The singing of God Save the Queen got me going. I was at the GPO in 1916 when Dublin was in ruins and in 1798 with a pike in my hand on Vinegar Hill.
like English people – well, most anyway, and Queen Elizabeth even has a few words of Irish. But from somewhere deep inside, singing at Twickenham brought out the nationalist in me. I wonder if the inherited traces of history will ever completely disappear.
There was hardly any talk of Ukraine or Covid in London. Little else was said at home. However, London is reminiscent of every war they have ever fought. There are statues of soldiers, triumphal arches, war museums and memorials to the fallen. Almost every street name evokes war and conquest.
The small country on the edge of Europe once ruled half the world. We were among their victims, but London and Britain stood up to Hitler when Europe was defeated. The hope for Ukraine is that the attacked countries can regain their independence. The bad news is that it could take hundreds of years.
My parents were in their late teens during World War II. My grandparents were in both world wars. I pray that the next three generations escape terror.
Uncle Eamon pedaled down Church Street with a bell he had borrowed from the boys’ school. He rode without hands. He rang the bell quickly and loudly, shouting, “The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!”
A man hid his donkey in Parson’s Wood and a neighbor didn’t leave the house until she ran out of tea and pipe tobacco. Ireland lived in fear of invasion.
Uncle Eamon’s son Fergal is in the Ukraine. As most of you know, Fergal covers the war for the BBC. He has experienced post-traumatic stress. We keep in touch through the family WhatsApp group.
You’re probably wondering why a war correspondent suffering from PTS keeps going to war.
The reason is that he cares. Fergal is scared but brave.
Victory over England gave Fergal and the nation some breathing space. It was Jonathan Sexton’s last game at Twickenham. I was with my godchild for the first time. Without Ukraine, Fergal would have been in the game. He lives in London and the Irish here get a huge boost every time we beat England. There was a young woman from Leeds (sounds like the first line of a dirty limerick) who told me she can’t wait to go to work on Monday morning. That’s good nationalism.
I told one of my English friends how it was God Save the Queen made the blood rise. He asked me why we have two anthems.
I’ve tried my best to explain. Ireland’s reputation was written by Phil Coulter on behalf of IRFU. It is sung at home and on the go. Amhrán na bhFiann is our anthem for home games only. Unfortunately, not many who follow rugby know the lyrics to our national anthem. Everyone knows Ireland’s reputation.
The Ulster branch of the IRFU has been compromised. Ulster Rugby Union agreed to attract attention Amhrán na bhFiann as was the anthem of the Republic of Ireland, but only in Dublin.
There were some Irish at the game who stayed seated Ireland’s reputation but stood for God Save the Queen. I would say we have to respect the Ulster tradition. Former great Moss Keane summed it up best when he said: ‘There is no limit in an Irish dressing room’.
Ireland’s reputation is a compromise, and what’s wrong with juggling both traditions? If we are ever to see a united Ireland there are many more concessions to be made to trade unionism.
The Fields of Athenry was sung by all of us. There was a small area reserved for the player’s guests and this is where the singing started.
The chariots ran out of diesel towards the end. Pete St. John was on his deathbed when his legendary song was played in Twickenham. He was a good friend of our pub and you never had to beg him to sing.
The glory and grandeur of abandoned imperialism still resonates here, but in general the English have a good time with the Irish.
We have a lot of good things in common – and that comes from the grandson of an IRA woman.
There was a list of cocktails at the excellent Coal Hole near the Savoy where the Guinness is almost as good as back home.
Then I felt guilty. Fergal was in a place that made cocktails of a different kind. Molotov cocktails were stockpiled to cheer on the Russians. The irony is that Molotov, the inventor of the home-made petrol bomb, was a Russian revolutionary.
London, despite all the glamor and glitz, is hard work. We walked thousands and thousands of steps and passed the same place several times.
Subways and trains were missed. Subways and trains don’t do U-turns. We played table tennis all over London. On the way to Luton Airport the taxi passed the old Irish strongholds of Kilburn and Cricklewood.
A tricolor flew in front of the Crown Hotel in Cricklewood, but the area is no longer an Irish enclave. Saw the spot where my dad used to wait on top of the buildings to be picked up in the 1950’s. I thanked him and Mam for their hard work in buying our little pub and vowed to carry on.
Ireland could well win the Six Nations today. I am torn. I’m crazy about the street but today I’m staying at home in Listowel for Hugo’s third birthday. He kicks with his left.
We now have three and a half grandchildren.
Ben, one year old, always in good shape, comes from Dublin with his mother Laura. She expects. Laura isn’t sure if the baby kicks left or right. Isabella, who can’t stop smiling and never bends her knees, is Hugo’s little sister.
I’ve had a feeling all week that Ireland will win the Six Nations today and Jonathan will bring the trophy home to Listowel. This could well be the grandchildren’s first Six Nations or Triple Crown if we beat the Scots later today.
England must then beat France if we want to win the league.
The irony of all ironies is that all of Ireland will be cheering for England.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/one-day-youre-brandishing-a-pike-on-vinegar-hill-the-next-youre-cheering-on-the-english-41463767.html One day you’re baiting a pike on Vinegar Hill, the next you’re cheering for the English