A song about one mans love for his new wife and his country, finding at home at Celtic Park this season and more recently the Irish international side, but what is it all really about?
Over the years Celtic supporters have been known for their song books. If you have been lucky enough to get to a game it’s the fans that are the ones most likely to leave a lasting impression more so then the football on display. So where does the beautiful love song “Grace” fit into all of this?
Some will say the answer is simple – It’s an Irish song and it is being sung at Celtic Park, no shocks there but it’s a love song. The Fields of Athenry another on the listing along with You’ll Never Walk Alone proves that it’s no surprise to see another song like this becoming a firm favourite with the support although many outsiders have asked – who exactly is Grace?
The woman being serenaded week in week out by Celtic supporters is – Grace Gifford who was the love of Joseph Mary Plunkett’s life. Unfortunately it was a short life at that, Joseph was a poet who took part in the Rising and was stationed in the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916.
The song “Grace” written in 1985 by Frank and Seán O’Meara, tells the story of their short time together. It has been covered by a number of popular artists/groups most notably The Dubliner’s and The Wolfe Tones. Their story is simple Plunkett had planned to marry Grace on Easter Sunday but due to the Rising the wedding did not go ahead. After the Rising he was arrested and imprisoned as the youngest of the signatories of the Proclamation in Kilmainham Jail.
It was there the pair married in the prison chapel just hours before he was executed on May 4th 1916. He was aged 28. They were given roughly fifteen minutes together under supervision after the ceremony and that fifteen minutes was all the married life they shared. The song is a stunning tribute to not just the love Joseph had for Grace but also the love he had for his country Ireland.
Now I know it’s hard for you my love to ever understand, The love I bear for these brave men my love for this dear land, But when Padraig called me to his side down in the G.P.O. I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go.
Grace’s family suffered greatly during this period with her sister Muriel’s husband Thomas MacDonagh also executed for his role in the Rising. It was believed her parents were not initially happy about their daughters plans to marry Joseph but many say this was due to his illness at the time they first planned to become man and wife.
It was from her sister that Grace had heard Joseph was to be executed. After her brother-in-law was shot with PH Pearse and Thomas Clarke by firing squad the news that Joesph was to be executed within a couple of hours Grace went and bought herself a wedding ring. With the help of a priest she persuaded the military to allow her and Joseph marry at the chapel in Kilmainham Gaol – hours later her was dead.
At the beginning of the season the Celtic song book showed further signs of promise for fans like me who love a sing song, growing up on many of the songs sung at Celtic Park I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the rendition of Grace – simply beautiful.
More welcoming was it was one song that didn’t seem to cause a divide between the fans. After all who could really complain about a song like this being sung at the football? The best versions for me posted online have been those from the Celtic away support. Youtube has you covered for that one.
I was lucky enough three weeks ago to be at Celtic Park and witness the Green Brigade’s rendition of the ballad. Many songs at Celtic will move you particularly if you’re a fan but this was different. You can see from the hits online the videos are getting that this is one the Celtic support wont be dropping any time soon.
Last weekend Ireland took a decent support to Moldova in their World Cup qualifying game. The game saw Ireland get another three points in the group and with the fans in full voice as usual it was a pleasant surprise to see Grace given a debut too.
The song is quickly becoming the one to listen out for with both sets of fans. Songs about Ireland will always be heard from Celtic Park and I’m delighted one so iconic has now found a regular home there. With 2016 the year of the centenary what better way to remember the history of Ireland with a story that tells of all the heartache of that particular time in this country – Man marries his childhood sweetheart hours before he dies for his country.
As Celtic supporter Patricia Gillon in Glasgow says on Twitter ; “Grace is a perfect song about Ireland and it’s history. Tragedy, sacrifice and love”.
I’m certainly hoping this continues as a regular within the Celtic and international sides song book for years to come.
GRACE – Lyrics
As we gather in the chapel here in old Kilmainham Jail
I think about these past few weeks, oh will they say we’ve failed
From our schooldays they have told us we must yearn for liberty
Yet all I want in this dark place is to have you here with me.
Oh Grace just hold me in your arms ad let this moment linger
They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die
With all my love I place this wedding ring upon your finger
There won’t be time to share our love for we must say goodbye.
Now I know it’s hard for you my love to ever understand
The love I bear for these brave men, my love for this dear land
But when the Padhraic called me to his side down in the GPO
I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go.
Now as dawn is breaking, my heart is breaking too,
On this May morn as I walk out my thoughts well be of you
And I’ll write some words upon the wall so everyone will know
I love so much that I could see his blood upon the rose.