Allez, allez

Feb 9th, 2011 | By | Category: Personal Columns

At a meeting in Dublin two weeks ago, a fellow committee member asked what had prompted a trip to Galway in the autumn to watch a rugby match.  ‘Because I follow Bayonne’.


‘Because they have this song they sing’.

The answer prompted a look between bemusement and bewilderment; as did an attempt last week to explain to an Austrian ski instructor why the Udo Jurgens track being played in a restaurant was so important.  The song was the source of the Bayonne anthem, something discovered by chance three years ago.

Catching a four-man chair lift up a mountainside in Austria that year, I had heard my phone ringing. I knew it was my phone because twelve days previously I had changed my ringtone to a recording of Bayonne rugby supporters singing their club anthem “La Pena Baiona”. The odds against anyone else having a song by Basque rugby fans as their ringtone seemed fairly long, particularly in a valley where Lee, my ski instructor, claimed to be the founding and only member of the Alpbach rugby club.

Pulling off my right glove with my teeth, I had fumbled inside my jacket for my phone. It wasn’t ringing. I had then realized that the music was coming from inside the lift operator’s hut. Very odd. Had I spoken any German, I would have asked the man about the playing of rugby songs.

The moment would have passed, if it were not for the fact that an hour later I passed a mountain restaurant where the same tune was playing. How could Lee have trouble finding members of a team when the hills were alive with the sound of the Bayonnais?   Internet searches found the same tune being sung by Basques in the town of Dax both in the streets at the opening of the feria and by thousands gathered in the bullring, except the song they sang was “Vino Griego.” “Vino Griego” in south-west France became “Vinho Verde” in Portugal, and “Phile Kerna Krassi” in Greece, the rugby song had seemed to have travelled around a lot. Except, of course, it wasn’t a rugby song at all. but Udo Jurgens’ “Griechischer Wein” (Greek Wine), a song which is still played in mountain restaurants in 2011

It’s been lashing with rain; it’s miserable.  Skiing is past for another year and summer is a distant prospect, but ‘La Pena Baiona’ is the click of a mouse away.

Allez les bleus et blancs.

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