The Rose of Tralee

JIM Glennon and Trevor Ringland both played rugby for Ireland, and both play a part in the politics of Ireland today.

Jim is a Fianna Fail member of the Irish Parliament, the Dail, in Dublin. Trevor Ringland is a Unionist working on peace initiatives in Belfast.

I met them both this week at a meeting of the British – Irish Parliamentary body.

When in 1987 they played together for Ireland in the first rugby World Cup in New Zealand, a difficulty arose about what anthem to play.

Traditionally the Republic’s ‘Soldier’s Song’ anthem was used when Ireland played in Dublin, and ‘God Save the Queen’ in Belfast, where Ireland last played in 1954.
At away games no anthem was played.

But their opening match against Wales in the World Cup required an anthem.
Which song would be used?
Either choice would cause ructions in Belfast or Dublin.

Jim and Trevor told me they listened in admiration as ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ rang out to inspire the Welsh team.
Then over the tannoy came the tepid tones of James Last and his Orchestra playing ‘The Rose of Tralee’.

It was the only piece of taped Irish music to hand as the organisers sought to avoid a last minute diplomatic incident.

In the circumstances it is not surprising that Wales won the match!

These days the team has its own anthem ‘Ireland’s Call’ which is used to avoid the problem.

In the wake of the terrible murder of Robert McCartney, the friendship of these two men was a timely reminder of the need to carry on with the peace process even when prospects are at their bleakest.

And incidentally both men were delighted with the current Welsh rugby revival, and looking forward to the big match in Cardiff.