Joe Heaney was born in Carna, Co. Galway, with the sound of the Atlantic rollers and the Gaelic language in his ears. He has an incredible repertoire of over three hundred Gaelic songs, some of great antiquity, and his singing is an example of the traditional style which has all but died in Europe. He is known to all collectors of traditional Gaelic tunes as one of the most prolific sources, and his versions are relied upon as being genuine and authoritative.
His first public recognition came when he received the first prize at the 1940 "Oireachtas" (National Music Festival) in Dublin. He has gained many prizes since then, the most recent was the first prize for Traditional Gaelic Song at the "All Ireland Festival" at Thurles in 1959.
MORRISSEY AND THE RUSSIAN SAILOR — A spirited ballad based on the exploits of a Tipperary born bare knuckle fighter who did in fact meet and vanquish the list of champions mentioned in the last verse of Joe's song. Although much research has been carried out, a factual record of this famous Terra del Fuego fight has not been found. However, the song is still well known and loved all over the West of Ireland for even though a hundred years have passed since the famous battle, the story will still raise enthusiasm in people who hear it.
BEAN PHAIDIN — A cri-de-coeur from a woman who wishes that she were married to another's husband. "May she break her leg, may she break her arms. I'd travel to Galway with him, and come home in the currach with him … ". The unusual rhythm has all the wild winds of Connaught in its cadences. This is a bitterly-humourous down', to earth ballad in a tragi-comic mood.
CAILLEACH-AN-AIRGID — The "Hag with the Money" is a song written in typical satiric mood about an old lady (she was actually Joe Heaney's great grandmother). She was much richer than her neighbours who naturally took a rise, out of her with this song. They satirize her liveliness and her independence, but warn her that if she marries the man she has her old eyes on "He's only a rake, he'll drink all your money". This is a fine lively song based on an old dance tune.
ONE MORNING IN JUNE — A "macaronic" song, part Gaelic and part English, dating from the late 18th century — note the line "So powder your hair love, and come away 'long with me". The song describes the traditional meeting of a man with a maid, he ex-pounds on his honesty and innocence, but she is not so easily convinced.
THE GOOD MAN — An Irish version of the traditional song found throughout Europe about the deceived husband who is not yet quite such a fool as he appears. The tune that Joe uses here is an old Irish variant not yet collected anywhere else.
Joe speaks and sings both English and Irish with equal fluency. Although here, as on his first record for Collector, JEI 5, he sings one song in Irish, an English language song. The Bonny Bunch of Roses, is the most important item on rho record.
The Bonny Bunch of Roses has been collected in both England and Ireland. Some believe it to be a pro-Napoleonic song, intended as propaganda to rally the Irish to the French cause — the conquest of England.
However, the text pictures Bonaparte's defeat through poor strategy, and warns Napoleon's son (immortalized in French drama as L'Aiglon and born to his second wife) that England can never be won.
The language of the song belongs more to the broadside ballad tradition than that of the traditional country song. The "roses" of the title refer to the trinity of England. Ireland and Scotland.
The authority S. Baring-Gould has described the song as "unmistakably an anti-Jacobite" production later adapted as an anti-Napoleonic song.
The tune toad here is possibly based on a traditional Irish tune, The Little Bunch of Roses.
Spailpin Fánar is a song about one of the wandering farm labourers, who travelled from farm to farm hired by the week or month. They carried their possessions in bundles and their spades under their arms.
This satirical song illustrates the contempt these Irish speaking workers felt for the newly-settled farmer, who refused to speak Irish.
The tune is similar to The Girl I Left Behind Me.
Perhaps better known as Seventeen Come Sunday, Joe's As I Roved Out is the familiar story of the inexperienced young country girl who is seduced by a passing stranger — and abandoned.
The tune is similar to the usual Irish variant of the song.