Flogging Molly: Tobacco Island Meaning
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Tobacco Island Lyrics
All to hell we must sail
For the Shores of sweet Barbados
Where the sugar cane grows taller
Than the god we once believed in
Till the butcher and his crown
Raped the land we used to sleep in
Now tommorow chimes of ghostly...
I hope this one hasn't been flogged to death already (pardon the pun), but I just finished watching the 1970 move "Cromwell", starring Richard Harris and felt the need to elucidate. This is the bit of history that inspired Dave's lyrics. In 1655, Oliver Cromwell, in his zeal for God and the slave trade, sent an expedition to seize Jamaica from Spain. It soon became Britain's West Indian base for the slave trade.
In 1649 Oliver Cromwell and his 20,000-man army invaded Ireland. They killed the entire garrison of Drogheda and slaughtered all the townspeople. Afterwards, Cromwell said, "I do not think 30 of their whole number escaped with their lives. Those that did are in safe custody in the Barbados."
Under Cromwell's policy, known as "To Hell or Connaught," Irish landowners were driven off millions of acres of fertile land. Those found east of the river Shannon after May 1, 1654, faced the death penalty or slavery in the West Indies. Cromwell rewarded his soldiers and loyal Scottish Presbyterians by "planting" them on large estates. The British set up similar "plantations" in Barbados, St. Kitts and Trinidad.
The demand for labor on these distant plantations prompted mass kidnappings in Ireland. A pamphlet published in 1660 accused the British of sending soldiers to grab any Irish people they could in order to sell them to Barbados for profit: "It was the usual practice with Colonel Strubber, Governor of Galway, and other commanders in the said country, to take people out of their beds at night and sell them for slaves to the Indies, and by computations sold out of the said country about a thousand souls."
anonymous May 18th, 2006 5:16pm report
At a Flogging Molly concert, Dave King reportedly said "This is a song about a man named Oliver Cromwell... and tonight I hope you all dance on his grave!" or something to that effect. Cromwell, who is referred to in this song ("Cromwell and his roundheads") was the Lord Protector (read: military dictator) of England back in like the 1600s for a time. He and his "roundheads" (largely Protestant forces named for their close haircuts) sucessfully overthrew the current king and for the rest of his life he ruled England, ultimately trying to set up a republic. However, he aparrently was not a big fan of the Irish, and so Tobacco Island is about the capture/deportation of Irish people to the Carribean area to work basically as slaves, during Cromwell's rule. (I'm personally unsure of whether and how this event happened.)
Anyway, there's some background, though this song is pretty self-explanatory. It's basically about being taken from your homeland and forced into servitude in a foreign land, knowing you will probably never see your home, friends, or family again.
anonymous Nov 18th, 2006 11:59pm report
This song does indeed deal with the Cromwellian Plantation/Rape/Slaughter of Ireland ,circa 1649-1660.
Cromwell himself first landed at Drogheda,County Kildare in August of 1649. In the song,however,the lyric goes:
"Twas 1659,forgotten now for sure"
Unless Dave King got the date wrong ,he was most likely talking about the many battles that that the Cromwellian Forces fought against Irish Clanns in the ten years after his return to England in November of 1649. It was mainly during the campaign that Cromwell was present for himself,that those who surrendered (If they were lucky enough not to be executed anyway) were deported to the British Sugar & Tabacco Plantations in the West Indies. Having just taken over the entire British Empire,Cromwell was more concerned with International Imperial matters,and decided to simply wipe out the Irish Nation,exploit the natives as Slave Labour & settle his own people there.Because of the horrific,viscious & slaughterous attacks that Cromwell demanded be carried out on Irish Men,Women
& Children,as well as the terrifying slave labour conditions in the West Indie Plantaions,a massive wave of Nationalism surged forth & eventually drove out Cromwellian Authority,only eventually upon his death however,still leaving British dictatorial presence which still remains to this day.
anonymous Jun 19th, 2006 6:14pm report
Yes, the deportation of the Irish to the New World after Cromwell's invasion really did happen. The Irish almost drove him out, but his forces won eventually.
Afterwards, all the Irish who opposed him were relocated west of the river Shannon to Connaught. This is Ireland's most impoverished area & couldn't support all the people moved there. If an Irish man was found east of the river Shannon, he could be hanged or sent into exile as an indentured servant (basically a slave who had to work off the cost of shipping him overseas).
The song "Young Ned of the Hill" by the Pogues also deals with the same era.
anonymous Mar 18th, 2006 3:33pm report
Song about the British kidnapping the Irish and making them work on the sugar plantations.
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