Sean’s music 8 … Irish ballads

Sean was always exposed to Irish music as well as rock, reggae, etc. … in the ‘music’ folder of his computer profile, along with Radiohead, Oasis, and all the rest, can be found The Dubliners. He knew that these songs were part of his identity and his culture, and those things were important to him – he also just happened to like them. They chimed with his own Irishness.

When Sean was around 10 he developed a love for Planxty … I remember him trying to sing ‘Follow Me Up to Carlow’ exactly like Christy Moore, with somewhat unusual results. We encouraged him to try to find his own singing voice.

He continued to like Planxty all his life … we listened to the Well Below the Valley CD in the car quite recently. He also liked The Pogues and, especially, the Dubliners – he was a great admirer of both Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly as singers, and they embodied a certain spirit of fun and freedom with which he identified. Both Drew and Kelly, sadly, have passed on, like Sean.

Sean turned many nights with his friends into singing sessions, we hear – he would burst into song at the drop of a hat, in the forest, in his flat, or wherever. His friends loved this … I think he got a lot of them interested in Irish songs. Some have told me that he was very proud of my capacity to sing and play in pubs, and spoke of it often. During the Fleadh last August, when Sean was working behind a bar, I made some new friends in front of it through my singing; at the end of the night Sean joined us and sang too. He loved the craic.

My next-door neighbour recalls the opening of the local cattery a couple of years ago – towards the end of the night, when the drink had been flowing, he, Sean and I were standing singing ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ together. This was Sean’s party piece; it has been one of mine for 30 years or more.

At a wedding a few years ago, Sean went up on stage at the end of the night, when the band were finishing up, and sang ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ into a microphone. Another time, in the local pub, the two of us sang ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’.

But we didn’t have enough singing sessions together. I suppose we thought we had all the time in the world for that kind of thing. C’est la vie.



Filed under Ireland, Memories, Music

11 responses to “Sean’s music 8 … Irish ballads

  1. Dubliners lyrics to MacAlpine are different from the ones I know.

  2. Cymbeline

    Hello Brendano. I hope you are coping well today.

    This Irish music is very powerful. The music of identity. I know that I am outside it, and not inside it. Knowing this is a sign of respect for another culture.

    Your son was deeply part of that Irish heritage. I remember you showing me a clip of a traditional musician playing an old Irish instrument. You said that your son was listening to that music at that very moment.

    • Cymbeline

      What was the candle celebrating?

      I wish I had a party piece.

      • It was his nineteenth birthday … 28 July last. Clio took him to a Chinese restaurant in Cavan. The waiters were singing ‘Happy Birthday’. He wouldn’t blow out the candle until they had left.

        She said she was happy to be able to do something for him because he had given her so much (not gifts).

        • Cymbeline

          I do not like the word ‘poignant’, for it has been much debased. And yet, I cannot think of another word to replace it.

          A significant photograph, for obvious reasons.

        • Yes … I like to look at recent photos of Sean. Some other fairly recent ones have come to light; I’ll post them too.

          We still think about him pretty much all the time, wishing we could have him back … he is always there, even when we are concentrating on other things. As I said before, he had a big personality and a lot of charisma; he was great company. He has left a big hole.

  3. Hello Cymbeline … thank you. Yes, Sean liked the sound of the uileann pipes, and used to play clips from YouTube of people like Seamus Ennis. The one he was listening to that day was this.

  4. You need proper bagpipes mate. Big Scottish ones. Oh yes.

  5. papaguinea

    Brendano I had missed this post. So will tomorrow give all songs an airing. Isn’t it just great that Sean would just do a song perhaps when his heart was bursting most with life; you must be so proud. What a decent guy he was …. all his mates telling the women “come on, Seans gonna sing” and the room suddenly filling up, and this to set everyone up for a great night. I love it. You can’t bottle it; you can only live it.

  6. Thanks, PapaG, as usual, you ‘get’ it perfectly. My thoughts exactly.

    Yes, he was a decent guy and a good friend, and people loved him for that.

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