‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ is a negro spiritual song written by a freed African American slave sometime in the 1860s.
So, naturally, it has been taken up by English rugby supporters at Twickenham.
The song was written by Wallace Willis, a black slave of a Choctaw Indian. According to the African American Registry bio entry on Willis, he was inspired to write the song by the Red River in Oklahoma.
On the day he wrote the hymn, Willis looked out over the cotton field he was tilling and gazed upon the Red River in the distance. This reminded him of the Mississippi River and the plantation his master owned before moving to Doaksville, OK, Indian Territory.
Given the song’s history, it seems an unlikely anthem for the hordes who cheer on England at Twickers. But that is what it is.
Apparently, the Irish rugby team’s shambolic defending is partly to blame here.
English rugby was in dire shape in the mid 1980s. They finished bottom of the Five Nations in 1987, losing 17-0 to Ireland in Dublin. In the 1988 Five Nations, Wales came to Twickenham and won well.