Born in Carrickfergus

 

I was born in Carrickfergus in the sweet County Antrim
And many’s the pleasant childhood hour I spent
Never dreaming that the future would drive me from my homeland
I was happy with each moment that God sent.
The broad oak trees in winter their branches bend and sway
The flowers in the meadow on a long bright summer’s day
Walking hand in hand with my sister by the strand
A boat trip from Fisherman’s quay
O the days we went out sailing on the sea.
I used to watch the older children laughing at the school across our street
I could scarcely wait to join in with their play
But I soon found out that my religion marked me down as different
And our poor school was two long miles away
All through my teenage years I learned to live in fear
They beat us and they threatened us, we do not want you here
And my childhood friends and their families
They were forced to leave the town
And I sometimes heard the gunshots that gunned my neighbours down
Yes I sometimes heard my neighbours gunned down.

A friend was blown up and killed standing at his own front door
I wept at so many funerals I scarce could weep no more
And my father’s shop it was boycotted though he treated everyone the same
And I hope that those who deserted him later felt the shame
May those who wrecked his business walk in shame.

Carrick was not like Belfast we had no sanctuary to call our own
We had nowhere like the Falls or the Ardoyne
On our streets we watched in horror the UVF parading
The Oppressor in his mask and uniform
Late one night a car pulled up and a gunman climbed out
He fired his gun at our window and we heard his obscene shouts
And the police when they arrived they were hearty hale and bluff
And I heard the voice of reason crying out enough
Yes I heard the voice of reason cry enough.

I was born in Carrickfergus in the sweet County Antrim
I’ve been gone ten years without too much regret
For the first time in my life I feel confident and trusting
But the lessons learned I never will forget
I support the Native People who live throughout this land
For very well I know the weight of the Oppressor’s hand
And I teach my children likewise as they flourish and they grow
And I’m happy living where the Brisbane River freely flows

By Andy Irvine

One evening in Brisbane I was talking to Adrian Jeffries, a very fine Uillean Piper and teacher of the Irish Language there. He was talking about his upbringing as a Catholic in mainly Protestant East Antrim. His story about the Troubles in the Seventies was so graphic that I asked him if he would write it down and send it to me. I wrote this, based on his own words, on Waihua beach in New Zealand. The hardship of his early life is of course mirrored in the lives of many another, on both sides of the community.

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