Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Potato Music

Potatoes are nutritious, adaptable to many sorts of cuisine, and among other things.can grow in poor soil, one of the reasons they became a sustaining crop in Ireland and in the highlands of Scotland hundreds of years ago. Both of these places suffered agrarian failures in the mid nineteenth century, which among other things led to dispersion of Irish and Scottish people to Canada, the United States , Australia, and many other countries, where bits and pieces of Irish and Scots culture. sometimes intermingled with local traditions, live on today.

I think I’ve known this song all my life. In Ireland, it’s sung as over here, in other parts of the world, as over there. There are many variations of the words.

Oh the Praties they grow small over here, over here
Oh the Praties they grow small over here
Oh the Praties they grow small,
And they're failing since the fall
So we eat them coats and all, over here, over here

Oh, I wish that we were geese night and morn, night and morn
Oh, I wish that we were geese night and morn,
Oh, I wish that we were geese
Who can die and take their peace
Who can fly, and take their ease eating corn, eating corn.

But the God in whom we trust, over here, over here,
But the God in whom we trust, over here,
But the God in whom we trust,
He will give us crumb and crust
and he'll raise us from the dust, over here, over here.

Having nothing to do with potato famine, American folksinger Cheryl Wheeler has a funny song about the personalities of potatoes, called reasonably enough, Potato. It’s on her album Sylvia Hotel.

Then there’s the modern folk classic, The Fields of Athenry, written by Pete St. John in the mid 1970s and recorded by Danny Doyle, Finbar Furey, The Dropkick Murphys, and many others. Doesn’t speak of potatoes but is the tale of a man sentenced to transportation to Australia for stealing corn to feed his family during The Great Hunger.

You can listen to it here : Fields of Athenry

and here is a bit of the lyric

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling
"Michael, they have taken you away
For you stole Trevelyan's corn
So the young might see the morn'
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay"

Low lie the fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry

I am in Ireland tonight, looking out as the fog rolls down mountain to the water, thinking that wherever you stand on the political controversy about the history of the famine, or whatever you think about the music, there’s a lot more to the potato than food.

Thousands Are Sailing is a collection of emigration songs which range from the over the top (Wolfetones) to the compelling (Cathie Ryan, Dolores Keane).

Potato2008 is the place for more information about the International Year of the Potato

One of the better versions of The Fields of Athenry is on Finbar Furey’s recording Chasing Moonlight

Cathie Ryan The Music of What Happens during the great hunger, more than half the population of Rathlin Island, off the coast of Antrim, sailed away. Cathie Ryan has a song about that, called Rathlin island (1847), on this recording.

you may also want to see
Voices: Cherish the Ladies

this is part of a carnival of posts from featured bloggers at Lonely Planet about Food Around the World, hosted by Kat at Tie Dye Travels.

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Jennifer @ OrangePolkaDot said...

I never imagined there would be so much music dedicated to the humble potato!

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Wandering Educators said...

LOVE this. who knew?

11:08 AM  

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