We sing it at the beginning of every football match but many of us don’t know the words of the song, let alone its history and inception as our National Anthem. This half hour documentary celebrates the centenary of the composition of our national anthem, first written in English at the start of the twentieth century and originally named The Soldier’s Song.
Do anthems, or even nation states, have a future in the face of globalisation? Are other tribal anthems, such as “You’ll never walk alone” for Liverpool – or “One” for U2 – more immediate, more relevant, more defining? When the anthem talks about resisting those who came to enslave us from across the sea, does that apply to McDonalds? Microsoft? American movies?
“No more our ancient sireland
shall shelter the despot or the slave”
admirable sentiments – but is is true? Who are now the despots? Who are now the slaves?
Most national anthems arise from the turmoil of a nation’s birth, and reflect the pain of that birth. As Ireland moves into a freewheeling adolescence from a repressed childhood do we want to forget the pain of that birth? Or would we prefer to remember?