The following is an open letter from Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones addressing recent attempts by the SNP and Scottish police forces to ban certain Irish songs.
I am appalled at the policy of the Celtic Football Club board in the manner in which you have attacked the song traditions of Ireland. Allow me to point out that Irish song and the story it carries is not one of bigotry or hate, but one of survival, of a fight for freedom against tyranny of a fight against racialism and against bigoted legislators and despotic governments. It’s a story of a people fleeing hunger and disease and of a people evicted from their homelands by ruthless landlords.
By banning or outlawing a song is morally wrong and really is just a cosmetic exercise to pacify bigots. It ignores the real problem, which lies at the heart of the society that feels a need of this oppressive action, sectarianism and racial discrimination are the main problem. Ask any Catholic who has sought a house or position of employment over the years and he will tell you about discrimination it is nothing to do with music or song which is just a reaction to the problem. Study the music of the world and you will understand its beginnings its reasons and inspiration. Did America ban the music of the civil rights movement, which drew its energy from the suppressed black community there. What spawned the musical protests in South Africa that gave a voice and hope to a down trodden
victims of apartoid. Get rid of sectarianism and injustice in the society and the song is just a song it’s a harmless story. WHAT ARE THE REASONS WE REQUIRE TO BAN A SONG, DOES IT JUST HAVE TO BE IRISH. WILL WE GO AS FAR AS BANING THE FLOWER OF SCOTLAND OR SONGS ABOUT BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE or the JACOBITES ARE THEY REBEL SONGS. I think not, try it and you will meet with opposition. Will we ban Braveheart from the cinemas because William Wallace fought against the English is it a rebel movie. I think you are treating your loyal supporters with less than respect and as immature brainless people who cannot make a decision for themselves, who don’t care about the society they live in, who cannot make a choice as to what song to sing. Ask yourself the question, what were the origins of the great club Glasgow Celtic and I believe you will find all the answers. Celtic have the best supporters in the world and their traditions history or ethnic background should not be insulted. Surely our supporters have the right of expression just as the national rugby supporters have the right to sing the flower of Scotland.
The policy you have now embarked upon is unjust and oppressive and if you study history it was counter productive in the past. There is a history of outlawing and banning songs and songsters against the Irish and the Scots , Yet there is more so called seditious music surviving from these traditions than from any other country in Europe. Many harpers and bards were beheaded, many minstrels were exiled or imprisoned for carrying the story of their people. STILL THEIR MUSIC LIVES ON TO THIS DAY. These were the policies of power hungry oppressive governments who needed to suppress opposing opinions in order to maintain power. Are these policies to persist into the 21st century are they not out dated. It is a shame upon a society that needs to suppress a song, the symptom of the problem while ignoring the cause. Why is it that the Irish song tradition is attacked as a problem, they are not sectarian or bigoted in words or expression but carry the story of the Irish peoples struggle against oppression, hunger and injustice. It’s the story of human misery and suffering of a fight against famine and disease and then a fight for freedom and human dignity. This story has as much right to be told as the story of Scotland or any other land. Are we to ban the songs of the great heroes of Scotland like Rob Roy or the great highland chieftains, no, It would not be just and I would oppose it.
When England ruled Ireland she attacked the freedom of the press on many occasions across the centuries, they closed down newspapers who spoke out against them. During the 1790’s they closed the Northern Star in Belfast run by Samual Neilson a united Irishman and Presbyterian who tried to rid Ireland of religious division. The same happened in Dublin when they closed down a paper called the press the organ of a movement that was trying to bring the people of Ireland together and give equal justice to all regardless of religion. They fostered Orangism and bigotry in order to keep the people divided. Pitt said that the Irish must not be allowed to unite because if they do we will lose Ireland. Sectarianism was encouraged and used to place a wedge between the people they feared the union of the PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC and used orangism to ruthlessly put down the United men who had tried to develop a country where all religions could live with equality and peace. You see it was never in Irelands interest to be sectarian. Then they banned the songs the singers when the music was the last means of expression left to the downtrodden people. They then banned the wearing of the colour green and tortured and persecuted the citizens until the united Irish movement was driven underground or to America.
Ireland and Scotland have so much in common and have had a intertwining history across the centuries. Scoti is the latin word for an Irishman and so derived the name of Scotland the land of the Irish. In the middle ages Ireland was known as Scotia major and Scotland as Scotia minor. Robert de Bruce and his brother Edward were very much aware of their Irish ancestry and fought with the Irish chieftains to win a united Irish kingdom. Colmcille from Donegal brought Christianity and learning to Alba now known as Scotland. The Irish brought a music language and a way of life with them, which we share as a common heritage to this very day. We are brothers and sisters of the same seed so why should there be bigotry or division. The only thing that can keep us apart is ignorance or fear or the policies of division that were pursued in the eighteenth century. The story should be heard and then it can be understood there is nothing to be feared in the story of Ireland or its song.
The Wolfe Tones have carried the story of Ireland to the world for 35 years and have been acclaimed and honoured in many countries. We have received the keys of Cities and were given many civic receptions, we have citations from assemblies and parliaments and are welcomed and sought after everywhere. We have played in almost every major concert hall in the world, from Carnegie hall N.Y. to the famous Paris Olympia, the Albert hall London to the Victoria hall Melbourne. Why is there a problem in Glasgow. Why are the Wolfe Tones and Irish song and music insulted and made a scape goat for what is a sectarian society. We love Glasgow and its people and only bear goodwill towards Celtic or our supporters.
My grand parents lived and worked in Glasgow. They returned to Ireland when my mother was four. Glasgow and Scotland are part of the folklore of the family. I have been a supporter of Celtic since I was a baby. I was often put to sleep or danced on my uncle’s knee to Hail Hail. I am proud of my connection with Glasgow I am proud to be a Celtic supporter but it hurts to be a victim of racist or discriminatory policies. I composed songs referring to the great club and supporters, like My Heart is in Ireland and Celtic Symphony. We have brought an awareness of Celtic to our audience across the world and of course in Ireland which has assisted in popularising the club to a point that it now rivals Man U. in the hearts and minds of the Irish.
I hope that you will redress the awful injustice and rethink your policy concerning Irish SONG by all means speak out against sectarianism but don’t include the WOLFE TONES as such. We have taken the name of a great Irish patriot a Protestant whose ideals sought to unite and rid the country of this evil. YOU can look through the words of a thousand Irish songs and find no referance of sectarianism in them. Thank you for giving me your time
With best regards