This song is very personal to me. It was written in honour of a young man I new well – Greg Carroll. We worked together as engineers for a large multinational I.T. company. We were part of a small provincial branch with four staff members located in the city of Whanganui. Greg was a very personable young man and was held in high regard by our customers – more perhaps for his genuineness, honesty and likeable personality than for his engineering skills.
I stayed with the company for a total of thirty-five years, but Greg moved on after a year, perhaps two, when he became the sound engineer for a local rock band. That may not seem long to get to know someone well, but our job required a considerable amount of driving and often Greg would accompany me as I drove between the small, widely scattered towns that made up our branch territory. A typical day might consist of up to four hours on the road, and a return trip to Turangi, our farthest outpost took six hours. You can cover a wide spectrum of topics over that period of time.
I’m not a good conversationalist, but somehow Greg, my junior by about 11 years, had the ability to make everyone at ease, including me. I honestly can no longer recall what we talked about on the road and the occasional overnight stay in a motel or hotel several hours from home, but I do remember that outside of my immediate family there was no-one I felt more comfortable being with. Unfortunately Greg died in a motorcycle crash in Dublin in 1986.
There are several Youtube video clips of U2 performing One Tree Hill, mostly from live performances in various locations around the world, but the one I have chosen here is a video cobbled together by TVNZ for their weekly music show Ready to Roll. One Tree Hill has been released as a single in Aotearoa and quickly rose to the number one spot on the NZ hit parade. This is the version I remember seeing in 1988.
There being no official music video, TVNZ brought together clips of previous U2 visits to Aotearoa, segments of the tangihanga (funeral) at the Kai-iwi Marae near Whanganui, and images of One Tree Hill and Greg. It also includes images of the Whanganui River and the rugged hill country inland from the city of Whanganui. The journey inland to the nearest township of Raetihi took approximately eighty minutes in ideal conditions. For much of its length, the road winds along the valley wall of the Upokongaro Stream, a contributory of the Whanganui River, rising 760 m (2500 ft) in 87 Km (54 miles).
This was a road I traversed at least one a week, often with Greg’s company. If you do the maths, you’ll notice that the average speed for the journey was 65 km/h (40 mph) and that was a good run without stops or hazards such as slips (common in wet weather) or flocks of sheep being moved to fresh pastures (common all year round) or semi-feral sheep that had escaped the confines of farms and were of the opinion that they were the masters of the road. Other vehicles were few and far between so the opportunities to opine world affairs or share dreams and aspiration were plentiful. We did.
One Tree Hill – U2 (captured from TVNZ’s RTR in 1988)
"One Tree Hill" – U2 We turn away to face the cold, enduring chill As the day begs the night for mercy love The sun so bright it leaves no shadows Only scars carved into stone On the face of earth The moon is up and over One Tree Hill We see the sun go down in your eyes You run like river, on like a sea You run like a river runs to the sea And in the world a heart of darkness A fire zone Where poets speak their heart Then bleed for it Jara sang, his song a weapon In the hands of love You know his blood still cries From the ground It runs like a river runs to the sea It runs like a river to the sea I don't believe in painted roses Or bleeding hearts While bullets rape the night of the merciful I'll see you again When the stars fall from the sky And the moon has turned red Over One Tree Hill We run like a river Run to the sea We run like a river to the sea And when it's raining Raining hard That's when the rain will Break my heart Raining...raining in the heart Raining in your heart Raining...raining to your heart Raining, raining...raining Raining to your heart Raining...raining in your heart Raining in your heart.. To the sea Oh great ocean Oh great sea Run to the ocean Run to the sea