A group of workmen were tearing down a very distillery in the South of Ireland. It had not been used for fifty years and was full of birds' nests. When they reached the vat where the whisky had been stored, they found a small metal pipe leading from it and going into the ground. It had been well hidden. They dug down following it one foot underground till it ended in a small hollow under a tree two hundred yards from the distillery. No one could explain it.
The facts end here, but they suggest strange stories of men long ago stealing to that hollow at night and draining off the whisky out of sight of the distillery.
There is no one to tell of the nights of drinking and song that came out of that pipe but I'm sure some of the Irish drinking songs on this record were sung, as some of them are much older than that distillery.
Drinking and singing have been enjoyed by men everywhere and always. As islands were discovered and jungles penetrated, all new found peoples had songs and some kind of way of making intoxicating drink.
If you hear a lot of singing from your neighbour's home at midnight, you just know there is drinking going on.
In Ireland, people would gather in pubs on fair days and market days when their business of the day had ended to "wet their whistle" and hear a song. A travelling piper, fiddler, singer of fluter would provide sweet music for pennies and a farmer could learn a new song or two.
My Grandmother kept one of these pubs and learned quite a few of the songs one of them being "WHISKY YOU'RE THE DEVIL" which I have not heard elsewhere.
Like Tom, Liam and I, Tommy Makem learned most of his songs from his family, particularly from his mother, Mrs. Sarah Makem, who still lives in Co. Armagh and sings on some records. When Tommy sings "Bold Thady Quill", he is singing about a champion hurler from Co. Cork whom I understand is still alive.
The song "FINNIGAN'S WAKE" gave the title to the famous novel by James Joyce who was interested in Tim Finnigan's resurrection from the dead by having whisky (water of life) poured on him during a fight at the wake.
Most of these songs tell their own story. They are not merely curiosity pieces or antiques; they are still very much alive and are as popular as the drink that inspired them.
Sleeve notes originally by Patrick Clancy
1968, Emerald Records Limited