This Irish folk ballad was written by singer-songwriter Pete St. John in the mid 1970s. Because of its style and its setting during the 1845-50 Irish Potato Famine, many have mistakenly believed that this is a traditional song. However St. John said on his website that "even though it is written in that traditional style it is a modern composition by myself, both lyrics and music."
St. John explained on his website that Athenry is "in Galway and if you do happen to get the chance to visit, you will notice the 'Low lying fields' as you approach this beautiful town."
The song first became a Top 10 hit in Ireland in 1979 for folk singer Danny Doyle. Four years later another folk singer Paddy Reilly covered the song. His version peaked at #4 in the Irish charts, remaining for 72 weeks. Other artists to cover include James Galway, The Dubliners, The Dropkick Murphys and The Durutti Column.
This song has been adopted by supporters of the Ireland national football team and Celtic FC and also by fans of various Irish rugby teams.
In 2009 an adaptation of the song, "The Fields of Anfield Road," was made by a collection of Liverpool musicians and supporters, credited as the Liverpool Collective featuring the Kop Choir. The song was recorded to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster in which 96 supporters of Liverpool FC were crushed to death at a FA Cup semi-final. It featured vocal contributions by former Livepool FC players Bruce Grobbelaar and Phil Thompson. John Power, formerly of the La's and Cast penned a new third verse, which referenced the disaster itself. This version reached the Top 20 of the UK singles chart.
Among the films this song has featured in are Veronica Guerin, Priest and Dead Poets Society. In the latter film the song is an anachronism, as the movie is set in 1959, fifteen years before the song was written.
In December 2016, this song landed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in hot water when a video emerged of one of his aides singing it at the funeral of Redmond O'Neill; the London Evening Standardreported that Jayne Fisher had been accompanied by Brendan McFarlane. In 1976, McFarlane was given a life sentence for his part in a terrorist attack on a Belfast bar that left five people dead. He escaped from prison in 1983, was recaptured, and parolled in 1997 as part of the so-called Peace Process.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England
Hugh Mcphee from Wick, United KingdomThis is my wife Elizabeth's favourite song by far.
Hugh from Wick, United KingdomThe Wolfe Tones and Brian Kennedy have recorded this as well. The Dropkick Murphys rendition was in my opinion offensive and ruined it.
Eisso from Groningen, NetherlandsWhen I was in Northern Ireland in 1988, there was an English girl always singing this song. I then thought it was a traditional song and I actually think she always thought so.