That "The Fields of Athenry" is now in my repertoire, I am obliged to thank Shannon Hilman, a Canadian singer/songwriter of Irish descent. She e-mailed me in July 1998, asking whether I knew the lyrics or could help her find them. The song was right under my nose in Soodlum's
100 Irish Ballads Volume 2
but somehow or other I overlooked and wasn't able to pass this nugget of information along. Shame on me!
This is a very beautiful, sensitive song and is a duet between a young man, imprisoned for stealing to maintain his family and sentenced to transportation, and his young separated wife. His wife calls to him from without the prison walls of the ship that's come to transport him, very moving stuff, a mean tear-jerker.
If you read these lines, Shannon, please get in touch. Your e-mail address is no longer valid.