Here it is a piece of social history, the best song ever written and the James Connolly Society’s anthem The Footsteps Of The Young James Connolly. This song was written by Gerry Mulvenna during his time living in Edinburgh as a student in the late eighties. Edinburgh based folk duo Patsy Mack, Bobby Nicholson and Martin McGarrity, would sing this in their set in the Southside Snooker Centre and before long we had adopted the song and Patsy Mack had JCS members stalking them around Edinburgh insisting on hearing it again and again, no matter what the venue! All of this was over twenty years ago.
Patsy Mack recorded the song on a cassette, Different Drum, in 1993. Hamish Henderson said of Different Drum “Their material bespeaks a passionate left-wing commitment, and it is only fitting that two of the songs on this tape salute the memory of men who are rightly thought of as heroes and martyrs – John MacLean and James Connolly.”
However to my knowledge the only CD version is on the James Connolly Society’s twentieth anniversary disk.
Click on the link below to hear Gerry singing his original version of the song.
A hundred years before I saw the light of morn,
In Edinburgh’s Cowgate James Connolly was born.
The streets of Little Ireland were his home for many years,
From the West Port to Saint Mary’s Street, you feel him very near.
Oh how I love to walk
In the footsteps of the young James Connolly.
Oh how I love to walk
In the footsteps of that great man.
Well, in 1911 to Belfast he came
To organise the union – the women and the men.
The Orangemen and bishops, they were most terrified
To see Catholic and Protestant march side by side.
Here’s to that non-sectarian band
Marching through Belfast for the union’s demand.
The fife and the drum scorned the old Orange tricks
And the Ancient Hibernians’ stones and sticks.
Well, the national question was clear in his mind.
For an Irish Republic the workers must rise.
Revolution was needed, reform would never do
And the number of counties would be thirty-two.
So if you’re walking through the Cowgate, this dark and lonely night.
Remember young James Connolly and keep the flame alight.
The social and the national, he swam in both those streams,
For a socialist republic of Ireland was his dream.
Copyright © 1988 Gerry Mulvenna