Sunday, 7 February 2010

Cry God for Harry, England and St George!

I've had a tune stuck in my head for a wee while now.  What is it I hear you ask?
Is it some cultured piece of classical music?
Is it a piece of 70s prog rock because that's what I tend to listen to by choice?
Is an earworm that was played on the radio recently?
Some cheesy piece of pop that the kids were playing?

Give up?

It is actually a piece of music that I shall prefer to refer to as "To Anacreon in Heaven".  Are you familiar with it? I bet you are.  It is actually an ancient British drinking song (so if anyone I know is familiar with it, then it's my brother) but we all probably know the tune better as the Star-Spangled Banner.  I always knew that the tune was British but imagine my unfounded joy when I discovered the origins of the tune.  There's all our American cousins singing along to a tune that would have been familiar in a London drinking club.

This set me thinking though.  What are the origins of our National anthem?  Unfortunately I couldn't find any reference to the origins, although (and I hate to say this as a true patriot) it is a proper dull tune to the point where the Welsh, Irish and Scottish have almost entirely eschewed it and even the English often substitute more rousing tunes such as Jerusalem or the jolly excellent Land of Hope and Glory, I am a big fan of Last Night of The Proms.

Now all this talk of National anthems got me thinking again (Russ you think too much) about patriotism in general.  As previously mentioned, I am a patriotic type of chap, I would even stand if the Queen came to visit and consider the most rousing piece of writing to be Henry V speech at Agincourt (I know it probably isn't historically accurate).  But you may be aware that there is a bit of a football tournament going on this year in South Africa to which some English players will be going to join in.  And what is my biggest fear about this tournament?  It is England winning.  Why?  Two reasons.  One, from my rather limited knowledge of football, they aren't good enough compared to some (many?) of the other national teams and is it right that our patriotic support, neigh fervour, is based on a bit of a lucky break?  The other reason is that I find it hard to believe that thousands of pis55ed up lager louts, lobster red and shirtless represents England or my personal view of what Englishness should be.  My preferred sport is cycling, so imagine my joy when Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins put in such a sterling performance in last year's Tour amongst other races, not because they were lucky - that doesn't work over three weeks of cycling - but because they are genuinely good; or the trouncing that our track riders gave the rest of the world at the last Olympics and World competitions.  Yet this doesn't get even a few column inches in the popular press.

If I were to be a football supporter, I think I would have to support Gloucester FC but even they aren't proper local now, playing as they do 25 miles away in Cirencester.  In fact Cheltenham FC are more local now and we are right down to macro patriotism, if such a thing exists.  If you were to visit the website for our local press and look at the comments for stories with a good list of comments and you will see the local unhealthy competition between Gloucester and Cheltenham so, of course, being a Gloucester boy, how could I ever support Cheltenham?  Maybe we need a Gloucester National anthem (other than:
We can't read and we can't write
But that don't really matter
Cos we comes from Glos'ershire
And we can drive a tractor (pronounced tratter)

But Cheltenham even hijack that to Cheltenhamshire.


  1. Good blog, but a number of points verging on a mini-blog of my own in response:

    If you had read that excellent local history book The Story of Gloucester, you may have noted that the tune that became the Star Spangled Banner was written in 1750 by John Stafford Smith, a local Gloucesterian born in the infirmary building, the remains of which are the infirmary arches near the Cathedral.

    The Scots of course aren't keen on our national anthem since the rarely sung 6th verse is distinctly anti-Scottish.

    From my even more limited knowledge on the subject I don't think you have to worry too much about us winning the football!

    Anyone found using the term Cheltenhamshire should be flogged.

    Thanks for the term earworm - I will be using that!

  2. Indeed, how remiss of my macro-patriotism (another word I shall copyright) to forget about John Smith (how English does it get?). If you believe Wikipedia, this article here is quite interesting. and supports the whole drinking song thing.