The songs on this album are not exclusively Irish, there are some Scottish and one English song. We didn't plan it this way, they just happen to be some of the songs we like and we hope they are fairly representative of our approach to singing.
As well as all the people that we learnt the songs and tunes from, who are mentioned later, we would like to thank Paul and Huw for their unending patience, Philip for his hawk-like' attention to detail, and to P.J. for both these qualities and a lot more beside.
"I'll build my love a castle at the head of the town
Where neither lord, duke or earl will e'er pull it down ".
This sounds like a veiled reference to the evictions and destruction in rural Ireland in the 19th Century. It is one of the things that attracted me to the song. This is another one from Sam Henry's collection and it came from Jock Smylie and Margaret Curry of Clough, Co. Antrim. Doctor O'Neill's jig is played for Seamus O'Neill. — John
The Month of January — When I was growing up in Caherlistrane, singers and musicians from the North of Ireland would often visit us. It was during a session with Cathal McConnell, Len Graham and the late Jeo Holmes that I learnt this song. — Dolores
Will Ye Go To Flanders — I learnt this also from Ewan MacColl, who sung two verses of it on an old L.P. Failing to trace any other verses of it anywhere, I took the liberty of making up two more. Peter Hall in Aberdeen told me that the original stanzas date back to the 1st Duke of Marlborough's campaign in Flanders in 1706. Its pacifist sentiments though, make it applicable to any of the imperialist wars. — John
Tommy Peoples & Mary Shore — Kieran put these two jigs together. We don't have a name for the first one, we just know it as Tommy Peoples. Mary Shore was composed by the late Larry Redigan a fiddler who emigrated to the United States many years ago. — Eamonn and Kieran
Johnny Lovely Johnny — I learnt this song from my aunt Sarah, who in turn learnt it in the late 40's from Alice Rainy a travelling woman from Co. Tyrone. The Rainys were regular visitors to our house in Caherlistrane, Co. Galway, bringing with them many fine songs from the north. Dolores
Mouth Music and Eddie Curran's Favourite — In Scotland there has long been a tradition of mouth music (Porta Beal). It probably dates back to a time when people had no instruments to play and so imitated the sounds of instruments with their voices. It also related to ‘cantaracht' a technique of teaching and learning pipe tunes vocally.
This is followed by a reel we got from Eamonn's father. — John
The Low Low Lands of Holland
"Says the mother to the daughter give o'er your sore lament.
There are men enough in Galway to be your hearts content".
I think the mention of Galway in this song gave it a local touch for me. There are of course many versions of it and the place name in the above line often changes according to the preference of the singer. — Dolores
Kyle Brack Rambler, Miss McGuinness & Speed the Plough — The first one is a Galway reel that Eamonn learnt from Dolores' brother Sean who plays the flute and whistle. The other two Eamonn got from his father Eddie Curran. — Eamonn and Kieran
Allan Tyne of Harrow — In 1727 Jonathan Swift wrote of the famous highwayman Tom Clinch:
"My concience is clear, and my spirits are calm
And this I go off without prayer book or psalm;
Then follow the practice of clever Tom Clinch.
Who hung like a hero, and never would flinch".
Allan Tyne was another of the many highwaymen praised in picaresque broadside ballads of the 18th Century. I learnt this one a good few years ago from the singing of Ewan MacColl. — John
The Home Ruler & Cross the Fence — The Home ruler comes from the Glens of Antrim, it is followed here by Cross the Fence which Eamonn learned from Peter and Pat McKenna Emyvale, Monaghan. — Eamonn and Kieran
The Bonny Light Horseman — This is a common song in the British Isles and Ireland and has been popular with children in the past. I learnt this set from Sam Henry's collection "Songs of the People". He says of the air which he recorded from Mr. John Parkhill of Coleraine, "This simple and haunting air is composed in the old Irish gapped scale. It is probably more than four hundred years old". Padraic Foley in Tullamore who is an enthusiast for Napoleonic songs also has a fine version of it. — John