December 4th was D. Day, Dubliners day. They flew in, dashed from London Airport to the B.B.C. T.V. Studios, recorded three spots for the "Tonight" show and then rushed across London by taxi for a pre-concert conference. There, we ironed out their programme and went over some recording details. By that time the audience were pouring into Cecil Sharp House, the traditional home of British Folk Music, the engineers were chewing their fingers and Roy Guest, who organised the evening for E.F.D.S.S. with Transatlantic Records was itching to get the performance under way.
The Dubliners have not visited England often in the past two years and much has happened to them in that time. The packed audience was full of excitement and expectation. Since they first burst onto record (TRA 116) the group has lost Luke Kelly and gained two newcomers John Sheehan and Bobby Lynch, neither of whom had been seen in England before. In the past 12 months the boys had become Ireland's best-ever selling recording artists with their L.P. "The Dubliners", their E.P. "In Person" and the single "Wild Rover/Rocky Road to Dublin". They had achieved unparalleled popularity on TV in Ireland and played everywhere to sell-out houses. Through records too, their fame had begun to spread to America, Australia, and New Zealand. For the artists and the recording company this was a nail-biting one-shot effort. The results had to be good for the boys weren't due back in England again until May. In the event I think everyone was satisfied. The audience, as you'll hear went wild with delight. The Dubliners turned in an electrifying and typically warm and spontaneous performance and the recordings have captured admirably the spirit and atmosphere of the occasion.
Roddy Mac Corley was known as the Kevin Barry of the North; he died at the old wooden bridge at Toom Bridge very near Belaghy, Co. Derry, a place which is very republican to this day.
The Twang Man. This is a Dublin slang song which Ronnie learned from his father. "Hawking twang" means bartering home-made toffee: a Mot is a woman-wife, sister, sweetheart or whatever.
Reels-The Sligo Maid. Colonel Rodney. The first is a very popular tune in Dublin and was learned by John at the Fiddlers Club, Church Street. We might as well admit that we do copy the Clancy's-they have Tommy Makem to carry them home from drunken sessions, so we get John Sheehan to carry us home. In his spare time John plays the fiddle.
Seamus Ennis was the first man we heard singing The Woman from Wexford. There are numerous versions of this song on the theme of "Blind Man He Can See." a theme also very popular in medieval literature.
The Patriot Game. Bobby, who takes this solo, was playing around Dublin for about a year and joined us on so many sessions that he stayed-somewhat like Topsy we just growed!
"Lead me to the spot where lies my son,
He of the ruddy glow and sunny cheek,
Let me sadly gaze upon the lips that ne'er again shall speak.
Oh shame the cowards who so shamely stole the keep.
Seventeen years were all the years he ever lived, my little boy,
Now an ugly yoke and lid shall be the coffin for my heart's first joy.
Oh shame you cowards that did a child destroy."
Domnic Behan wrote these lines after the burial of Fergal O'Hanlon, who died in an attempt to banish a border that still exists between Northern and Southern Irish Men; later he developed the lines to the ballad, The Patriot Game, which was to become world famous.
Róisín Dubh. Barney, as you may have guessed, comes from a very musical family and probably heard "Rakish Paddy" from his uncle before he heard the conventional Mama and Dada bit. Although he plays a variety of instruments his main ones are the tenor banjo and mandolin. Here with John he plays Róisín Dubh or "My Little Black Rose" which is an allegorical ballad-the rose being Ireland.
Air-La La La Lo was learned from the singing of Ray and Archie Fisher. The song itself tells more than anyone could write about it.
Peggy Lettermore, the only Gaelic song on this record, is sung by Ciaron. who learned Gaelic as soon as be learned English. He helps to keep both Gaelic and drinking up to scratch with the help of people like Seamus Ennis and Joe Heaney. The song is in praise of a girl called Peggy who came from Lettermore Island in Connemora.
Easy and Slow is a song which we first heard from various members of the Behan family in Dublin pubs.
My Love Is In America is one of Barney's showpieces. There is little doubt that he is one of the finest banjoists in the world.
Seamus Ennis was the first to make The Kerry Recruit popular. We learned it from him and then adapted it to the Dublin style.
In The Old Orange Flute we give a bit of lighthearted blackguarding in which the flute gets the better of Orange Men and Papishes alike.
The Donegal Reel and The Longford Collector. We played the second reel outside the Church at Ronnie's wedding and we have since renamed it, "Ronnie's Wedding."
The Leaving of Liverpool. Luke Kelly, who appeared with us on our first record, was the first to make this song popular in Ireland.