody served the purpose.

While at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, Amhran na bhfiann was played at the wrong tempo, each time Michelle Smith was presented with her gold swimming medals. Perhaps the orchestra knew more about her secret than we did. Out of step, and all that.

Incidentally, have you noticed how the practice of ending a night out in the pub or disco with a call to order for the playing of the national anthem is a dying tradition? It was a common procedure up to just a few years ago, but seems to have disappeared. At one time, the anthem was played in cinemas and theatres after performances, but this practice was ended in 1972.

If I'd my way, I'd only allow our anthem be sung in Irish, and taught as such in schools. But then again, I'm one of those who obsesses with the liberties being taken with the English language, as spoken by us Irish. Save and preserve me from phrases like 'no brainer', ' long story short', and the constant beginning of every sentence with the word ' like', and the ending of every sentence with 'yea ?'

The copyright on Amhran nabhfiann runs out next year, so heaven knows what sort of abuse will be inflicted on it. Rap versions in the charts, or hip hop versions in television commercials.

But I say keep it as our National Anthem. It may be lyrically outdated, it may be antagonistic in sentiment, it may be confused with a endorsement of the FF party, but no piece of music in the world has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck like it

Think of the roar of the crowd at Croke Park with one line of the song still to sing, think of the wobbly chins and glassy eyes of John Hayes and Jerry Flannery as we prepare to take on the English.

Seo libh canaig amhran na bhfian. God Save Our Anthem.