Ed Sheeran knows how to a love story, and “Nancy Mulligan”, the 15 track of his deluxe edition of Divide recounts the story of his grandparents meeting and falling in love during World War 2. Sheerans newest album is absolutely a pop album, but a handful of the tracks take have a heavy Irish influence which is unseen in the North American pop world today and it’s as good as it is refreshing.
Throughout the track, Sheeran takes on the persona of his deceased grandfather William and song becomes a much more personal track through its first person presentation. As a soldier fighting in World War 2, William met Anne (Sheerans Grandmother) at “Guys Hospital” in the military care ward and instantly fell in love. Despite her father’s protests, mostly because William was a Protestant Northman while ‘Nancy’ was a Southern Catholic, two religions which have long been at each other’s throats in Ireland. Despite his objections, William and Nancy run off together to get married in secret, and go on to live a long and happy life.
While Divide has Irish influences, “Nancy Mulligan” is first and foremost a traditional Irish folk song. It’s a fun and upbeat song with everything you’d expect from an Irish folk song whether it’s the placement of the fiddle or the pan flute or the uplifting Irish chanting heard later in the song. My grandparents on my father’s side were second generation Irish, and they always had this kind of music playing at their house, so it’s a bit nostalgic for me as well. It might be the subject matter of the song, but there is something oddly uplifting about “Nancy Mulligan” that makes me want to river dance or have a massive celebration with hundreds of people or something along those lines. In an interview with an Irish radio station, Sheeran stated “I don’t think enough people use [Irish pop] in pop music…Hopefully if these songs are successful, more people will do a bit more like it.”, and in all honesty I would love if music like this became more prominent in today’s music.
Have a listen to “Nancy Mulligan” here!