Friday 8 April 2011

1: The Orange and the Green

This song was written by Tony Murphy of Liverpool c.1960. It was performed around the local folk clubs and was subsequently picked up and recorded many times. It's to the tune of the Irish ballads "The Wearing of the Green" and "The Rising of the Moon".

Liverpool, owing largely to its history of Irish immigration, has the highest proportion of Catholics of any city in England; the same history of immigration has meant that it is also the English city where the Orange Order is at its strongest. The Orange Lodge march up my street every year, and, in spite of being raised Catholic, I remember standing on the doorstep and watching the fifes and drums and the pipe band go by every July. Although I never grew up with a sense that Liverpool was a city of sectarian violence, thank God, I soon learned that you didn't have to go too far back to uncover the tensions in this city. See Frank Neal's book Sectarian Violence - The Liverpool Experience for a historic perspective, and that kind of trouble is still there in people's living memory. When I was singing this song earlier in the year, an older Catholic recounted tales of an Orange mob throwing rocks at Archbishop Heenan in 1958, and the calls for retribution that followed.

And yet, in spite of these tensions, people did intermarry. This song expresses some of the frustrations encountered by those born of such mixed marriages. No doubt the intrusion of sectarianism into people's domestic bliss could cause a great deal of pain - but this song shows an ability to laugh at the daftness of it all.

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