Robert Severin | Star in My Shadow

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Star in My Shadow

by Robert Severin

Postcard from Budapest: songs about connections between Scotland and Hungary.
Genre: World: Eastern European
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Star in My Shadow
4:46 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Star In My Shadow was inspired by Jane Haining, who was born in Dunscore, near Dumfries, Scotland, in 1897. She won a scholarship to Dumfries Academy in 1909. She worked in Paisley as a secretary for J & P Coats threadmakers for ten years, and lived in Forth Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow. Her local church was the Queens Park West United Free Church.

She then worked as a matron at the Scottish Mission School for girls in Budapest from 1932 to April 1944. She was arrested by the Gestapo after the school housekeeper’s Nazi son-in-law reported her to them; Jane had admonished him for stealing from the pupils’ food rations. She died in Auschwitz in July 1944.

I thought the photo of Jane holding the girl in her arms really captured the essence of Jane's spirit. I don’t know if that little girl survived; I’m hoping that she did and that she was among the women who contributed to the BBC's film about Jane. They talked about how Jane was able to reassure the them while they were in the cellar sheltering from the allied bombers, and about her compassion and "the love that only a mother would know". The womens’ recollections provided much of the material for my lyrics.

I wrote the song from the perspective of the girl in the photograph, now an elderly woman. She is recalling the first air raid on Budapest, as she walks along the embankment, which is now named after Jane.

I searched for accounts from other Hungarians who remember that first bombardment of Budapest. One of them, also a young girl at the time, described how she saw "these little silver crosses trailing long white ribbons in the sky, higher than the sun". She thought they were beautiful at first, but then their roar got louder and louder. The alarm in Budapest was sounded at 10.35am on Monday 3rd April 1944, so it probably cut the girls' playtime short. The routine was that the Americans would bomb during the day, and the RAF at night.

The chorus quotes Jane. When directed by the Church of Scotland not to return to Budapest from her holiday in the UK in September 1939, she is reported to have replied, “If the girls needed me in days of sunshine, they’ll need me even more in days of darkness”.

The star in the song’s title symbolises Jane’s spirit, which has shone through "days of sunshine... and darkness" for those who remember her.


I remember silver birds
Higher than the sun
Long white fingers followed them
Spring had just begun
They looked so beautiful
In the April blue
Steel in place of feathers
They thundered as they flew

You helped me down the spiral stairs
Banshees howled and wailed
The musty cellar and the rats
With their scary teeth and tails
Your hand on my shoulder
The smile in your voice
You faced the terror with us
Even though you had a choice

You’re the star in my shadow
In days of sunshine
In days of darkness
You’re the star in my shadow
Shines the light
Of your love on me

We saw them take you in their car
I couldn’t say goodbye
We would follow in your tracks
Sometime in July
All these years later
There’s a street with your name
Where we walked together
We walk together now

You’re the star in my shadow
In days of sunshine
In days of darkness
You’re the star in my shadow
Shines the light
Of your love on me

We lost you in that valley
But I heard your echo there
You loved that song of David’s
My refuge in the nightmare

You’re the star in my shadow
In days of sunshine
In days of darkness
You’re the star in my shadow
Shines the light
Of your love on me



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