The other night we were in the plaza, my mum and some work colleagues, and we were remembering old songs from the past -predominantly folk ones - and suddenly our train of thought and discussion unlocked a very old door in my memory.
It is amazing when this happens and I love it. It is incredible. Somewhere in the recesses of your brain there is information locked away and you can't always access it but it is like some complex twisted maze and sometimes, just sometimes, the right combination of events and words lead you back down that dusty path. It is a special moment and it always surprises and thrills you like it is some rare discovery - which it is I guess.
I suddenly saw my mum, much younger in her 30's, watching this folk singer on the television, sat on our old battered greyish brown poof. I saw his big bushy beard and moustache which brushed the microphone repeatedly and his intense curly brown mop of locks that matched my mum's perm and I heard his strong shrill Irish accent. His eyes tightly shut with emotion and passion as he sung. I was about three or four...no older, and I remember her playing it over and over again. My mum was fanatical about it - perhaps that is why it stuck in my mind.
The words and melody came back piecemeal. I hummed out the tune rustily to my mum and my mouth struggled to form the words...I wasn't making much sense but she picked up on it. Well...what a powerful song to come back to me to get reacquainted with! I never knew its real meaning but I do now...
Here it is, The Fureys with The Green Fields of France...the closest video...perhaps even the video of the song that I remember.
I believe the singer was Finbar Furey...and the song was originally written by Eric Bogle and is a song about World War I and No Man's Land. He says in the video that he thinks it is the greatest anti-war song ever written and if people all over the world listened to it then there would be less trouble than we have at the moment. See what you think when you listen to the words...it is a noble, heartfelt wish.
There is a clearer version of it below though so you can hear it without the studio echo. I've also put the lyrics down below so you can read as he sings. Poignant, goosebump-raising stuff...World War I always stirs great emotion within me. The song was a long forgotten memory for me and one day this war will be too but for now I think it is very important to remember.
The Green Fields of France lyrics
Well, how do you do, young William McBride,
Do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
And rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they beat the drum slowly, did the play the fifes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed forever behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?
The sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard that's still No Man's Land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.
And I can't help but wonder, no Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "The Cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again....