Concert Programme

1.	  The Cuckoos Nest - Luke Cheevers
2.	  King of Rome - Niamh Parsons
3.	  Gulabeinn - Francy Devine
4.	  Two Strings on Every Bow - Annette Buckley 
5.	  The Blind Blackbird - Eugene McEldowney
6.	  Nobody’s Moggy’s Land - Tony McGaley
7.	  Magaidh Ruaidh - Francy Devine
8.	  The Inverted Blackbird - Anne Buckley
9.	  The Croppy Boy - Eugene McEldowney
10.  The Boys of Barr na Sráide - Niamh Parsons
11.   Little Mary Cassidy - Luke Cheevers
12.   The Nightingale - Tom Finn

Concert Notes:

The Cuckoo’s Nest – Luke Cheevers
This magnificent song is reputed to have been written by the great John Sheil in the early 1880s. He was a weaver by trade and a song writer by inclination. He was born in the north of England and lived the best part of his life in Drogheda. His songs are still sung widely throughout Ireland. There are versions of it sung all over the English-speaking world. I’ve heard quite a few of them in my time and none of them come within an asses roar of Shiel’s version. It’s a beautiful composition with all its classical references and what have ya. The nuts and bolts of this song amounts to a man being pursued relentlessly by a very persistant female sexual predator. Whe he finally gives into her advances he finds he can’t come up with the goods. The experts tell us that this sort of conditionis much more prevalent than most men would admit to.

King of Rome – Niamh Parsons
Written by English folk singer Dave Sudbury, the song tells the story of Charlie Hudson (born in the 18702), a working-class man who raised racing pigeons in Derby. Charles worked as a gas lamp lighter for Derby Corporation. He also earned money as a basket maker and ran a pot shop from his house at 56 Brook Street (now demolished). It was in the back yard of this house that he had his pigeon loft. He had started racing pigeons in 1904 and in 1913 he entered one of his pigeons in a 1,001 mile (1,611 km) race from Rome to England.  On the day of the race, a storm came up and all the pigeons disappeared - all except for Charlie's pigeon, which went on the international stardom and became known as the ‘King of Rome’. After the fame of the record-breaking 1913 race, he had many offers for the winning bird, including from America.  After the bird died, Charles presented the ‘King of Rome’ to Derby Museum in 1946, and he himself died on 13th March 1958 aged 84.

Gulabeinn – Francy Devine
Geordie McIntyre recorded his inspiring tribute to Hamish Henderson with Alison McMorland on Where Ravens Reel. Gulabeinn, the ‘curlew or whaups mountain’, lies immediately to the North East of Spittal of Glenshee in Perthshire. Henderson spent his first five years at the Spittal and first climbed Gulabeinn at the age of four with his mother. Henderson’s friend and biographer Timothy Neat observed that the mountain ‘became a living presence’ to young Hamish. In May 2002, his remains were scattered in a ‘natural tomb’ at the summit. Neat, one of the ceremonial party, noted ‘through fissures in the rock plumes of ash shot around the heather – as though a family of dragons had woken’. For Geordie, ‘this striking image triggered this song’. And what a song! I am grateful to Geordie for his blessing and encouragement.

Two Strings on Every Bow – Anne Buckley 
I got this from Westmeath singer and former member of all-female group ‘Macalla’ Roisín Gaffney. She has it from the singing of a Northern Irish singer called Kevin Mitchell who moved to Scotland some years ago. I believe the late Paddy Tunney used also sing it. I suspect it comes from Ulster but I would be delighted if anyone could give me more info. The title turns up in folk songs from everywhere and has great resonance I think.

The Blind Blackbird – Eugene McEldowney
This is an Ulster song which I first heard from the singing of Davy Hammond of Belfast. It belongs in a group of songs where a young girl who has been betrayed in love wishes she could turn back the clock but alas this is not possible. Versions have been found all over Ireland, the U.K. and North America. In this song the girl admits that she was even blinder than the blackbird.

‘But never a girl so blind as me, when first I fell in with bad company.’

I like this song for its no-nonsense honesty.

Nobody’s Moggy’s Land - Tony McGaley
I was telling a friend about my newfound interest in bird-watching at a session recently. I explained how it began with having sympathy on a Robin, all alone in my back garden on the frosty grass, and the way he might look at you. When I hung out some birdfeed for him, I was amazed how quickly the word got round, and how there were now ten different species taking turns at the feeder. Another person, listening to our conversation, asked “What about  Cats?”, to which I quickly replied “I bought a pellet gun along with the birdseed”. She turned and walked off without saying goodnight! I want to admit here I didn’t buy a pellet gun, it was just one of my little jokes (I’m still a good shot with a brick) and that’s another little joke. When I went looking for a song that mentions birds and found this one, I couldn’t resist it. Pellet guns and bricks sound cruel, but a heavy truck can make it look like an accident. Nobody’s Moggy’s Land was written by Bob Kanefsky in 1989 and published with his permission on Mudcat. As such it is not an Irish traditional song, and mentions two birds not native to our shores. We don’t have a Mocking bird, although we have an abundance of mocking singers. Nor do we have a Hummingbird, the only species that can fly backwards as well as forwards as it hovers over a flower seeking nectar. The song has a chorus you may like to join in on, if you don’t know the words, just take off your shoes and Hum, like the Hummingbird. 

Magaidh Ruaidh – Francy Devine
I heard the wonderful Kathleen MacInnes sing Ceud Fáilt air Gach Gleann on her first CD Óg-Mhadainn Shamhraidh (Greentrax, 2006) and fell for the air. The song is in praise of the topography of Kathleen's native South Uist. I wrote Magaidh Ruaidh to the air, attempting to capture something of the mournfulness I met among emigrant Scots and Irish I met when first entering the workplace in the 1960s. In those days, a trip back to a Hebridean island from London involved an overnight sleeper and rocky ferries. Whatever about the lyrics, the tune remains special. As with Gulabeinn, Magaidh Ruaidh is written and sung in Scots.

The Inverted Blackbird – Anne Buckley
I first heard Rosaleen Linehan singing The Inverted Blackbird on ‘Women's Hour’ on BBC Radio 4 back in the early nineties I think. Then I forgot all about it until I heard Brian O'Rourke singing it at the Feakle Festival a few years ago. I believe Rosaleen's husband Fergus was inspired to write it when he went backstage in the Gaiety Theatre and encountered film producer and documentary-maker of note, Lelia Doolan, hanging by her knees while rehearsing for a performance.

The Croppy Boy – Eugene McEldowney
There are two versions of this song. One has a young rebel of 1798 confessing his involvement in the rising to a priest who turns out to be a Yeoman officer in disguise. This version is the one I prefer. It begins with the birds singing in the Spring ‘and the tune they sang was old Ireland free.’ The image of Spring heralding a new beginning is employed frequently in poetry and traditional song. However, the rising fails and the young Croppy Boy is taken prisoner and marched to his death through the streets of Wexford. Here he meets his first cousin who has betrayed him for one guinea and his father who denies him as he stands on the scaffold. It is a very poignant song and the melody was employed to great effect by Sean O’Riada in his score for the ground-breaking film Mise Éire.

The Boys of Barr na Sráide – Niamh Parsons
This is a song about the tradition of hunting the wren on St. Stephen’s Day, and set in Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry, but it is also perceived as a ‘rebel’ song, and a song of emigration. Written by poet and playwright Sigerson Clifford, (1913–1985), and set during the Civil War in Ireland, it was originally published as Hunting the Wren in South Kerry around 1936. The song also appeared in his poetry collection Ballads of a Bogman, 2nd edition, in 1986, however it did not appear in the first edition (1955). Hunting the wren, or ‘wran’, dates back to pagan times and is still celebrated in some parts of the country to this day. Some claim the wren was chosen because of its treachery. There is a story during the Cromwellian period of Irish history, when Irish forces were about to catch Cromwell’s troops by surprise, a wren perched on one of the soldiers’ drums which made a noise that woke the sleeping sentries just in time, saving the camp. In another story, the wren supposedly betrayed St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, by beating his wings to attract his pursuers when he was in hiding. While it is usually attributed to Sigerson Clifford, there is some local dispute as to who actually wrote it. It is widely accepted down in South Kerry that this song was written by Dan Courtney / Donal O Curnain (1888 - 1963). 

Little Mary Cassidy – Luke Cheevers
Well now, it seems the father of the man who wrote Little Mary Cassidy certainly didn’t suffer from the condition feauring in the Cuckoos Nest! Fahy was one of seventeen children (no messin’ there). He was born on the 29th September 1854 and only eight of his siblings survived. He must have been a very bright lad as he became an assistant teacher at the age of fifteen at the Kinvara Boys School in Co Galway, where he was born. He went on to be a poet, playwright and song writer of considerable fame. Among his more famous songs are Galway Bay, The Ould Plaid Shawl and The Bog Road. I could find no real information on his song Little Mary Cassidy. I wonder was she based on a girl he knew or courted? One way or another our hero has a very bad dose of the lovesickness – we don’t know about her as she gets nothing to say for herself. At the end of the day it’s a charming little song with a darling little air. I heard it on a record of one of the tenors of the thirties – a man who dies just five years before I was born. Thanks to Máire Ní Chrónín for providing the whistling.

The Nightingale – Tom Finn
Many different versions of this ballad are found across the UK, Ireland, the USA and Newfoundland, Canada. Its origins can be traced back to a broadsheet printed in 1675 by W. Olney of London, a copy of which exists in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Against the background of the Nightingale singing, a pretty young girl meets a soldier; he serenades her on the fiddle before telling her that he has to leave her to go off to India. On hearing this she asks him to marry her. However, he admits that he already has a wife back in his home country. The Nightingale is an elusive small bird similar in appearance and size to the robin. It migrates in winter to tropical West Africa, a migration of some three thousand miles. Unusually, as its name implies, it sings at night. 

About the Singers:

John O’ Byrne
John O’Byrne developed an interest in traditional singing through involvement in Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann during the eighties and in particular a trip to the Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel in 1988. He is a founder member along with Phil Berry of Wexford Traditional Singers Club which first met in The Thomas Moore, Wexford in January 1991. He has been an organiser of Wexford Traditional Singers Weekend in Rosslare since its inception in February 1992. As part of the Wexford Song Project 2013/14 he researched the work of local songsmith the late Jack McCutcheon. He particularly likes comic songs, plays whistles with Wexford Folk Orchestra and enjoys set dancing.

Mary O’ Brien
Mary O’Brien developed an interest in traditional song on visits to the western Gaeltachts where she first heard singing in the sean nós style. She began to attend the monthly gatherings of Wexford Traditional Singers Club when it was first formed in 1991 in the Thomas Moore Tavern in Wexford town. Recently she was a participant in the Wexford Song Project which focused on researching and preserving the song tradition of County Wexford. Mary also enjoys playing guitar and singing with Wexford Folk Orchestra, plays tin whistle and is a latecomer to  the flute. 

Paddy Berry
Paddy was born in the Barony of Forth near Rosslare, Co. Wexford, sometime in the last century. He is a renowned singer and song collector and lifelong member of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, and a member of the Wexford singing circle since its inception. He won the all-Ireland senior ballad competition in 1970 and again in 1976, as well as becoming the senior all-Ireland whistling champion in 1975. Paddy has appeared on RTE 1 television traditional music programmes from 1963 to recent times.

Paddy has published two collections of ballads entitled Wexford Ballads (1982) and More Wexford Ballads (1984), and has more recently published a book of short stories entitled No doubt about it (2014). He has also recorded two albums of traditional ballads; Sing us a Song Paddy (2000), Sing again Paddy  (2001) and also features on the album The Cuckoos Note, an album by Whisht a group of traditional singers from Wexford. Paddy is currently researching the background stories of old Wexford ballads. 

Gerry Cullen
Gerry was born in Drogheda, and has been singing and collecting local songs for many years. He formed The Voice Squad with Phil Callery and Fran Mc Phail in 1983 and has released three CD's. Gerry has recorded with Elvis Costello, Sinead O’ Connor, The Chieftans and other renowned artists. He has released one solo CD The Blue Cuckoo and one CD of local songs with Donal Maguire and Sean Corcoran,  Louthmouths From Drogheda.

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Dr. Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin from Co. Louth has many aspects to her singing career as traditional singer, song writer, song restorer and researcher. She has recorded two albums of traditional song for children, A Stór is a Stóirín and Let the fairies in and two albums of Ulster traditional song, An Dara Craiceann and An Dealg Óir. Her own compositions are Áilleacht and Songs of the Scribe  - a collaboration on early Irish lyrics with Séamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson.  A recipient of many awards, including Gradam Sean Nós Cois Life, she was the first traditional singer in Queens University Belfast 2005-2013. Her research publication, A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel (2003) has been critically acclaimed. Her own compositions in the traditional style have been recorded by Dolores Keane, Danú, The Black Family, Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Helen Davies, Skylark, Boys of the Lough and Michael Black. 

Phil Berry 
Phil Berry comes from South Wexford and has been singing traditionally since the late sixties. This was a natural progression from listening to his brother Paddy sing the ‘old’ songs. He attended and competed in Fleadhanna all round the country and won the All Ireland Senior Singing in 1989 at the Sligo Fleadh Ceoil. His favourite songs are Wexford songs about the 1798 rebellion, songs of the sea and sports songs. He released a CD of traditional songs, also featuring his son Ronan, called A Father and Son.
Video Documentation of Concert
Recorded and Produced by Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert

All images/design by Michael Fortune and Aileen Lambert unless otherwise stated.

The Dublin Concert

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Wednesday 13th of May 2015

Francy Devine

Francy is a member of; Howth Singing Circle, Comhairle Bhéaloideas Éireann/Folklore Council of Ireland, Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations [Decade of Centenaries] and Executive, Musicians' Union of Ireland. A labour historian, his Communicating the Union: A History of the Communications Workers' Union From 1900 was published in April. His first CD, made with Steve Byrne & Friends, My Father Told Me was issued in November last year.

Niamh Parsons

Niamh Parsons is a professional singer from Dublin, singing mainly in the traditional style. Growing up in Dublin, she was influenced by her parents and the 1960s folk revival, learning songs from a very early age. Turning professional in 1990, Niamh was involved with two bands, including Arcady, with whom she recorded one album. With seven of her own albums she has toured all over the world, bringing her choice of traditional and contemporary folk songs to a wider audience as well as giving many song workshops throughout USA, UK and Europe. Niamh also teaches and mentors young performers in traditional singing, stage craft and appreciation of traditional song with Ballyfermot ETB Ceoltoir, and also through online classes.

Luke Cheevers

Luke Cheevers was born in the parish of Ringsend in Dublin in 1940. Luke cannot remember a time when he was not interested in singing, from the time he was a boy, when listening to his Aunts and Uncles singing away at hoolies at home in Ringsend, right up to the present day. His mother sung the old Irish ballads, Galway Bay, Teddy O'Neill etc, and his Da, cowboy and music hall songs.

Himself, he’ll sing anything. Over the years he has travelled all over the country listening to some of the great traditional singers of the day. Sarah Ann O'Neill, Geordie Hanna, the great Tom Lennihan, Liam Weldon, Frank Harte etc. he has been involved in a couple of other projects previously conducted by Aileen and Mick; The Wild Bees’ Nest and Man, Woman and Child. He hopes to launch his first solo album very very soon.

Anne Buckley

Raised in the Midlands but couldn't wait to get to Dublin where I've been living pretty much since 1979. We always had people in the house singing and performing when I was a child. Everyone in my family sang whether they could or not, except my grandfather Rody Buckley who claimed he "lost his voice running after a breadcart". I was always fond of Rock'n'roll and was delighted with Punk Rock. My tastes are wide ranging but I didn't really start appreciating Irish music and song until Planxty and others gave it a shake-up in the seventies. Then Frank Harte was a revelation and I was honoured to hear him at the Goilin Club. I am delighted with the way unaccompanied singing is coming back as I notice guerilla singing sessions becoming more frequent at places like the Feakle Festival. There is a theory that the human race sang before we talked and that makes sense to me.

Tom Finn

Tom Finn hails from Dublin. He has been singing ballads all his life and frequents a number of Singing Circles in and around the Dublin area. He is also a member of the Dublin Male Voice Choir. Tom recently took early retirement and to indulge his love of music and song he began a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Traditional Music Performance (the Ceoltóir course) in Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE) specialising in singing and banjo.

Apart from Singing Circles and local community events, he has performed in many landmark Dublin locations including the Mansion House, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dríocht Theatre in Blanchardstown, the Cobblestone and Áras Chrónáin in Clondalkin.

Eugene McEldowney

I first became interested in traditional singing as a student at Queens University, Belfast in 1964 where I was involved in the folk music club and in a folk band. We were fairly successful, played many concerts, made recordings and gave television performances.

This continued till the outbreak of violence in 1968 which made travelling around the city at night quite dangerous. In 1972, I moved to Howth where I met many excellent musicians and singers and my interest was revived once more. In 2005, I became a founder member of the Howth Singing Circle. Since then I have been actively involved in singing clubs in the Dublin area including the Goilin Singers Club, the Cle Club, Malahide Singing Circle, Bray Singers Club and Song Central.

Tony McGaley

Tony is from Dublin and regularly attends the The Goilin Singers Club, the Bray Singers Club, The Malahide Singers Club, the Cle Club, Howth, and The Night before Larry was Stretched sessions. He likes to collect and research songs, unearthing long forgotten songs, singing them once or twice, and then forgetting them again.

Under the strict tutelage of messers Fortune and Lambert, Tony was granted a full poetic licence for his participation in the Wild Bees Nest project, and continues to write the odd song, or perhaps “improve” an older song by the addition of a verse ( just to see if people are awake). Following a visit to New Zealand, Tony’s interest in Wildlife and Nature were re-awakened (What else is there in New Zealand?) and he has become interested in Bird Watching and Photography, and he was therefore delighted to be involved in the Bird Song Project.

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