Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes

Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes

Emilee Martin of Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School created this work for the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s 100 Neediest Cases.

The fourth song on Delcan O’Rourke’s Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine was its genesis song. That is the story behind this song  initially inspired O’Rourke to create the album.

Declan O'Rourke Poor Boys Shoes
Peadar Ua Laoghaire

He had serendipitously  came across a 1995 book by John O’Connor: The Workhouses of Ireland: The Fate of Ireland’s Poor. In O’Connor’s preface, he referred  to a story from Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s 1915 autobiography, Mo Sceal Fein.

Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes

Well, he danced with her that summer until it showed on her sweet face

How she was taken by the warmth of him, and all his gentle ways

Then he swore to her his love was true

And he married her in poor boy’s shoes

Poor Boys Shoes music begins cheerily along with the age-old story of a poor young man who fell in love with a girl who had flowers in her hair.

Love at first sight. 

She fell in love with him, too. He married her in his poor boy shoes. Like Clogman’s Glen, the struggling story begins before the Great Famine. Life is as expected: difficult but with love and companionship and a family.

Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes

The blight and resulting famine arrived. Life turns. 

The story and song turn.

Two starving children.

The refusal to give in. The refusal to give up  their children to the Poorhouse, a place that might save them, but a place overwhelmed and where mistreatment would likely occur as well as the attempt to proselytize them to the Church of England.  The price paid for charity. 

Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes

The songs about the 19th century indifference by those with to those without sadly reflect the views of many in the 21st century.

Declan O’Rourke Poor Boys Shoes
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