Famine Song not meant to offend says senior Orangeman Mervyn Gibson

Orange Order Chaplin Mervyn Gibson
Connla Young

A SENIOR member of the Orange Order has said loyalists who played the Famine Song outside a Catholic church sparking a major parade dispute did not mean to cause offence.

Reverend Mervyn Gibson was speaking after it emerged that the controversial tune was played and sung during an Orange Order march in Glasgow to mark the Battle of the Boyne at the weekend.

There was controversy in Belfast 2012 when the Young Conway Volunteers, was filmed walking in circles while playing the tune outside St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street.

The song, which contains anti-Irish lyrics and is sung to the air of the Beach Boys hit Sloop John B, was branded racist by a Scottish court in 2009.

Speaking on Radio Ulster yesterday Rev Gibson said he knows the tune “as the Beach Boys song”.

The Orange Order chaplain later told the Irish News that the tune was played by loyalist bands before the lyrics were ever added.

“We can’t start banning music, are we going to start banning books next?” he said.

“It was played long before it became the Famine Song because it’s a tune that can be played on the flute.”

He said that other songs such ‘Yellow Submarine’ - which was a hit for the Beatles - are also played.

Rev Gibson said he didn’t believe that the Famine Song was played outside St Patrick’s in 2012 to offend.

“I am 100 per cent satisfied that tune was not played outside St Patrick’s to cause offence,” he said.

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