My song for you this evening, it's not to make you sad
Nor for adding to the sorrows of this troubled northern land,
But lately I've been thinking and it just won't leave my mind
I'll tell you of two friends one time who were both good friends of mine.

Allan Bell from Banagh, he lived just across the fields,
A great man for the music and the dancing and the reels.
O'Malley came from South Armagh to court young Alice fair,
And we'd often meet on the Ryan Road and the laughter filled the air.

There were roses, roses
There were roses
And the tears of the people
Ran together

Though Allan, he was Protestant, and Sean was Catholic born,
It never made a difference for the friends, it was strong.
And sometimes in the evening when we heard the sound of drums
We said, ``It won't divide us. We always will be one.''

For the ground our fathers plowed in, the soil, it is the same,
And the places where we say our prayers have just got different names.
We talked about the friends who died, and we hoped there'd be no more.
It's little then we realized the tragedy in store.

It was on a Sunday morning when the awful news came round.
Another killing has been done just outside Newry Town.
We knew that Allan danced up there, we knew he liked the band.
When we heard that he was dead we just could not understand.

We gathered at the graveside on that cold and rainy day,
And the minster he closed his eyes and prayed for no revenge.
All all of us who knew him from along the Ryan Road,
We bowed our heads and said a prayer for the resting of his soul.

Now fear, it filled the countryside. There was fear in every home
When a car of death came prowling round the lonely Ryan Road.
A Catholic would be killed tonight to even up the score.
``Oh, Christ! It's young O'Malley that they've taken from the door.''

``Allan was my friend,'' he cried. He begged them with his fear,
But centuries of hatred have ears that cannot hear.
An eye for an eye was all that filled their minds
And another eye for another eye till everyone is blind.

So my song for you this evening, it's not to make you sad
Nor for adding to the sorrows of our troubled northern land,
But lately I've been thinking and it just won't leave my mind.
I'll tell you of two friends one time who were both good friends of mine.

I don't know where the moral is or where this song should end,
But I wondered just how many wars are fought between good friends.
And those who give the orders are not the ones to die.
It's Bell and O'Malley and the likes of you and I.

There were roses, roses
There were roses


Lyrics submitted by x__Jasper

There Were Roses song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentI have to admit, when I first had this song on CD I listened repeatedly and sobbed more tears than I had for many a year. Very moving song.

    This song doesn't hide much, it tells a story with no metaphorical disguises whatsoever (well - perhaps the roses are a metaphor, more on that later).

    If you don't get it, this is the story: the singer had two friends, the 3 of them would listen to music at local pubs in Northern Ireland - this was during the time of much protestant vs catholic bloodshed in that "northern land". One of his friends is protestant, the other catholic. The protestant is murdered for no reason - other than he was a protestant and some catholic thugs were out to kill (probably to avenge a previous killing of one of theirs). Protestants then retaliate a few days later, by murdering the catholic friend.

    The singer pens this song, trying to understand, trying to cope with sorrow, and hoping to teach others.

    BTW - roses are a typical flower used in funerals, and often signify death in lyrics. Hence the connection of roses to the story line.

    There are some definite anti-war sentiments in this song - there's no mistaking that!! I do love the final stanza:

    I don't know where the moral is or where this song should end,
    But I wondered just how many wars are fought between good friends.
    And those who give the orders are not the ones to die.
    It's Bell and O'Malley and the likes of you and I.

    Wow - what the world could use right now is more people to read that stanza over and over again until they understand it. Or, better yet, listen to the song 50 times a day for 50 days.

    There are many covers of this song, but the genuine, unadulterated emotion of Tommy Sands' original version has never been matched.
    tsreybon May 27, 2010   Link

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