Subject Material

The Orange and the Green

Published: 22.04.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Pre-reading: Make a list of four colours and what you associate with each one. Do you have a favourite colour of your own? Why is it your favouite colour and what does it mean to you?

Why do colours matter so much in Northern Ireland? They matter because they carry symbolic meaning. They reveal a lot more than just a preference for colour. Carrying a green or an orange ribbon has a special significance. Listen to this Irish rebel song about colours and confusion.
The Orange and the Green, Folk Song
 
The Orange and the Green - Lyrics

The Orange and The Green

Oh, it is the biggest mix-up that you have ever seen.
My father, he was Orange and me mother, she was Green.

My father was an Ulster man, proud Protestant was he.
My mother was a Catholic girl, from county Cork was she.
They were married in two churches, lived happily enough,
Until the day that I was born and things got rather tough.

Baptized by Father Riley, I was rushed away by car,
To be made a little Orangeman, my father's shining star.
I was christened "David Anthony," but still, in spite of that,
To me father, I was William, while my mother called me Pat.

With Mother every Sunday, to Mass I'd proudly stroll.
Then after that, the Orange lodge would try to save my soul.
For both sides tried to claim me, but i was smart because
I'd play the flute or play the harp, depending where I was.

Now when I'd sing those rebel songs, much to me mother's joy,
Me father would jump up and say, "Look here would you me boy.
That's quite enough of that lot", he'd then toss me a coin
And he'd have me sing the Orange Flute or the Heroes of The Boyne

One day me Ma's relations came round to visit me.
Just as my father's kinfolk were all sitting down to tea.
We tried to smooth things over, but they all began to fight.
And me, being strictly neutral, I bashed everyone in sight.

My parents never could agree about my type of school.
My learning was all done at home, that's why I'm such a fool.
They've both passed on, God rest 'em, but left me caught between
That awful color problem of the Orange and the Green.

 

Tasks and Activities

Discussion

The singer in the old Irish folk song, "The Orange and the Green", discusses the problems of growing up in mixed cultures. To some people there is no obvious answer to the question: "Who am I?"

  • Is your cultural background mixed or not? How important is this issue to you?

Literary Analysis - “The Orange and the Green”

Refer to How to Analyze Poetry and Poetry Vocabulary List while you answer these questions.

  1. What do we get to know about the narrator?
  2. Explain the title of the song.
  3. How many stanzas are there? And how many verses are there in each stanza? Why is there a refrain in the song and how does this contrast with the remaining stanzas?
  4. What kind of rhyme scheme is used?
  5. Describe the mood in the song.
  6. Why was it difficult to decide the narrator’s name, school and upbringing?
  7. What was the narrator’s solution to all this?
  8. What is implied in the verse: “Just as my father's kinfolk were all sitting down to tea”?
  9. Why did the narrator’s father react when his son was singing rebel songs?
  10. How many dialect words/expressions do you find in the text? Write them down.
    How do these words contribute to the message in the song?
  11. What do you think is the message in the song?
  12. What is the narrator’s conclusion? What does he mean by the expression “a colour problem”?
  13. What could we learn from this song regarding inter-marriage?

Writing

  1. The narrator in "The Orange and the Green" posts this question on a blog site: “Did anyone grow up with parents that messed up their kids the way my parents did?" Make up some fictional bloggers and write their comments.
  2. With the “Orange and the Green” as a backdrop, write a personal essay where you discuss if love conquers all.

Suggested Further Activity

Northern Ireland Resources - Overview 

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