We bade Farewell to Nelson Mandela. Last Thursday night, his fine old heart stopped beating. His voice will reverberate and his spirit will be renewed every time his name is remembered. His compassion and forgiveness, his humanity and dedication, his love and human kindness have filled the hearts of countless millions who have looked to him and listened out for him. I am thankful to have lived in his time.
Nelson listen to the people sing, Nelson Mandela, the Peoples King
27 years lying in that Jail
27 years they couldn’t make him say
The renegades sing all the renegade songs
The ones that know hope they’re doin wrong
The Blacks and the Coloureds play The Biko Drum
The Coloureds and The Blacks play The Biko Drum
(From Wally Page’s “The Biko Drum” 1986)
“Where I Come From” was finally released on Nov 1st and went out to face the music. Thank you for all your feedback. A few listeners did not notice the booklet in the sleeve – A design flaw which I overlooked before signing off. It’s not obvious but there is a wee booklet there.
It has been an interesting month with widespread response to the recordings. I have been working to help publicize the release. It was very different when “Paddy on The Road (my first recording) “escaped ” in 1969. I still remember the excitement of getting that first LP into my hand. When I began this journey, any thought of recording was so far removed that it did not even seem a possibility. That all changed when I met Dominic Behan in London in 1969. He took me under his wing which led to my first recording experience. 44 years later it’s a different experience.
To promote the album I did a number of print media interviews. These flow easier when the interviewing journalist has had the time to hear the work beforehand. There have been good reviews too. ( only one bummer, as far as I am aware ) Some performers never read their reviews. I understand this reticence but I must confess, I read every single one. Then I retreat to my eyrie, purring or weeping depending upon the outcome. Needless to say I have never harboured even the slightest resentment! Some Radio Stations invited me in and allowed me play live. I love the challenge of performing live on radio. Occasionally, magic moments are created that linger on over the years.. I Had a chat with Marian Finucane on RTE Radio 1 and another with Pat Kenny on Newstalk. I realise what privilege it is to get to talk about the album on such high profile shows. I got to play a couple of TV gigs too – met Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show and performed for Tristan Rosenstock on TG4’s Art Show “IMEALL”.
The gigs are flying past far too quickly. In the blink of an inst gigs come and go as we race towards the end of yet another diary. Flying high across the Foyle to Derry/Derry (always a City of Culture) we met Gerard Sands and his family, bumped into Sam Shepherd with Stephen Rea and the entire ensemble of Sam’s new play. We also met Martha McClelland who was the source of “Burning Times” 3 decades ago. Then we crossed the River Boyne at the Historic town of Trim. There The Knightsbrook Hotel buzzed as ballads filled the air and Meath’s harmonious chanters lustily sang their Royal Hearts out. Back then to my Heartland. 5 miles across the fields from my hometown lies Killashee (Cill na Sí). An historic house once the home of ascendency until it later became a convent and school. When the Sisters ran out of steam it was developed into a big hotel and leisure centre where concerts are sometimes performed. Right there in the front row sat Johnny Doyle with his wife Siobhán. Our long standing, top scoring, Kildare wing-forward is also a keen songster. It was a pleasure to sing for them both.
At recent gigs Declan and I have been joined by Jimmy Higgins on percussion. I first encountered Jimmy when he played in Eleanor Shanley’s Band over 20 years ago. Since then he has worked with Riverdance, The Stunning and The Saw Doctors. He is currently in The Máirtín O’Connor Band. We are enjoying his company and the rhythms he brings to our sound. This band is by far the longest time I have spent in any band. Declan and I have been a two piece for 12 years now. We were a 3 piece for a while with Donal Lunny.
My first full time band was Planxty. Between 1972-4 we performed for about 2 years. In later years we had some short revivals. Our music can still be heard on 7 albums. In the mid 70s I had a band with Kevin Burke, Jimmy Faulkner and Declan McNelis. That also lasted about 2 years and we played together on 2 albums. Next came Moving Hearts where again, my own involvement was for two 2 years and that line up also recorded two albums. After that came a long period of solo performance from 1983 to 1998. During this time I recorded with many musicians. After a 2 year lay off I met up with Declan Sinnott again in the year 2000. Thus began this recent leg of the journey. We were joined by Donal Lunny for a period but these past 8 years we have been a two piece Band and, by far, my longest Band.
(Over the years there were a few combos that came together for short periods…in the early 60s I played with Frank and Donal Lunny in a short-lived trio called “The Rakes of Kildare”. We played 2 gigs as I recall; One was a 50th commemoration of the 1916 Rising. This was held in Hugh Neeson’s Lounge Bar – my favourite watering hole of all time. It was a great day for all porter patriots. The same year, we played a Fianna Fail dinner dance in the Town Hall in Newbridge. Our fee was £3 and a crate of stout. Later the 60s there was a brief line up that featured Ralph McTell, Steve Benbow and Denny Wright. We recorded a series of programmes for The Sam Costa show on BBC Radio. In the late 70s there was the “The Early Grave Band” which came together for the Anti Nuclear Roadshow. It featured Donal Lunny, Jimmy Faulkner, Johnny Moynihan, Declan McNelis and myself. In The 80s I toured for a while with Sharon Shannon, Steve Cooney and Eoghan O’Neill. I’m sure there were other “curious combinations” along the way.
This very night I am here upon the broad majestic Shannon in the beautiful town of Athlone. I am rehearsing and gigging here with Mairtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden, Seamie O’Dowd and Jimmy Higgins. We are an occasional 5 piece as we develop what is, for us, a very enjoyable collection of music. We are having mighty crack as we tentatively make our way, (at full speed), towards a tour next year. It’s great for my head to be in a Trad. ensemble once more. Máirtín, Seamie, Cathal and Jimmy have spent their lives immersed in the music and I feel at home in their midst.
I’ve been listening to Andy Irvine’s new album PARACHILNA. It was recorded by Andy’s son Cian during a trip they made across Australia. They travelled hard and slept beneath the stars. It is a lovely recording. Andy’s voice is sounding really good and, as always, his accompaniments are sublime. It’s great to see my old Planxty colleague still treading the boards.
Home from last night’s gig in Athlone safe and sound. Everyone scattered in different directions. Such a coming together. Glancing around the room in Joxer’s light I spotted listeners from many parts. George from Lumville quoting match results from bygone days, Hilary from Kerry swaying to the rhythms, the Donegal contingent spreading their good vibrations… listeners in from Bremen and Brooklyn, Patsy from Moate (keep coming back Mark), Johnny Hoban from Castlebar travelling the Grand Funk Railroad, a cousin I’ve yet to meet properly in from Boyne banks….our combo clicked in Athlone. This was our 6th outing and we are moving into a second gear. We got in under the music last night and the crowd came right in there with us. Philip Chevron’s “Ballad of The Faithful Departed” is taking new wings. We played it in Whelans at his tribute gig….he wrote a few days afterwards “heard your Hairy Bowsies version of my song”. His last note to me days before he moved on was poignant and beautiful….
An invite came from the South African Embassy asking would I sing Wally Page’s “Biko Drum” at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I did not have to think twice. This was an honour I had not anticipated. The Ambassador requested this song having heard it previously at a commemoration for the Dunnes Stores Strikers. The Cathedral was buzzing when I arrived with Valerie and Michael Devine. There were many familiar faces there and many hands to shake. Old friends from different campaigns and new friends all brought together by the passing of Mandela. There was powerful singing from Acoustic Soul and the Dexi Gospel Choir. There were poems from Theo Dorgan, Ruth Rosen and Dolores Walshe. Steve Shiang of the ANC spoke as did Joan Burton, Oisín Quinn, David Begg, Gary Kilgallen and Rafique Mottiar. There were prayers and readings too. Ambassador Jeremiah oversaw the entire proceedings. When he called upon the Dexi Choir to sing the National Anthem great joy and sadness echoed around the old Cathedral.
We’re at the tail end of 2013, year 47 of this great tour. All that’s left to do now are the annual Dublin Gigs. We kicked off in Vicar St last night with a belter. The audience were well up for it from the first chord (G major). We played non stop for 2 hours 20 minutes and came off stage grinning like 3 Cheshire Cats. We played the following songs:
|Biko Drum||Wally Page|
|How Long||Jackson Browne|
|Dunnes Store||Sandra Kerr|
|City of Chicago||Luka Bloom|
|First Time Ever I Saw Your Face||Ewan McColl|
|Fairytale Of New York||S. McGowan/J. Finer|
|Puckane Christmas Morning||Moore|
|16 Fishermen Raving||Wally Page|
|On The Mainland||Moore|
|Back Home in Derry||Bobby Sands|
|Farmer Michael Hayes||Trad./Arr. Moore|
|Ordinary Man||Peter Hames|
|Blood Through These Veins||Declan Sinnott|
|Nancy Spain||Barney Rush|
|Weekend in Amsterdam||McCormack/Rush/Moore|
|Magdalene Laundries||Joni Mitchell|
|Missing You||Jimmy McCarthy|
|Where I Come From||Bloom/Moore|
|Faithful Departed||Philip Chevron|
|Ride On||Jimmy McCarthy|
|No Time For Love||Jack Warshaw|
|Joxer Goes to Stuttgart||Moore|
|Cliffs of Dooneen||Trad./Arr. C. Moore|
|Viva La Quinta Brigada||Moore|
Fair play to you, the listeners. Those Vicar Street Chairs can be hard on the arse. (The balcony is a bit easier) It’s a challenge to sit there for best part of 3 hours but ye were there till the very end (and brought us back for 4 encores). It is pure privilege to have such listeners. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – You create the atmosphere in which these songs come to life. You inspire us to play our hearts out and we are very grateful for your on-going support and feedback. Míle Maith agaibh go léir ag deireadh an Bhlian 2013.
I hope you have a peaceful and happy time. Let us not forget those less fortunate then ourselves.
Left to Right – Tom Breen, Vincent (Giant) Thorpe, Myself, John Hall, Christy Whiteley (RIP) Paddy Geraghty, Michael Cronin, and Shay Cash.
Left to Right – Paddy Behan, Niall Roche, (———–), Tom Keogh, Michael Dinneen, Jimmy Burke, Jim Cuddy, Christy Higgins
Thanks to Vinny Brady of Rowan Terrace for the Photo …
A signed album to the first one who can provide the missing name.
We won our “Premiership” in 1957. If memory serves we were all in 5th class of Newbridge Primary School when we won the internal school league. We were called “The Commons” even though very few of us were natives of that Townland. Three or four of the above team went on to play with the 1959 team that won the Kildare Under-14 Championship. Later, two went on the play for Kildare at Senior County level. I have such distinct memories of each of these lads yet find it hard to recall what I was doing yesterday! The only one I’ve seen recently is the man holding the ball. Tom “The Rubber” Keogh was a classy footballer who went on to have a fine football career. Tom has also played music all his life. His son Paul Keogh is the lead singer with King Modo. They are a really good band who work the circuit. I would love to play with them some day. Paul also plays solo around his hometown of Newbridge.