Before The Hunger is a song about the Great Hunger / Famine in Ireland, written by Des Wade.

Views: 450

Comment by Des Wade on July 20, 2015 at 8:30pm

As we know, there was no famine in Ireland in the late 19th century. The country was a nett exporter of food during this time and the word ‘famine’ was a convenient label to apply to a much more insidious and brutal level of deprivation which led to mass starvation and emigration. An Gorta Mór – The Great Hunger - is the preferred description for many Irish people of this genocidal phenomenon.

Comment by Gerry Regan on July 22, 2015 at 11:08am

Des, my eyes are brimming with tears! What a penetrating and soulful voice you display! And what a powerful and poignant narrative of the tragedy of the Famine, and yet, one that hints at the strength of the Irish in the face of such catastrophe! Bravo! Can you post the lyrics, to better share them and tease a reader into becoming a listener (and raving fan) of your work?

Comment by Joe Gannon on July 22, 2015 at 12:30pm

Wonderful song, Des. This song puts me in mind of my grandparents. As I grew up I was more and more impressed with what kind and gentle people my grandparents were. They were only 2 or 3 generations removed from those who had suffered in the Great Hunger and come here to the states. It was not until later in life, when I began to seriously study Irish history, which is only very superficially covered in US schools, that I fully realized what those earlier generations had gone though before arriving. When I first traveled to Ireland I quickly understood the origin of my grandparents kind and gentle nature. It was there on display all around us on the streets and in the pubs, in nearly all the people we met with very few exceptions. Though I only knew one of my great-grandparents very briefly at the very end of her life, it was clear to me that this way of living had been passed down to my grandparents from those who had come here from Ireland. So the first time I read Padraig Pearse's poem, "The Rebel" and saw these lines, "I am come of the seed of the people, the people that sorrow;
Who have no treasure but hope, No riches laid up but a memory of an ancient glory" and later when he says, "I am flesh of the flesh of these lowly" the Hunger then wasn't just about some anonymous people in a long ago time, in my mind it was the same as if it had happened to those grand parents I loved so much. That such horrors were visited up such a people is hard to fathom. Your song put me in mind of them and those other ancestors I never knew again in the same way. Still, some how, those who managed to survive did not give up even in the face of that unspeakable calamity, either there or here or in the other countries to which they were scattered. And because of that, it's a legacy of courage, not despair.

Comment by Jean Sullivan Cardinal on July 22, 2015 at 4:53pm

This is just beautiful!

Comment by David Healy on July 22, 2015 at 5:09pm

I have recently read both Tim Pat Coogan's "The Famine Plot" and John Kelly's "The Graves are Walking". Tim Pat Coogan posits that "An Gorta Mor" was a deliberate action/policy of the British Government, and thus constitutes Genocide. John Kelly posits that it might well be considered Genocide, but at worst it was a policy of deliberate neglect, at best the actions of an incompetent, misguided government, but nonetheless inexcusable. (I have posted the above song on my FB home page, because I believe that it is extremely well worth sharing.)

Comment by Des Wade on July 22, 2015 at 6:00pm

As requested - here are the lyrics of my song Before the Hunger

Before the Hunger

Were my people younger before the hunger

Were we lighter in heart and soul

Did we fly in the dance and live the romance

And have faith in the stories of old

Oh how deep was the dread with so many dead

And no heroes to heed their cries

From the cradle of the brave none would come to save them

No champions would arise


There were songs for the new day a-dawnin’

And for the twilight’s endless glow

But none for the cold, empty mornings

Of a race without any hope


Tears and kisses and the last long embraces

The pause at the bend in the road

For one more look at the beloved faces

*Croí briste faoi bhrón, faoi bhrón

 What can a nation do when their destiny is doom

And their future is a holocaust

While the living must leave the misery and ruin   

To wander the world hollowed by loss


Shattered pride – broken lives

The blight that scars us yet

To starve in ditches while our harvest riches

Went to other mouths instead


There were songs for babies a-bornin’

And laments for the laying to rest

But none for the wake and the mournin’

Or the taking of all that was best


Were my people younger before the hunger

Were we lighter in heart and soul

Did we fly in the dance and live the romance

And have faith in the stories of old


* Translation – Brokenhearted with sorrow, with sorrow


 Des Wade © 2015

Comment by Claire Fullerton on July 26, 2015 at 10:05am

Wow! What a perfect-pitch delivery! Good on ya, and welcome to the flock!

Comment by John W. Hurley on July 28, 2015 at 7:16am

Great song Des. Joe Gannon, I had a similar experience to yours. But as an adult I was doing research on the family tree and I came across the census records and found that my grandmother had grown up in the house with her grandmother who, at the time of the census was 90 years old. That meant she had lived through the Famine. My grandmother passed away when I was 8 so I knew her and it still amazes and saddens me to think that I once held the hand of someone who held the hand of a Famine survivor. It's really not as long ago as it seems.

Comment by on July 29, 2015 at 1:12am

  .Oh my Des, this is a very powerful song. I sing with bands here locally in Tallahassee, Florida. I am 80 and wish my Dad were alive to hear it.  With your permission I would love to sing it the second Sunday of August at out Irish session which takes place at Finnegan's Wake, our local pub. It is very moving and I believe I can do it justice. I close my eyes and tears swell up in them when I listen to you sing it. Thank you for your wonderful contribution recognizing our Irish history and the sadness of the famine.  Take care and God Bless                       JOHN McCann SULLIVAN, family from Kilgarvan Village, County Kerry.  I was planted there but hatched here in the

Comment by Des Wade on July 29, 2015 at 1:54am

Hi John - I would be honoured to know that someone was singing that song somewhere there are ears to hear and appreciate it. By all means go right ahead and sing it. A quick look at the international time converter - using Orlando as a guide - seems to indicate that at 9 pm Saturday it will be 10.30 am Sunday here, so if I have the vaguest idea when you're going on I can imagine being there. Maybe someone can film it on the phone or some such. It would be great to have a record of it. Anyway, please let me know via my email address if you need the lyrics and/or chords. I am solely a songwriter - in 20 years I have not managed to sell more than a handful of discs and for all that time I only wanted to write though I put in many hard years on the boards making a good living - but a bad lifestyle - from the usual cover versions. Anyway, again all the best with the song and talk about tears to eyes - this request of your brought a certain dewiness to mine! Slán!


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