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Lyr Add: The Bloody Red Hand

Stewie 26 Nov 99 - 08:25 PM
alison 27 Nov 99 - 11:45 PM
Stewie 28 Nov 99 - 01:25 AM
alison 28 Nov 99 - 01:33 AM
Philippa 28 Nov 99 - 01:53 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE BLOODY RED HAND^^
From: Stewie
Date: 26 Nov 99 - 08:25 PM

I had this song from a Danny Spooner workshop in Darwin at a Top Half Folk Festival ( top half of Oz) in the mid-1970s, long before he committed it to vinyl. It was written by an Irish friend of his, Randy Percy, who ran the very successful folk club at the Dan O'Connell in Melbourne for many years. Danny set Randy's words to the tune of 'The Banks of the Bann'. A couple of years later, I presented a workshop on Ulster, entitled 'The Bloody Red Hand', at a national folk festival in Melbourne. Our final song was 'The Bloody Red Hand'. The singer had just started, when a voice from the audience yelled out: 'Oy! Where did you get that from? That's my song'. I explained that we had it from Danny's workshop. Luckily, he was very pleased with our workshop and his song's featuring in it – we had more than a few jars afterwards.

I have forgotten the legend behind Ulster's 'awesome' symbol but, as far as I can recall, the gist of it was that 2 brothers had a race to stake a claim on Ireland. When they neared the shores of Ulster, they were neck and neck. One of the brothers cut off his hand and threw it on to the sand to win the contest. Can anyone give the details of this gory legend? Like Byron cultivating his persona to match his club foot, Ulster's bloody history seems to have reflected its symbol. We had T-shirts which featured a bloody red hand, but even the national library was unable to give us a definitive answer as to whether it was a left hand or a right hand – I forget which we opted for. Randy's song is still as relevant today as it was more than 20 years ago, although some small steps have been made. It is to be hoped that something positive and lasting will emerge from the latest initiatives for peace.


Oh the lion of England is fierce I hear say
And the Yankee's bald eagle makes a handsome display
But of all your fine symbols of any great land
You'll find none so awesome as the bloody red hand

In the days that's gone by in this land of the saints
There is many a picture of greatness I paint
Where learning's bright light like a beacon shone grand
But that light has been dimmed by the bloody red hand

Now fear stalks the streets there by day and by night
And children taught hatred soon learn how to fight
Before they are thirteen as bigots they're damned
They too have been touched by the bloody red hand

There's many brave deeds that by young men's been done
And there's many a mother who weeps for her son
For they answered the call and they've taken their stand
For Ireland, for Ulster, for the bloody red hand

Oh this country of mine has no future but hate
So go down on your knees now before it's too late
And pray for forgiveness of your fellow man
And in peace we'll live free of the bloody red hand

Words: Randy Percy Copyright Sandstock Music
Tune: Traditional (19th century Irish broadside 'The Banks of the Bann')

Source: Danny Spooner 'I Got This One From …' Sandstock Music SSM017

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The bloody red hand
From: alison
Date: 27 Nov 99 - 11:45 PM


That's basically the legend as I know it too... although I heard it as two great warriors racing towards Ulster, and the deal was that whoever "touched the soil first" would be the king. AS they neared the land one pulled slightly ahead, and the other in desperation cut off his hand and threw it ashore thereby becoming the first to touch the soil.

The Ulster flag still has the red hand on it.



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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The bloody red hand
From: Stewie
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 01:25 AM

Thanks, Alison. Do you recall where the warriors originated from - Scotland, Wales, England, Europe?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The bloody red hand
From: alison
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 01:33 AM

All I remember,and all I can see in any of my books, is that they were Celtic. I also very vaguely remeber being taught that they landed at Carrickfergus... which doens't make much sense as they would have sailed past a fairbit of land to get to there.



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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: The bloody red hand
From: Philippa
Date: 28 Nov 99 - 01:53 PM

I thought it was Niall, a Viking, claiming the land for his descendants, the O'Neills.
I've heard a very similar story about the red hand and the settling of Berneray, Western Isles, Scotland and also a similar story relating to Bergen, Norway

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