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Once upon a time there were
Irish Ways and Irish Laws
Villages of Irish blood
Waking to the morning
Waking to the morning

Then the Vikings came around (1)
Turned us up and turned us down
Started building boats and towns
They tried to change our living
Tried to change our living

Cromwell and his soldiers came (2)
Started centuries of shame
But they could not make us turn (3)
We are a river flowing
We're a river flowing

Again, again the soldiers came
Burnt our houses stole our grain
Shot the farmers in their fields
Working for livings
Working for a living

800 years we have been down (4)
The secret of the water sound
Has kept the spirit of a man
Above the pain descending
Above the pain descending

Today the struggle carries on
I wonder will I live so long
To see the gates being opened up (5)
To a people and their freedom
A people and their freedom

Once upon a time there was
Irish Ways and Irish Laws
Villages of Irish blood
Waking to the morning
Waking to the morning


The first documented Viking landing took place in 795. Until the
Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170 the Vikings would play an important
Role in Ireland, both politically and economically. They created trade
Routes, founded kingdoms, and built the first towns in Ireland,
Including Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Oliver Cromwell landed in Ireland in August 1649 at the head of a
Huge army, by May 1650 he had crushed opposition in all but the West.
(By 1652 the Irish population had fallen to .7 m. In 1641 it had
Been 1.5 m. By 1660 .5 m cattle were being exported annually to

Both Cromwell's and subsequent colonisation campaigns used the twin
Techniques of "planting" English and Scotish settlers and forcing
Some locals to change or "Turn" their religion to the Protestant
Faith. So here he uses the ambiguity of the term "turn" to echo both
The image of the unbowed Irish peasant and a metaphor for Irish
History flowing like a un-turnable river.

Since the first English invasion in 1170

"Gates" here evokes both images of the be-sieged walled cities of the
17th century and also of the present day prison camps in the North
Of Ireland which at the time the song was being written (in the late
1970's early 1980's) were the subject of much political campaigning
Including Hunger Strikes by the inmates.

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