We all know the Dubliners, Ireland's most famous ballad group. This, however, is a completely' new and most welcome departure from their normal repertoire which has had a devastating effect on myself and the staff of Pat Carrs Trinity Inn at Pearse Street where John Sheahan played the tape at 11 o'clock on a miserable wet morning…Result: The Sun shone and I sang for the rest of the day!
"Building Up and Tearing England Down" is sung by the unmistakable Ronnie. Written by Domnic Behan, the boys I'm told were recording it as planned when suddenly Barney burst into a hornpipe! It works in perfectly…
"My Darling Asleep" starts with Barney on banjo, joined by John on "Paddy in London" and then the whole mob take off on "tAthair Jack Walsh". "An tAthair" actually means "the Priest" in Irish and the English title turned out as "Tatter Jack Welsh"!
Seán Cannon from Connemara, a relative newcomer to the group sings a fine version of "The Newry Highwayman", with his Galway accent (even after years in England) one suspects he's something of a "Sporting Blade" himself!
Pete St. John one of our more prolific song writers contributed "When was Eleven"" a slightly wistful tune with a fine intro and double tracked fill ins on tin whistle by John. The image of the return of father with medals, ribbons and mad eyes is very stirring as is the line "War for Breakfast and Soldiers Songs for Tea"
Now the Title Song. I've got the inside story on this one. In John's own words "I was trickin' around on the fiddle when it happened". It started apparently with a rather classical Bach type improvisation and then "Bits of jigs and hornpipes crept in and finally he found himself back where he began. Being a devout Biblical type he was reminded of the Prodigal Son…how he began, frolicked around the world (the hornpipe bit) and then decided to straighten himself out. How about that?
To my mind "Waterford Boys" is a howl. Listen carefully to the lyrics — "I tucked in me toes and popped out de light" etc…Seán will have you in stitches!
Eric Bogel [sic] wrote the reminiscences of an auld man (Ronnie) in "Now I'm Easy" which puts one in a thoughtful mood to be shattered by the cackle and cluck of the violin…"The Hens March to the Midden" which is from the Shetland Islands via Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention. "Midden", incidentally, is Scots for dung heap!
There was an encore from all assembled for "Song for Ireland". This beautiful air was written for us all by Englishman Phil Colclough after his holiday here. Look out for these lines…"Laughing all the day with true friends who try to make you stay" and more wistfully a word to all of us on this benighted island of ours "Dreaming in the night I saw a land where no man had to fight — and waking in the dawn I saw you crying in the morning light", food for thought there…
Another very cojent contribution from Ronnie now on "Second World Song". To us Dubliners this is very real. How many of us (and think of the visitors) see shoeless children on O'Connell bridge and old men huddled in doorways and wonder why we are being exhorted by the "do gooders" in the press, radio and TV ads to send our money across to the Third World? How about "Now's the time to face it, we fight for far off places - Yet we fail to wage a war on want at home!"
As you can see and hear the Dubliners have many a message for us. They have the power to disturb us, make us laugh, cry and dance all to their beautiful tuneful music. They've now been twenty one years with us a chairde - raise your glasses and drink to the next 21!
Dara O Lochlainn