ONE HUNDRED years ago Ireland became the Free State. But our national anthem — beyond the first few lines — still remains elusive to the majority of the population.
Whatever your opinion on the future of the anthem, it is here to stay for the foreseeable future so why don’t we know it a little bit better?
The obvious answer is that it is rendered in language that most in Ireland don’t speak as their mother tongue. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but English is the lingua franca of Ireland. And the national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann is sung in Irish, even though it was originally written as A Soldier’s Song in English.
2023 is a big sporting year for Ireland and yet will most of the crowd still fall silent after the third line? Or sing The Fields of Athenry instead?
The author of Our National Anthem, a book just launched, has aimed to make ‘accessible and inclusive for all families in a changing Ireland, as it teaches both children and adults the national anthem.
After the last few turbulent years, the book’s author Rachel J. Cooper feels that a big push for us to learn our anthem nationwide would be a great way to give us the cohesiveness we all need; especially as 2023 is the 100th anniversary of when the anthem was officially written by Liam Ó Rinn in Irish.
Ó Rinn, a civil servant, translated it from the original A Soldier’s Song written by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney.
The song may also have been written as a marching song for Fianna Éireann, founded as an alternative to Baden Powell's Imperialist Boy Scouts. Both Bulmer Hobson —who first published the text of A Soldier’s Song in Irish Freedom in 1912 — and Countess Markievicz were the guiding lights of the Fianna.
Along with the centenary, 2023 also offers huge upcoming sports events with Ireland taking part in both football and rugby world tournaments.
Rachel J. Cooper says about her book: “There is no better time for families to sit down together to learn our national anthem. The book has the phonetic version of Irish included, which allows non-Irish speakers to learn it easily. This allows children and parents from all backgrounds a fast-track to learn the anthem in a stress-free way.”
Our National Anthem explains the background of the Irish national anthem with interesting historical stories along with illustrations, a quiz and a workbook section to encourage children to learn their national anthem.
Inspired by an outing to a stadium - where she realised that she (and those around her) didn’t know the words past the second line of Amhrán na bhFiann, Rachel J. Cooper of Abair Linn Publishing was inspired by what a book could possibly do to help. She has started a nationwide initiative to learn the Irish national anthem. She told The Irish Post: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if all Irish children in the future knew their national anthem for life? Singing it with depth of feeling and pronouncing every word correctly?
“A few years back, I went to a sports match and during the singing of the national anthem I realised that I didn’t know the words past the second line. I also realised that people around me were mumbling uncomfortably or looking at their phones. I then embarked on some minor research; asking people in general if they could sing the words starting with family and friends? Very few could.”
€12.99 from Abairlinn.ie, Learnouranthem.ie