Fair play To You All

“There are not many folk singers who can claim to have achieved something akin to legendary status in their own lifetime but Co Down’s singer, songwriter and social activist Tommy Sands has certainly given it a good go, delivering his music and songs across the globe from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Moscow’s Olympic Stadium.

Needless to say, he has attracted a loyal following in that time, so this news of a new album will be met by a lot of excitement. “Fair Play To You All” which was produced by Steve Cooney.”

Folk Radio  – 2019



  1. The answer is not blowing in the wind
  2. Clanrye Side
  3. Ballyholland
  4. Refugees
  5. What’s going on in Jerusalem?
  6. American Dreams
  7. Who killed JFK?
  8. Caoineadh Mhacha
  9. Ode to Europe
  10. Paddy and the Judge
  11. Every County on the Island
  12. The Gathering of the Clans.

1. The Answer is not blowing in the wind

Sometimes there is a need to re-imagine tradition and revisit history. Often I have heard Dylan’s great song “The answer is blowing in the wind” being rolled out as a “We simply don’t know” answer to “Why is there war?
Then we read in Social Media where a Prime Minister, in visiting post ‘Arab Spring’ Egypt to give a talk on democracy, brings with him seven arms dealers, and where presidents on the one hand speaking of peace and with the other signing trillion dollars arms deals to feed a war and we realise perhaps that the answer is not blowing in the wind at all…it is right there behind the headlines.
How many times can a cannon ball fly before they be forever banned
Well they’ll fly just as long as there’s fortunes to be made by the wheelers and dealers of arms
And fellow profiteers who manufacture fear to ensure that their wars will survive
The answer is not blowing in the wind no more the answer stares you in the eyes.

2. Clanrye side

I have often accompanied the Clanrye River, both on bicycle and on foot from my native parish of Saval to the border town of Newry, from where it makes its own way, a Capella, to the sea and then to the world at large. There was much hope and innocence in our pleas of “Fair Play” being dreamed on the banks of that river in the late sixties and early seventies. In the mixed pub Jean was a genial landlady she knew how far she could let things go, and the two farmers knew that too. There was a higher quality of disagreement which allowed for functioning neighbourliness. In this aisling, I hear a young woman of those times by my side, sing out once again, for all.
And her long soft hair away down on her shoulders did fall
Upon a tattoo to say Fair play to you all
Upon a tattoo to say fair play to you all.

3. Ballyholland

I didn’t learn much about McAteer from Ballyholland the night we met in a Boston pub forty years ago except that he had an intense love and longing for his home place in County Down. That Boston night returned to me just a few months ago as I was shown a special plaque in Ballyholland Foresters Hall dedicated to the 30 who left for America in the 1930’s and were accompanied by the local band and neighbours on the journey by foot to Newry train station en route for America. They all promised to return one day but, for most of them it would be their last walk in Ireland.
He was sitting singing softly at the bar
Of an Irish pub in Boston I recall.

4. Refugees

For years people from this island have left home and roamed the world, some for adventure but more, much more out of sheer necessity. Sometimes people have actually died of home sickness. With this history in mind it is difficult not to be moved by the plight of refugees today fleeing wars and climate change just searching for survival.
For some there is no option for home is home no more,
Lost upon the ocean lonely on the shore.
Roving a roving a roving, thunder, sun or rain,
How did we get here and where do we go,
When will I see you again? So good to see you again.

5. What’s going on in Jerusalem?

“Back in North America,” said Dena Maltenskey, pouring me a coffee in her Jerusalem kitchen, “My father was thankful to have a home and a job after escaping the tyranny of Naziism. Thanks to McCarthyism though he lost that job and I, as a progressive young woman and expecting a baby, did not want to stay in such a place. Instead like many idealistic others at the time I headed for our new Jewish homeland in Israel. I tried to teach my little boy what was right, sang him songs against war and hoped he would never have to fight in one. When he became 18 he had no choice. He was sent to Hebron.”
She went on to explain that with others in his battalion he was asked to do things against the Palestinian people that were against what he had learned to believe. And so, he became part of the group “Breaking the Silence”.
“You slept in his room last night”, she said.
“Where is he now,” I asked.
“Back in America,” said Dena Maltinsky and she poured me another coffee. Between those two coffees I received the true story of a song that was already writing itself. (Dedicated to Dena Maltensky).
What’s going on in Jerusalem What’s going on in The Promised Land
What’s going on in Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.

6. American Dreams

They say that things are not, as they used to be but, then perhaps, they never were. It can be seen that people and Peoples from across the globe have contributed much to the making (or breaking) of America (USA) and continue and be concerned with varying expectations. For the miniscule few, the American dream has merely meant a millionairehood for the miniscule few, for the millions of many it has been the expectation of a livelihood.
Some will deem an American dream the property of who can be
A Billionaire whose only care is freedom to have more.
But the dream I sing for you and I trying hard just to get by,
Echoes of a human cry like strangers on the shore.

7. Who killed JFK?

This song gathered itself from the very meticulous and compelling research work done by James W Douglass for his ground-breaking book ‘JFK and the Unspeakable’ which views not just how the conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy was carried out, but WHY it was done…and why it still matters today.
I didn’t come to praise him nor to claim he was an angel
Politics and angels do not rhyme so well
But he was duly chosen and the people they had spoken
Then a generations dream came to an end.

8. Caoineadh Mhacha

The story of Macha, Queen of the land, cursing the men of Ulster who forced her to run a race against the king’s horses whilst failing to acknowledge her pending motherhood, is well known in our rich and wonderful prehistory tradition. Failing to acknowledge hurt, never mind attempting to lament or make up for it is a curse in any society. This lamentation, for Macha (the ancient personification of our pained earth) has a relevance today and tomorrow more than ever. Go raibh míle maith agat to Padraigin Ní Uallacháin for translating and guiding me through the mystic fields both poetically and linguistically and Steve Cooney for researching the original Caoine melody from the 18th century harper Arthur O’Neill.
Macha, mo Mhacha, a Mhacha na tire
Óchó-ón ochó-ón ó
Ag deanamh Neamhaird den eagoir sé sin mallacht na nUltach
Óchó-ón ochó-ón ó

9. Ode to Europe

When Columbanus (White Dove) headed off from Bangor in Co Down in the 6th century, it’s little he realised he would be suggested as ‘patron saint’ of Europe by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, 1400 years later when a divided battered continent would be striving to regain some unity, sanity and learning after two horrific world wars that stole young lives from all nations and all religions.
My good friend Jane Morrice (Women’s Coalition and EESC) from Bangor, (with a nod to the mighties Beethoven and Schiller) put the idea of this song into my head, as her “White Dove project” proposes in making Northern Ireland/North of Ireland an honorary full EU member and “Centre for Global Peace”, beyond the political fisticuffs.
White dove sailing on the ocean in the night of dark despair
Bring your light and bring your learning once again for all to share
Share a dream a new tomorrow shape a ploughshare from the sword
Peace within and peace between and peace be to the whole wide world

10. Paddy and the Judge

There is an old unwritten rule in Ireland that if there is a law that is good for the plain people we have a duty to obey it but if there is a law that is bad for the plain people we have a duty to disobey it. Perhaps this song came from rumblings such as that with a certain cheek in tongue.
Paddy was in double trouble when he lost his job
Wife and children hungry so he went and bought a fishing rod
Dipped it in the river flowing closely by
But a landlord came and grabbed him
And says he, ‘that rivers mine’.

11. Every county on the island

On my trips around Ireland my small children Fionan and Moya would often ask back-of-the-car questions like ‘What county are we in’, ‘Where are we now’ and ‘Are we nearly there’….
Later the questions would become part of this song containing the name of every county hidden within, that we would sing together much later on a 32 county tour of Ireland in a month and a day.
Go ‘Down’ to ‘Our ma’ ‘An trim’ her curly hair
‘For a man a’ bove in ‘Derry’ will take her to the fair.

12. Gathering of the Clans

Despite ominous stirrings of racism and the raising of walls, people keep on, keeping on… crossing borders and building bridges every minute of the day everywhere… yearning for good companionship and learning from friends they had previously never known. Delighted to be joined in this song, by my own clan and…and by my good friend Richard Parkes, Pipe major with the Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band, who have been All Ireland and World Champions many times over and stir the pulse and move the hearts of all clans everywhere.
And they’re here from every land with a plan for the clan
And a way to their own way to freedom
And if we can’t agree we can always let it be
A higher quality of disagreement


Front cover: Many thanks to Craig Froehle for the idea, Colum Sands for the photo and children Riviera, Hope and Dara from Rostrevor for fairly playing their part.

Back cover: Bobbie Hanvey, Booklet photographs Erika Hemmerich-Leupold
All songs composed by Tommy Sands and all lyrics available at www.tommysands.com

Special Thanks To
Special thanks to Moya, Fionan and Catherine for keen ears and kindly voices, Anne, Ben, Colum, Hugh and Mary from Sands Family and Sorcha, Eimear Ryanne, Fra and Moya from Na Leanai. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, Lisa Gutkin (Klezmatics), Robbie Perry (Dead can dance), Mick Moloney, Madge McDonald, Muhammad Al Hussaini, Jane Morrice, Peter Vogel, Dena Maltinsky, Micha Kurtz, Adi Granot and Yehuda Shaul from “Breaking The Silence” and my godson Caoilte ÓCuanaigh.

Produced and arranged by Steve Cooney.
Recorded at Spring Records Rostrevor, Éiníní Studios Donegal (Teelin and Glenties), Safe Place Studios Mayobridge.
Engineered by Steve Cooney, Tommy Sands, Fra Sands, Colum Sands, Greg Anderson.
Mixed and mastered at Safe Studios by Ciaran Byrne.