When I finished taping for this album I had to leave, the following day, to catch a flight to Ireland. After waiting about three hours for the delayed flight I was pooped. When I finally got on the plane and was about to lower my seat back to have a sleep the passenger beside me handed me an Irish newspaper. I was 'scanting' it over with one eye half closed when I came across an article headed "Artificial insemination for 2,000 French women". Well this article got me thinking about a short recitation I had taped the previous day called "An old cow's lament", which is all about artificial insemination, but from a humorous point of view. What a contrast, I though to myself, between this and some of the other material we taped, for instance the poetic lines of William Butler Yeats …
The old brown thorn trees break in two high over Cummen Strand,
Under a bitter black wind that blows from the left hand;
Our courage breaks like an old tree in a black wind and dies,
But we have hidden in our hearts the flame out of the eyes
Of Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
On the other hand the title of a song like "Quacks and Newspapers", how's that for a title—I wonder who dug that one up, seem to make much sense. However, it's a good fun kind of song. I like it. I remember collecting it from my cousin McGrath in Power's Pub in the village of Tullahaught, near where I live in Carrick-on-Suir. We were having a feed of crubeens, (pig's feet, and they are just delicious), the same night and counting out the bones from each one just to clear up the argument as to whether there are 34 or 36 bones in a crubeen. Since that night Seamus has added an extra verse and chorus to that song …
Ye maidens pathetic with lovers athletic,
For liquid cosmetic you can't beat the drop.
With a glow to your cheek it would make your heart weak,
It would quieten a stallion or tame a young cob.
At the mouth he would drool, be reduced to a fool;
He'd kick up his heels and peel to the buff,
Then t'is he'd be pathetic when you'd be athletic;
If only you'd take a few drops of the stuff.
So here's to the creature, the best thing in nature
For sinking your sorrows and raising your joys.
For there's nothing like whiskey to make ladies frisky;
It soon separates all the men from the boys.
At a Fleadh Ceol (Irish Music Festival) which is held in various towns during the summer months, you would find from all over Ireland (and recently from several other countries as well), instrument under arms and voices tuned up I suppose and all ready to compete for the 'All Ireland' finals.
After the competitions are over and all are more or less relaxed, its then the fun starts. Man, you'd find them playing their fiddles, accordians, uillian pipes (elbow Irish pipes), penny whistles, concertinas, singing with their heads back letting pour out of them, or maybe lilting (mouth music, imitating various instruments), or playing the 'Bodhrán', bourawn (a goat skin drum held in the hand), or banjos, guitars, harmonicas or God knows what else, playing on in the pubs, in the back room of restaurants, in the men's room, in the ladies room, or anywhere else for that matter. All it takes is for one person to start playing an instrument even on the corner of a lonely street and in a few minutes he! have at least a half dozen other musicians gathered 'round him and they all belting into jigs and reels, until you'd swear all hell was let loose.
I remember my brothers and I travelling to one of these Fleadh Ceol's in the town of Boyle in County Roscommon. We had travelled for about five hours—with one pub, and another pub, and another pub, and of course the stops in between—when we eventually arrived at the Fleadh Ceol there was no accommodation to be got. The town was booked out. So we had to pitch our two little tents we had brought with us 'just in case'.
Well it must have rained for the three day duration of the Festival. Our tents were nearly washed away. It was also my first experience of a 'real-live' waterbed. I thought to myself "This is for the bloody birds", so on the third night I went to the Hotel, with a bed in mind, and to see some friends who were getting together to swap a few tunes on the Uillean Pipes and Fiddles. It was a great session and it must have went on for hours. In the meantime the room had become full of people who had, by this time, fallen asleep all over the floor, under the bed, as well as in the bed. As I stepped over bodies on my way to the door I could see heads sticking out from under the carpet all 'round the room.
The dawn was breaking when I went outside, so I sat on the bridge beside the Hotel. In the reflection on the river I saw the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. And I suppose I was feeling a bit lonely and sorry for myself. I took a harmonica from my top pocket and started to play a quiet slow air. Soon I was joined by an old timer who sat on the bridge beside me. He never said a word—just took out a whistle and joined in with the tune I was playing. It wasn't long before more musicians came along and did the same. Soon the bridge was full of people, all probably in the same boat as myself, either couldn't sleep, or didn't have a place to sleep, or didn't even want to sleep. And so dawned another day of beautiful music and song.
Well I started off with the idea of saying something about the songs etc., but I must have got way-laid somewhere along the line. But as they say, its good to leave a little something to the imagination. If on the other hand you get a chance to get to some of the places where we sing I hope you'll enjoy it, and have a good time. Maybe as good a time as the GOOD TIMES I have collecting and singing these songs.