John Delaney, chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, was in the news this week after he was filmed singing a song called ‘The Ballad of Joe McDonnell’ in a pub. Joe McDonnell was a Provisional IRA member who died on hunger strike in 1981.
It seems to me that, in the predictable controversy that ensued, an important point has been missed, which is that Delaney’s singing of this song was a strange and exceptional act – it stood out. Songs from the most recent Troubles have not entered the Irish ballad tradition and are not widely sung, unlike those from 1916–23 and even one or two from the 1950s. Continue reading
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. Continue reading