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The Story Behind the Songs

Ireland’s Political and Social History
Personal Songs of Life, Love, Loss

Songs of Drink and Adventure

#5 Dirty Old Town
This 20th century song written by Ewan McColl uses vivid poetic imagery to describe a town abandoned by industry, an ashcan portrayal of life unfulfilled and dreams wasted, replaced only by anger and despair. It could be in Ireland, or Scotland, or England.

#7 Grace
Grace is the story of Joseph Plunkett, poetic hero of the 1916 Easter uprising, executed in Kilmainham Jail, after marrying his love Grace Gifford, in the prison chapel. Plunkett was a sickly man of some wealth who chose the cause of Irish freedom over his life of privilege.

This is one of the most tragic, poignant songs sung in any language.

#9 Only Our Rivers
This poetic song, written by Mickey MacConnell in 1965, extolls the yearning for freedom and self-determination all Irish feel but have yet to fully achieve.

#11 Foggy Dew
One of Ireland’s most famous songs commemorating the Easter uprising in 1916, its imagery portrays the pride of that event in Irish history, which was the beginning of today’s nation of Ireland.

#12 Fields of Athenry
Ireland’s famine affected the lives of millions of families. Men had to choose between their families and “the Crown” to put food on the table, and when they were caught stealing food, the prison ship to Australia lay in wait in the bay, leaving family behind to their fate.