One set of grandparents were Irish and came to Canada after World War I. Although we were close to my Irish "Nana and Papa," the situation in Ireland was never discussed in front of the passel of grandchildren. In 1969, I was eighteen and I heard the news of violence erupting in Ireland and I began to get a picture of what was going on. I always understood from childhood that the Protestants in Ireland were "the good guys," like us but, later, I began to put various pieces of the puzzle together like Papa and some relatives going to the Orange Day parades to support the Protestant cause, why he didn't like the Catholics "taking over" the steel plant and why he wanted to go see the Irish preacher who came to Canada to whip up international fervour to fill the Protestant coffers for war back home. Ugly stuff.
The song is not a true account of my grandfather's experience but it is inspired by the situation that seemed close to home for me. One element that actually happened was my grandfather's change of heart from pride to shame about his homeland. He displayed many Irish artifacts and symbols around his home and one large item was the sign on the front lawn in the shape of a large shamrock that presented his family name. He was so proud of this oversized, bright green, plastic shamrock that hung on chains from a post and swung in the breeze for all to see. In 1969, when the Troubles started up again, he took it down. He said he was ashamed of his country and he didn't want the world to know his name. The sign sat on the floor in his garage until he died. As a young man, I learned some very important lessons through my grandfather's change of heart.