I was 79 on the 28th December, the Feast of The Holy Innocents, and have just been introduced to a new temptress named Alexa. She’ll play almost anything, not with but for me, in an instant.
She apparently doesn’t know THE BOYS OF KILMICHAEL, but does know KEVIN BARRY as rendered by Paul Robeson, Lonnie Donegan and Leonard Cohen, but not by Joe Lynch which was the most popular version on Radio Eireann. Robeson was taught it by Peadar O’Donnell in 1949. The singer’s car had a puncture which was being fixed on the way to a left-wing rally in, i think, New York State, and the veteran Irish republican, a fellow-traveller to the rally, took the opportunity to pass the song to him. That rally was harassed, if not physically attacked by red-baiting Cold Warriors. (Whatever happened to them?)
I had the pleasure of hearing the then nonagenarian O’Donnell, introduced by Desmond Greaves as “the greatest living Irishman” at a Connolly Association meeting in London in the 1980s. Greaves died, at the relatively young age of 75 in 1988,on his way home to Birkenhead from a meeting in Glasgow, after about fifty years of tireless campaigning.
I’d be surprised if “KEVIN BARRY” has been played on RTE since Conor Cruise O’Brien became, nearly 50 years ago, the greatest censor since Cato. (I refer to the Roman Cato, not to the Irish novelist, Kate O’Brien.)
I asked Alexa to play “MY LAGAN LOVE” and before I could mention a singer, (I had intended Dusty Springfield, aka Catherine Isabel Bernadette O’Brien) an equally beautiful version was played.
Years ago I heard a programme on the BBC which started with Harry Lauder’s lovely version of it. But Lauder made a fortune from stage-Scotch rubbish and was knighted for the prostitution of his talent. The words were by the poet Joseph Campbell an Antrim born poet, scathingly referred to by James Joyce, as “Mountainy Mutton” in his poem “Gas From A Burner.” Joyce was complaining of printers refusing to print his “DUBLINERS” short stories. The printers anticipated the intolerance of the Cruiser himself!
Joseph Campbell (1879-1944) was a teacher, poet, dramatist, translator, Sinn Fein Councillor (1921) and university lecturer (Fordham). During the 1916 Rising he did rescue work. He was imprisoned during the Civil War. Though he suffered in health and finances from the struggle he was ineligible for a veteran’s pension because he didn’t carry arms. His son, Flann Campbell (1919-1994), was a school-mate and long-time friend of Conor Cruise O’Brien.
He was Godfather to Conor’s son, Donal (1941-2012) but the Cruiser’s friendship with Flann, as with most of his long-time friends, was broken off by the Cruiser when he came to power. I got to know Flann Campbell, writer and academic, through the Connolly Association. He had edited its paper, THE IRISH DEMOCRAT, for some time in the 1940s, and contributed to it for the rest of his life. Desmond Greaves became Editor in 1948 and remained Editor until his death 40 years later. About 1959 both Donal Cruise O’Brien and myself, each aged 17, were roped in by some 12-year-olds to play soccer on Howth’s Baily Green. Those who have read my BLOG – “THE DAY I PLAYED FOR IRELAND” will gather I was probably the worst football player in the five continents.
Donal Cruise O’Brien was probably a runner-up for that title. But he was far brainier, becoming a professor at London University’s SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES and the author of some acclaimed works.
His father, God help him ,was proclaimed “THE GREATEST LIVING IRISHMAN” in the columns of THE TIMES on his 90th Birthday in 2007, by the cocaine-sniffing twerp, Michael Gove. Gove proclaimed his love for Tony Blair, when Blair crawled up George W Bush’s nether regions to murder Iraqis who posed no threat to Britain, the USA or Europe.
On a lighter note. I’m sure there will be some old codgers like myself who can remember hearing Bing Crosby’s rendering of “THE HORSE TOLD ME” on Radio Eireann.
They will remember –
“The owner told Clarence the Clocker
The Clocker told Jockey Magee
The Jockey, of course,
Passed it on to the Horse,
And the Horse Told Me”
No doubt these lines are still running through other old heads. The story was that the horse was still running and the narrator’s shirt was still on it.
Alexa can’t find the Horse nor could I find it on the internet. I did find a version by Nat King Cole on the internet some years ago but it’s not as good as Bing’s.
It seems that when Bing recorded the song there was a strike, either by song publishers or radio stations in the United States. Did Radio Eireann have a bootleg copy?
The last time I was in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day was in 1964.
I was one of the three men leading the parade, escorting the Tricolour, carried by Lieutenant Lawrence O’Connor of the FCA. I carried a Lee-Enfield rifle with fixed bayonet, at the slope. The bayonet was tipped with a cork so as not to damage the flag. Larry O’Connor had been nicknamed “THE CLOCKER” some 25 years or so earlier after “Clarence the Clocker”, and I imagine is still remembered by surviving contemporaries who went to St Fintan’s CBS in Dublin. I don’t know if Larry still survives, If he does I salute him and remember him fondly as man and boy.