The English Penny

Music: na-mara, Lyrics: P. McNamara

This song is based on the story of Penny Feiwel, a nurse who volunteered to go to Spain to serve in the hospitals of the Spanish Republic and with the International Brigades. The song takes the form of an imagined conversation between Penny and a young nurse caring for her in old age. It contrasts the tranquillity of modern peacetime with the chaos, noise and terror of war. It is based on Penny's own words as recorded in Max Arthur's 2009 book, The Real Band of Brothers.

Music: na-mara, Lyrics: P. McNamara

Sister, you have asked to hear my story,
And, in this calm, it seems a world away,
When heroes fought for principles not glory,
And the sound of battle thundered every day.

Chorus

They knew that, as the day of battle it drew nearer,
And the sun’s bright rays o’ercame the dark of night,
With the armoury of her station gleaming clearer,
‘English Penny’ she stood ready for the fight.

In ‘37, detrained at Albacete,
From there to work with nurses, brave and good,
At Tarancon, Jarama and Brunete,
In the days when Spain was red – with Spanish blood.

Chorus

Unlike this room so peaceful and so calming,
It’s the dreadful sounds of battle still I hear,
The chaos of the transports to the front line,
And the bombing raids when children called in fear.

Chorus

And, unlike the chill nights of an English autumn,
I still feel the cruel Murcian sun,
Working day and night with army surgeons,
All to heal the damage wrought by shell and gun.

Chorus

And unlike the softness of this bed I lie in,
It’s the endless toil of nursing I recall,
Dividing up the living from the dying,
In those makeshift wards in burnt out schools and halls.
Chorus

And quite unlike this sober conversation,
It’s the strutting demagogues that I abhor,
Who play upon the basest of emotions,
All to march young men and women off to war.
Chorus

track number: 
3