"THE EMIGRANT'S LETTER"
By Mattie Lennon.
Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life; its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life."
It has been said that Ireland has controlled its population growth by three measures: celibacy, late marriages, and emigration. The first two were facts of life but not featured much in song. Emigration, on the other hand, provided a fertile field for the ballad-writer. Peggy Sweeney's latest DVD "The Emigrant's Letter" draws from a rich harvest of emigration songs.
* Homeland In Mayo: Singer/songwriter, Patsy McEvoy from Blessington, Co.Wicklow, has been, for many years, moved and inspired by the ruined cabins and "famine fields" of rural Ireland. This near obsession has culminated in a sad and moving ballad. The air was composed by Brian Kilcawley.
* The Emigrant's Letter: "Defend us from the inspiration of the moment" just doesn't hold water. While Percy French was working as an entertainer on a Cruise-ship he heard one passenger say to another, "They're cuttin' the corn in Creeslough today". He immediately took up his pen to write, "Dear Danny I'm taking the pen in my hand……"
* Freemantle Bay: This song, written by Bill Bomer, tells the story of how, when under the oppressor, a man who stole a trifle to save his family from death by starvation could be banished to the other side of the world.
* Dear Old Wexford Town: Historic Wexford commemorated in this ballad by Father Kavanagh who died in 1918. In it the subject wonders if he will ever be accepted back in the place that he loves.
* Famine Years: Octogenarian song-writer Dan Keane can write about any subject from a fresh and original angle.
This song (air by Brian Burke) is an example. Written in 1995 it won the New Ballad competition at the All-Ireland Fleadh Ceol in 1996. And who was singing it?…….You've guessed….Peggy Sweeney. Like most of Dan's songs "Famine Years" ends on a note of optimism:
It's hard indeed dear Motherland
Your anger to restrain
But we've survived those many years
And hope has bloomed again.
And to that hope, Oh! holy land
Be evermore resigned,
For the love of God is greater
Than the hate of all mankind.
# My Dear Native Town Town of Dunmore: This song was composed by singer, broadcaster raconteur and former Garda
Mayo man, John, has penned such favourites a "The Roads of Kildare", The Old Threshing Mill" and "I Fell in Love With Claremorris", as well as a collection of monologues including "Old Ignatius" and "The Greatest Game of All".
# On The Banks Of The Foyle: A reminder that lovely Derry is indeed on "Irish soil".
# Goodbye Johnny Dear: "Write a letter now and then and send her all you can". A refrain often uttered at a railway station or port when the pain at the departure of an offspring was juxtaposed by the concern for the welfare of " the helpless ones at home". Written by Johnny Patterson ("The Rambler from Clare"); a man better known for his comic songs.
# The Kerry Coast: You didn't think she would record an album and leave out the Kingdom, did you?
# Sliabh Gallion Braes: Another man tells the story of how because of rents and rates and taxes which he could no longer pay he was forced to flee from the land that he loved.
# Skibbereen: Hunger, eviction and oppression could not break the Irish. "…..Father dear the day will come when in answer to the call Each Irishman with feelings stern will rally one and all……. "
# The Rose of Mooncoin: This Kilkenny anthem has been recorded many times, but not like this.
# Spancil Hill: No matter what part of the world I am awoken by the sound of a vehicle in the first few seconds of wakefulness I am transported. As far as I am concerned it is a Thames van chugging up the Lodge Lane in the 1950's. If you've had a similar experience you can understand what it's like to come to your senses and wake up, "…..in California, many mile from Spancil Hill."
# The Shores of Americay: "It's not for the want of employment I'm going, o'er the dreary and stormy say….." Love as well as hardship caused people to leave these shores.
# Limerick Vales: Denis Barron, exiled in Birmingham, has given us this moving ballad of his homeland.
# The Shores of Lough Bran: This song is about a departure from Leitrim; one of the counties hardest hit by emigration.
# Lovely Deise: Of course you all know why Waterford is known as the Deise. That's right. About a millennium and a half ago a tribe called the Deise were driven from Tara and they conquered the area now known as Waterford (a Glenmore man has assured me that they are not going to conquer any of Kilkenny) and it was originally known as the Deise. I knew you'd know that. Dan Savage (nicknamed "Cnoc Dubh" ) wrote this beautiful song.
"The Emigrant's Letter" is available from:
Price; €25 (Including P&P)
John Carthy.By Mattie Lennon
God rest your Soul John Carthy,
We'll hear your voice no more,
While young and hale and hearty
You fell at your mother's door.
You'd no disease to stifle
Or deprive you of your breath,
'Twas a well aimed state-owned Uzi
That sent you to your death.
The folks of Abbeylara knew
You weren't crazed or mad:
That you were just depressed and blue,
Not menacing or bad.
But without your medication
You could get out of hand
And in one such situation,
You made some strange demands.
As rising trauma searched to find
A sanctuary in fear,
Your father's death preyed on your mind
As Easter-tide drew near.
Blind panic armed you for a fight,
All truth became a lie
When those who could resolve your plight
Were not allowed to try.
To mother Rose you were a joy,
A loving only son.
The ones who knew you man and boy
Could ignore your loaded gun.
For your handball they adored you,
Your humour and goodwill
But most of all those neighbours knew
You were not the type to kill.
Those marksmen standing ready,
Aware of all your strife,
With weapons true and steady,
Prepared to take your life.
They pointed at your manly frame,
Not shoulder, hip or thigh,
Without a thought to stun or maim,
And so you had to die.
The victim of state rigours,
Your death has nurtured rage,
And yet our national figures
Applaud this high tech age.
As enquiries (all ex-parte)
Switch on to eyewash mode
I see your ghost, John Carthy
On the Ballywilliam road
I see your ghost John Carthy
On the Ballywilliam road
(c) Mattie Lennon 1999
(A Hungary feeling) By MattieLennon.
The group is Edain. The title of the CD is Thar Saile. It has twelve tracks including
"Se do Bheatha", "Crann Ull","Peigin" and "A Stor".
Nothing unusual about that, says you. Or there wouldn't be if the group was from Cliften or Dingle.....or even Dublin. But it's not. Edain is based in Budapest and is made up entirely of Hungarians. lldiko D. Kiss (the vocalist)is a Mathematics and Physics teacher who developed an interest in Irish music in the early nineties. "I liked very much Irish songs" she told me. Irish musician, Joe Carey inviter her to Ireland and in 1996 (with her husband and brother-in-law) she spent three weeks in Mayo. She then spent a week in Miltown Malbay when the
Summer School was on but didn't have enough money to enroll in any course.
She says;" The Gaelic songs were beautiful so I decided tolearn Irish.
It wasn't easy to find somebody in Budapest who speaks Irish".
At last she found Dora Podor, a Professor of Medieval Irish, in the University Karoly Gaspar.
She spent three years learning Irish and formed Edain in 1999.
Her brother-in-law, Zolton Dodo, (who accompanied her to Ireland) plays guitar.
Kata Asmany, who studied at the Frank Schubert Academy of Musicin Vienna> is on tin-whistle and flutes.
Janos Gueth who was a drummer (Rock music)for twenty years plays AND MAKES his own bodhrans.
When singing Sa Mhuta and Peata lldiko has a blas that would almost put a traditional singer in
Doolin or Carna to shame.
It's obvious that her heart is in it." I feel this is the style of singing, in what I feel myself at> home.
The way your sean-nós singers are singing is my way. Once I met a lovely Irish Salesian,
Jim o'Halloran, and he told me just the same (that I sing as your sean-nós singers ).
I had some songs recorded, and he took them> with him to Ireland.
These songs were broadcasted in a radio programme".
The accompanying booklet gives the words of the songs in Irish,English and> Hungarian.
Kata Asmany put the Hungarian version in rhyme.
Edain aimed to; "....arrange Irish songs in a way so as to make them> pleasant to the modern ear,
and so make the audience like them".
The have certainly achieved that. If you were to walk into the Petofi Community > Centre, in 02nd district of Budapest, on the third Friday of any month, and close your eyes, you could be at a Fleadh in Listowel.
And when you are having a riparian ramble by the Dodder or the Cashen, couldn't you just imagine that you are walking down by the Danube, and burst into Peigin Leitir Moir as follows;
Orult egy no a kedvesem
Leitir Moir-I szerelmesem
Peggy, fektelen edesem,
Nincs a foldon senki ilyen.
When I asked lldiko about Irish music in Hungary she said;
"Our music is uncommon in Hungary.
We don't play pub music, but traditional Irish music in Irish language.
It is because I prefer sean-nós and Kata likes jazz.
We try to combine the mediaval and the modern version of a song, or to show the
form of dance and song of the same theme.
Sometimes we assemble songs to reels or jigs that we consider to be well-matched."
Their latest, 12 track, album "Ri Na mBocht"is a Christmas collection and most of the songs are in Irish also.
The material on this CD took a lot of research as;".......there exists very few tunes and lyrics that are part of the Celtic culture and are also connected to Christmas". Included in the seven songs in Irish are, "Deus > Meus", "Mac De", "Seoithin" and "Dreoilin".
Edain are very thankful to the Irish Embassy in Budapest for it'e assistance with this album.
You can contact email@example.com And you can order a CD( Price 16 euro inc P&P) at : firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find Edain at www.edain.hu )
By Mattie Lennon
No. This piece is not about our ex-leaders luxury sailing vessel.
"Celtic Mist" is a five-piece band, which plays traditional music, ballads and folk songs. With a touch of country, bluegrass and even light opera thrown in.
Shay Eustace and Margaret O 'Doherty formed it in 1993. (They have since formed a nuptial alliance).
Patsy McEvoy and Sean Butler joined them (in the band that is) in 1998. Brian Kilcawley is a more recent addition.
Shay Eustace, who hails from the Dublin/Wicklow border near Manor-Kilbride, was involved in music from an early age. (Don't tell him I said this but I first heard him sing in 1963.)
He formed the very successful group "The Fair Isle Folk" in the 1970's and is a collector of Irish music and ballads. His radio programme "Shay's Ballad Session" has been running for 25 years.
Margaret, who holds many Feis Ceol, Gold Medals, was born in Inishowen, Co.Donegal and trained as an opera singer, having studied voice at the College of Music, in Dublin.
She is a mezzo-soprano and has appeared in the National Concert Hall and also in London and the USA. On the first anniversary of September 11th she performed in a series of concerts, in New York, with the Garda Male Voice Choir and next June she will accompany them, as a soloist, throughout Germany and Austria.
Patsy McEvoy, From Blessington, Co.Wicklow is a powerful singer and talented songwriter. Patsy was lead singer with "The Fair Isle Folk" has many records to his credit and is no stranger to the Irish music charts.
Sean Butler was born in Inchicore in Dublin but his interest in folk matters was sharpened by childhood summers spent in Sneem Co.Kerry. He plays electric accordion and guitar, was taught by John Mitchell and was Leinster Accordian Champion and a qualifier in the All-Ireland Championship. He also sings the odd ballad.
Brian Kilcawley, the newest member is from Beaumont, in Dublin.
He studied Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Tenor Bango and G-Bango. Music is in his blood; the late James Gill,famous flute and concertina, from Crossmalina was his grandfather.
Brian is well known in Dublin, and surrounding areas, as a session musician.
Their latest album "By Popular Request" has fourteen tracks; a number of old favourites plus four original songs (three of them written by members of the band.)
Margaret having been inspired by the death of her friend's twin infants wrote "Two Little Angels". This heart-rending track is much requested on radio programmes.
Patsy McEvoy wrote "Homeland In Mayo" and "I'm Only Thinking Of You".
The former was born out of his life-long interest in stories of emigration and the latter came to him while he was a patient in hospital " not knowing what tomorrow would bring".
Donegal man Shunie Crampsey wrote "If I Had My Life To Live Over" and he joins Margaret in a duet on this album. "By Popular Request", on the Ceol label, is in the shops now and it promises to be even more successful than their previous one "The Rovers Return".
Don't take my word for it. This is what Brian Warfield of "The Wolfe Tones" has to say about it, " The performance by the group is top class, both the singing and the musicianship, so have a listen-I know you'll love it".
If it's not in your local record store just put 16 euro in an envelope ( that includes P&P) and send it to, Shay Eustace, Lisheen Music, Lisheen, Britts, Co.Dublin.
If you want the words of any ballad Shay is your man. You can email him at email@example.com
By Mattie Lennon.
Before you went you told us not to cry.
On that sad night.
"Let the show go on" you said and then "goodbye".
We shouldn't question why you had to die
Before you went you told us not to cry
As Writer's Week had opened,For it's thirty-second year,
Where poet and peasant mingle To absorb Listowel's good cheer.
A cloud crossed hill and valley From Carnsore to Malin Head,
As news went 'round our island "The great John. B. is dead"
He who walked with King and beggar Will lift his pen no more,
To bring out the hidden Ireland Like no one did before.
He banished inhibitions To put insight in their stead.
The world stage is brighter But The "Kingdom's King" is dead.
The dialogue of two Bococs Is known in every town.
Now the Ivy Bridge links Broadway To the hills of Renagown.
While men of twenty emigrate And Sharon's Grave is read,
Or a Chastitute 's forlorn His memory won't be dead.
They stepped out from the pages Of The Man From Clare and Sive
To walk behind his coffin Each character alive.
His Soul, with One-Way Ticket To The Highest House has sped,
And this world has lost a genius;The great John. B. is dead.
Chorus. Copyright Mattie Lennon 2002
By Mattie Lennon
Still south I went and west and south again,
Through Wicklow from the morning till the night,
And far from cities and the sites of men,
Lived with the sunshine and the moon's delight.
I knew the stars, the flowers and the birds,
The grey and wintry sides of many glens,
And did but half remember human words,
In converse with the mountain, moors and fens.
J. M. Synge
Why didn’t someone think of it before?
Up to now there was a dearth of celluloid records of my beautiful, historic, serene and inspiring West Wicklow. Now that has been rectified. West Wicklow Films has brought out a video
A Journey Through West Wicklow.
It is directed and narrated by Julie Phibbs.
Julie, who qualified as a broadcast journalist in 2002, grew up in Blackrock, near Blessington, the gateway to West Wicklow.
And, not surprisingly, this is where the “journey” starts.
Vintage photos and an interview with local historian, Aidan Cruise uncovers little known facts about the Church 0f Ireland Church, castles, forges, dances and the legendry Blessington Steam Tram.
The Blessington Tram operated between Terenure and Blessington from 1888 until 1932.
It was immortalised in a ballad The Blessington Tram by Dominican Priest, Father Kevin O’Hannon.
The now beautiful Blessington Lakes didn’t come about without human suffering. Johnny Clarke recounts how 6,500 acres of farmland was flooded when the sluice gate was lowered at Poulaphouca in 1940. Houses had been demolished and families whose ancestors had lived there for generations were uprooted.
Kylebeg singer, Ted Balfe gives a very moving rendition of it.
Lacken features prominently and why wouldn’t it.
Don’t mind what they tell you in Roundwwood, Lacken is the highest village in Ireland. All you Doubting Thomases from the “backs of Wicklow” can check the benchmark at Lacken School.
The photography is superb with breathtaking shots of Baltyboys, Carrig, Kylebeg and Ballinastockan. Ballinastockan was the birthplace of John Balfe (“Balfe the Robber”,) a highwayman who was executed at Saint Stephens Green, in Dublin on Saturday the fifteenth of June 1706.
The opening words of his Gallows speech were,
“I was born in Ballinestocken, in the County of Wicklow, and Barony of Talbotstown, being tenderly brought up, and Educated as became a Gentleman, until I was Seventeen Years of Age; and then was by Lewd Women deluded from my Study………....”
He went on to say that he was innocent of the murder for which he was being hanged.
And on to Ballyknockan “The Granite Village” where even the fencing posts bear the track of a tradesman’s hand. Dublin stonecutters used to derogatorily refer to the Ballyknockan tradesmen as “rowl-me-downs”. But there is evidence in edifices around the world that the stonecutters of Ballyknockan could hold their own with the best of them. Didn’t Seamus Murphy, in his book Stone Mad say that the Ballyknockan granite was the most difficult to work.
In this video Tom Osborne demonstrates his set of, probably, 100-year-old chisels, while Michael Freeman gives a vivid account of the skills, laughs and hardships of the Ballyknockan of yore. On his last night on earth Michael Collins was asked by his sister, “You have been all over Ireland, Mick, which of them do you like the best?"
“The people of County Wicklow”.
That is why, in 1965, a 110-ton granite boulder was transported from West Wicklow to Sam’s Cross, Collins’s birthplace. It stands, rugged sturdy and unyielding, like Collins himself as a lasting memory to the “Big Fellow.”
Author and Historian Seamus O Maitiu treats the viewer to an in depth account of " The Journals of Elizabeth Smith", wife of the local Landlord, Colonel Henry Smith. Mrs Smith kept a detailed diary during the 1840’s. The fact that nobody died of hunger in the area in the Famine years is testimony to the kindness of the Smiths.
Julie Phibbs and her team spent considerable time at the cottage at Derrynamuck from which Michael Dwyer, a Captain in the local unit of the United Irishmen, escaped in 1899. Derrynamuck was close to his birthplace at the top of the Glen of Imail. He evaded capture for five years.
Kieran Sheedy in his book Upon The Mercy Of Government claims that the forces of law made only a half-hearted attempt to capture Dwyer,
”…...these searches ……seemed to be chiefly motivated by the expenses which they received for the efforts. Attempting to capture Dwyer had become a growth industry with them and his actual capture would have brought a valuable source of income to an end”.
That may be partly true, but history shows that the people of West Wicklow were always loyal to their freedom fighters. The camera follows the story of the West Wicklow rebel from the foot of Lugnaquilla to his final resting place in Waverly Cemetery, Sydney.
The ballad Dunlavin Green (the story of how 36 men were massacred by the Yeomen) is brought to life and the town of Baltinglass is a historian’s paradise.
Whether you grew up in the “Barn Cinema” era or the days of colour TV you were entertained by the products of Tinseltown. But did you know where Hollywood got its name? Well, a Guirk man from Hollywood, Co.Wicklow immigrated to California and made good. He opened a Racetrack and called it Hollywood Park. The film industry grew up around it and the powers that were decided to call it…..HOLLYWOOD!!!!
The camera lingers in the mist-covered mountains around the village of Hollywood. And we learn of Saint Kevin’s “journey through West Wicklow” on his way to Glendalough.
One of the last scenes in this collector’s piece is a grim reminder of the last victim of the Civil War:
The plaque on May Nolan’s house, in Knocknadruce, commemorates Niall Plunkett O ‘ Boyle. Donegalman, O’Boyle was Commander of the Flying Column under the jurisdiction of the Third Battalion, No 2 (South Dublin) Brigade. On Tuesday 15th May 1923 the house in Knockanadruce was surrounded by Free State soldiers under the command of Colonel Felix McCorly. O’ Boyle came out with his hands up and was immediately shot through the eye. A second shot to the head finished him off.
From Manor Kilbride to Shillelagh it’s all there.
A Journey Through West Wicklow
is available from;
Ms Julie Phibbs
West Wicklow Films
Blackrock, Blessington, Co.
Price 25 Euro (including P&P.)
Additional information from firstname.lastname@example.org