A Song for a Shared Island…

There are many conversations happening across the island about what a shared island might look like. Talking is vitally important but so, too, is singing. What might a shared island sound like? To be emotionally carried along by – and to sing along with – a beautiful song that appeals to the more noble, inclusive and generous parts of our common humanity is one of the greatest creative acts we can experience. Is there a song that encapsulates the desire of the vast majority of islanders to live in peace and hope together?

“Peace in Erin” (1831), by the Glenavy poet and schoolmaster Hugh McWilliams (c.1783-c.1840), captures our painful past and hopeful future, set to the melody of Robbie Burns’ “Now Westlin’ Winds and Slaughterin’ Guns”, sung here by Áine Uí Cheallaigh:

YouTube video

The original words are somewhat male-centric, so I have made some small changes (not in italics) which I hope do not detract from the noble sentiments and rhythm of the song. I could not come up with a replacement for ‘man’ in the fourth-last line that did not ruin the end-rhyme of that line.

Were humankind inclined like me, to live in peace and unity,
No more contention there would be, among the
folk of Erin.
Originally we were all sprung, from
Eve and Adam, old and young,
These words should fall from every tongue: we will cherish peace in Erin.

We’re formed by one Deity to worship then: let’s all agree,
And live in peace and harmony with every class in Erin.
On Sundays, if our paths should lie, to Clough, or to the Glens hard by,
Why should this weaken friendship’s tie, between the
folk of Erin?

What land can boast so pure an air, or men so fine, or maids so fair,
Or who was e’en renowned in war, above the
folk of Erin?
Their courage far abroad is known, on the field of Mars their victory shone;
But let us cultivate at home, the laws of peace in Erin.

If fortune fair and commerce shine, on this my own, my native isle,
Not Egypt with her flowing Nile, could equal thee, dear Erin;
Your lapping lakes and flowing streams, and verdant groves where music rings,
And health, with healing in her wings, would bless this land of Erin.

‘Tis principle that shows the man: this is the one, the only plan,
And one that I have built upon, when rambling through old Erin.
So let us, in this present day, cast prejudice and spleen away,
Far, far across the Atlantic Sea. And all join hands in Erin.

Photo by sweetlouise is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Donate to keep Slugger lit!

For over 20 years, Slugger has been an independent place for debate and new ideas. We have published over 40,000 posts and over one and a half million comments on the site. Each month we have over 70,000 readers. All this we have accomplished with only volunteers we have never had any paid staff.

Slugger does not receive any funding, and we respect our readers, so we will never run intrusive ads or sponsored posts. Instead, we are reader-supported. Help us keep Slugger independent by becoming a friend of Slugger.

While we run a tight ship and no one gets paid to write, we need money to help us cover our costs.

If you like what we do, we are asking you to consider giving a monthly donation of any amount, or you can give a one-off donation. Any amount is appreciated.