Tyrone Boys — Crossing The Pennines one evening in 1987 I hit a Radio Eireann hotspot. The Long Note was coming in loud and clear. High above Halifax I parked the van. got into the sleeping bag, and listened to some music from. That's when this song started. I finished it recently in Innlshannon House on the banks or the Bandon River. Some older verses nave been replaced. The 'Silk Clad Pompadour' has been laid to rest. The 'Death Train' finally case off the rails. Most songs remain in their initial form. Others are constantly being re-shaped by on-going exposure to the elements of live performance.
Folk Tale — These lines are from Paula Meehan. I love her poems, the way her lines flow in our direction. Requests for Folk Tale have increased in recent years. Sometimes, so softly, that they are barely audible. Paula gives readings of her poems, and collections of her poetry are availavle, catch her if you can. Val was originally drawn to this piece and brought home a handwritten copy by Paula from an Aids Alliance Auction. It hung on the wall for years. I began trying to sing it each time I passed.
My Little Honda 50 — The brother was driving down the old bog road that runs between Edenderry and Prosperous. He was running low on diesel so he pulled into Allenwood Services. When this song came over the forecourt tannoy he thought of me … Soon as I heard it I went searching for the author, who turned out to be the one and only Tom Tuohy. I love this song for its simplicity and its fun, for the pictures of my native place. It paints of my native place. The arrival of the Honda 50 into the heartland of Kildare changed our world forever. Overnight it becane possible to ride to Dreamland without bicycle clips, to get home from Croke Park in time for Seán Og O Ceallachain. Overnight the world became our cloister. Tom has released a 'collector's item" four track CD which features his own version.
Easter Snow — Easter Snow is the name of a slow air that Seamus Ennis (1919-1982) used to play. It was also the name that adorned his garden gate … Hearing him play was one of my life's great pleasures. Seamus Ennis was a master in our world of music. In earlier times his arrival was always anticipated; his playing was legendary; his visits long remembered and cherished. He sang, played whistle and fiddle but, most of all, he was a magnificent player of the Uileann Pipes. I spent a week with him in Yorkshire in the late 1960s. In early Planxty days himself and Liam O'Flynn shared a house. Seamus encourged us as we began to get our music together. Towards the end of his life. I spent days with him out in The Naul where he shared the mystery of his muse, talked of music and trawled up lost verses once again.
Farmer Michael Hayes — I came across this lyric In 1975 and recorded a version with Planxty back In 1978. Dónal Lunny wrote a second part to the Melody which enabled the pipes to soar. This song has been frequently requested so I am delighted to bo singing It again thirty-flve years on. Some new verses have brought Farmer Michael Hayes on a slightly different journey. However he still sets out from Tipperary and, evading capture, makes his way to the United States of America.
On Morecambe Bay — This song was written by Kevin Littlewood of Lancashire. I heard it on an album that was recorded at The Bothy Folk Club in Southport where Kevin is a resident singer. I have not met him yet but he did come to our gig at The Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool last year where his song was very well received. Channel 4 Television have transmitted a documentary by Nick Broomfield called The Ghosts of Morecambe Bay. Vulnerable migrant workers, the world over, suffer greatly under unscrupulous gang masters who operate in a thousand different guises.
Tiles and Slabs — Nigel Rolfe and I have worked together on a number of projects. We visited Scariff, East Clare in April 1994. shortly afterwards came the awful events which led to the tragic deaths of Imelda Riney. her four-year-old son Liam and Fr Joe Walsh a local priest who sought to Intervene as events unfolded. Nigel wrote this lyric shortly afterwards and, together, we made this song.
Haiti — Since the horrific events In Haiti there have been further disasters in different parts of the world. Today, satellite communicatlons bring us immediately to epicentres of destruction. Unimaginable images are beamed into our living rooms, spliced between The X Factor and Sky Sports … Val and I went to hear John Spillane sing In The Button Factory. Dublin, shortly after the Haitian earthquake. One of John's songs that night sowed the seed for this piece. John and I went at immediately and two weeks later performed this song at a benefit gig for Haiti In Vicar Street. Dublin. The proceeds went towards the efforts of GOAL in Port-au-Prince. Such songs and gigs are sometimes viewed cynically, There are people who maintain that such events, in the face of enormouas tragedy are pointless. Nevertheless many musicians continue to write and sing songs, to offer the support of benefit gigs, to reach out … it is all that some or us can do.
Weekend in Amsterdam — Val and I went to the Goilin Singers Club on Friday night in 2008. It was vary late when this song was sung by Gerry O'Reilly (No. 2). It caught my ear straight away fo the tune and structure were of The Crack was 90 in the Isle of Man which I had learned from Barney Rush back in 1969. Gerry told me the song had been written by 'some fellow down In Kildare'. No stone was left unturned until the bard was found, It turns out to be Paul McCormack, a neighbour from Newbridge, whoes family I've since I first drew breath With Paul's blessing I have added a few lines here and there, and reshaped a few of his verses … this could described as a Moorefield Road version of a Pairc Mhuire song which has been set to a Sallynoggin tune — The Lily Whites and The Boys in Blue.
Ballydine — Clonmel was my home for 18 months in 1963/64. It was a very happy time despite my incarceration there as a junior bank clerk,. However, come four o'clock, I'd scarper out the door into that Vale of Honey (Cluan Meala). There I embrace every aspect of what life offered. I sang for porter, played cards, gaelic football and rugby. I had a half share in a hopeless (but very friendly) greyhound. I went horse racing in Powerstown Park and danced in The Collins Hall to the sounds of Mick Delahunty's Orchestra. I began writing this song all those years ago. My landlady was the late Annie Kehoe. Mo one ever had better lodgings. Occasionally Annie would call on me to sing and 'twas then the 'Dannos' would fly. We demolished them, we lowered them up.
God Woman — This how it all happened. If you go to Pollardstown you can see it for yourself. Only recently the Dalai Lama arrived to visit the sacred place. He came quietly and with great dignity. God bless that holy man. Soon after came Queen Elizabeth. She made straight for The National Stud to gaze fondly upon the very best of our stallions Renowned Kildare woman, Lady O'Reilly, welcomed Her Majesty. A week later President Obama arrived into 'The Sacred Bogland'. He lowered a quick pint of black porter and never even had to put his hand in his pocket. Diageo gained free worldwide publicity and celebrated by issuing redundancy notices. (They suggest that we drink sensibly). The rest of us danced around the beehive.