There was a joke going around at the time of the Good Friday Agreement that even though the IRA had ceased hostilities, the Wolfe Tones never surrendered. In true Irish fashion, the band split in the mid-2000s, with Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne (Wolfe Tones 3) going one way and Derek Warfield (The Young Wolfe Tones) going the other. It’s a toss-up which one is the provisional wing and which is the official.
It means: You seriously considered naming your dog Maggie Thatcher. Then you decided that the poor animal hadn’t done anything to deserve that, and you named it something dignified instead, like Puddles.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
They turned the humble Aran sweater into a fashion statement back in the early sixties, but Tipperary-born brothers Paddy, Tom and Liam Clancy – and their Armagh-born pal Tommy Makem – were trendsetters in more ways than one. They dusted off long-forgotten Irish folk songs, gave them fresh arrangements and sang them with gusto everywhere from the "Ed Sullivan Show" to Carnegie Hall. Makem honed his skills as a songwriter and wrote the modern classic “Four Green Fields.”
It means: You have a fisherman’s sweater in your drawer which you wear all the time – but never on St. Patrick’s Day because that would be too tacky.
Some called them Ireland’s scruffier version of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, but they were really Ireland’s first super group. The original lineup boasted Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna, Ciaran Burke and John Sheahan, but later incarnations featured Jim McCann, Paddy Reilly and Sean Canon. Drew’s inimitable growl and Kelly’s soaring vocals formed the band’s signature sound, best experienced on classics like “The Monto” and “On Raglan Road.”
It means: After a few pints, you’re likely to belt out a song or two down at the local pub. You know the dirty verses to “Seven Drunken Nights.”
They’re billed as Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors, and that’s no blarney. The group, led by the brilliant and visionary Paddy Moloney, has visited China, collaborated with international superstars, played for Queen Elizabeth and the pope — and have yet to receive an open letter from Sinead O’Connor. They introduced Irish traditional music to the masses, and forced journalists the world over to add “uilleann pipes” to their Word dictionaries.
It means: You pretend to be such a purist that your favorite Chieftains album isn’t “Irish Heartbeat” with Van Morrison. You like to tell people that you remember when a pre-“Riverdance” Michael Flatley toured with them.
The Dervish from Drumlish (seriously, Declan, it would be a good nickname) may not be everybody’s cup of tea. But though the heyday of showbands is behind us, there will always be people who want to dance – and Nerney’s blend of Irish and country music fits the bill. Philomena Begley, Big Tom, Mick Flavin – they’re all ploughing the same fields, so to speak – and the crowds flock to them.
It means: You know which part of “dinner dance” you prefer, which means your prime rib meal gets left on the plate when the band begins to play. You also know which way to turn when jiving.
The former bank employee discovered the music scene during a bank strike in the 60s and never looked back. In addition to performing solo, he was a founding member of Moving Hearts and Planxty. Moore’s ballads are deceptively soft thanks to his soothing voice, but they usually have a sharp edge and pointed political commentary. Best part of a Christy concert comes when he tells off the audience for clapping along.