Chapin’s Ireland

Jul 16th, 2011 | By | Category: Ireland

Harry Chapin died thirty years ago today after a road accident.

To those of a certain age Chapin will be remembered for the power of his song ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ as the backing track of the most powerful anti-terrorism video ever screened in Northern Ireland;  the sadness of a familiar domestic story told in his 1974 No 1 hit being carried to the logical conclusion of what it might mean for a son to turn out as his father had been.

Listening to Chapin on the local radio station this morning, the thought occurred that it was not just in the North that listening to Chapin’s words might have shaped a different sort of Ireland.

His words challenge a culture that relegates children to second place. Had there been a culture in the Celtic Tiger years where family had been allowed priority over work; had there been a Government that put quality of life before economic growth; had there been a moment  when people had stood together and said ‘enough is enough’;  had there been workers with the strength to say to employers  that they were not going to spend every hour God gave them in the service of the company; then the economic bubble might not have grown so large and its bursting not been so catastrophic.

Chapin’s words should be displayed on the desk of every Irish politician as a question of what sort of Ireland they will create. Without serious questions being asked about what sort of society we want, the generation to come will turn out just like us.

My child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He’d say, “I’m gonna be like you, dad.
You know I’m gonna be like you.”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, “Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play.
Can you teach me to throw?” I said, “Not today,
I got a lot to do.” He said, “That’s ok.”
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmmed,
Said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I’m gonna be like him.”

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
“Son, I’m proud of you. Can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
“What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please?”

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.”
He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu,
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad.
It’s been sure nice talking to you.”
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He’d grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when,
But we’ll get together then, dad.
You know we’ll have a good time then.”

Leave Comment