Stan Rogers was known as the folk singer who captured the lives of Canadian people from the Maritime Provinces to the Great Lakes and Plains. He certainly wasn’t a pacifist as one of his songs (“Harris and the Mare”) sadly celebrates a conscientious objector who reaches his breaking point when a drunk assaulted the “conchie’s” wife.
However Rogers’ song “The House of Orange” raises a topic seldom addressed in music or even in other forms of writing: The connection between immigrant/exile communities and the wars back home. Rogers sings from the perspective of an Irish Catholic immigrant to Canada who wants nothing to do with the violence of the war in Northern Ireland. Instead he speaks about the suffering such wars bring in powerful poetic detail. When the immigrant or exile community is ask to donate to fund the various factions, whether the “damned IDL” or “the cruel IRA” the song gives eloquent refusal. In the immigrant voice Rogers says he’s given his heart to the new country where he was born and “forgiven the whole House of Orange.”
When I (Dan Buttry) lived in Boston, it was well known that much of the money that fueled the bloody actions of the Irish Republican Army came from the Irish community in Boston as well as from other U.S. cities. In other wars factions, especially insurgent groups and paramilitaries, have raised money from expats. But the tables can be flipped, turning the communities of those outside the war zone into places to explore the possibilities of peace. In Peace Warrior I tell about how we worked with the immigrant/refugee communities of Ethiopians and Eritreans in the U.S. and Canada to build a movement for reconciliation even during the war between those two countries. We demonstrated together for peace in front of the embassies of both countries in Washington, D.C.
Stan Rogers died in 1983 at the age of 33 while on a flight back to Toronto from a music festival in Texas caught fire in the cabin. The airplane made an emergency landing in Cincinnati but between the smoke and a flash fire as the doors were open Rogers and 22 other passengers were killed. Stan Rogers death at such an early age was a great loss to both the folk singing community and all of Canada.