“Your famine’s over; why don’t you just go home?”
Like any human being, I have many faults and failings. Unlike many human beings, I am aware of most of them. Chief amongst them, and one of the few that I care to pay any attention to in regards to others, is that I know where I am not welcomed. I generally flee these situations, not so much out of politeness, but as a matter of survival.
The above quote, of course, is in reference to “The Famine Song”, quite well known to followers of both the Celtic and Rangers football clubs. If you’re unaware of it’s history, I invite you to explore it. Deeply. A good place to start might be the trial of the Young Conway Volunteers, an Orange Lodge associated pipe and drum band, whom on July 12th, 2012, paraded and played this very racist song right on the doorsteps of St. Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street, in Belfast.
More on that in a bit.
So, about being unwelcomed and “just going home”…
I was living in a small town in Donegal Co., with my girlfriend. We had no television, and the nearest one available was located in this town’s one and only pub. This was not exactly a time and place where women were welcomed in pubs, especially during football matches. But I was on friendly terms with the owner (largely due to my alcohol consumption feeding his family), and there was also another matter.
My girlfriend wanted to watch a Celtic/Rangers match and have a pint.
As I’ve previously stated, she was a red-headed Scot.
Redhead+Scot+Woman+anything means you don’t say “no”.
And so off we went. She was the only woman in the pub. No one seemed angry about it, just a little uncomfortable. The discomfort largely disappeared as the match went on, possibly due to many pints being consumed. The gentleman sitting next to us was particularly chivalrous. He, along with everyone else in the pub, was following Celtic, and every time anything went for or against his club, he would say “Jesus fucking Christ!”
And then he would immediately turn to my girlfriend and say “Excuse me Miss!”
And on it went, The whole match. I’m not really a football fan, and while I was pretending to be manly, I was actually reading the Donegal Democrat and trying not to laugh. But my girlfriend was laughing. Loudly. No one minded. I think they found her quite charming.
During the match, you could hear the Rangers followers on the television chanting “The Famine Song.” This was before it was “banned”, and no one paid any attention; everyone was used to it.
And then the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.
I heard the sound of many footsteps tromping through the backdoor of the pub, headed in our direction, and alarm bells started ringing in my head. I knew that we where in a relatively safe place and couldn’t imagine how we could be in any trouble of any sort; no one was acting up, and nothing illegal was going on.
My imagination proved correct; my friend and I were in no sort of trouble.
However, Mr. “Jesus Fucking Christ/Excuse me Miss!” was in for it.
His wife entered the pub, followed by, if I remember correctly, nine children. It got really quiet, really quick.
She walked up to him, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Have you no home to go to?”
He hung his head and said, “No.”
But home he went.
And so we went home as well and had a good laugh at this poor man’s expense.
“The Famine Song”, however, is no laughing matter. I realise that on the face of things, it’s become mainly a taunt at the Irish community in Glasgow. It’s idiotic, however, in many ways; it both invokes and provokes sectarianism, and the lyrics fail to recognise the fact that the famine was both celebrated and exacerbated by the British government which Orangemen and loyalists of all stripes seem to love so much, despite the fact that the whole of Ireland (not just Catholics or nationalists) were equally afflicted.
They don’t care about you. Never have. Never will.
Back to the boys of the Young Conway Volunteers, three years after being initially indicted, all but those tried as juveniles received a fine of 300 pounds. Three of the defendants were given five-month prison sentences (suspended, of course; maybe they do care), and ten, according to the judge presiding, “bound to keep the peace for the next two years, with a prohibition on engaging in an aggressive, provocative, or disorderly behaviour.”
Bound to keep the peace for a whole two years. I thought I was bound to do that for my entire life.
“Your Famine’s over; why don’t you just go home?”
Have you no home to go to?