The West's Awake by Cormac MacConnell
Ireland’s weather, Black and Tans, The Gathering and a song for shy singers
Posted on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 08:15 AM
- Looking forward to cutting ties to the ties that bind my throttle
- Bishop Eamon Casey served us well, and deserves our prayers
- A lovely tale of island life in the paradise of West Clare
- The Boarding Out orphan was a wonderful pick
- How do the Irish regard their American visitors? With pride
There is an old country saying here that a wet and windy May fills the barn with hay.
If that be so then there will not be enough barns in the country to hold all the hay that will be produced this summer because, by heavens, May has been very windy and very wet for the past fortnight.
The wind is howling tonight under a sickle moon most often obscured from sight by driven showers of rain. It is warm all right, but Mother Ireland's face is wet and windblown. Never mind though, because the forecast is for a clearance inside the next 48 hours.
It's ironic that the outlook now is for a bumper crop of hay this year because, incredibly enough, Irish farmers and the government had to act urgently together last month, as thousands of cattle and sheep starved for lack of hay, to actually import English hay in bulk!
Other urgent measures were also taken, such as cutting the grass strips alongside the Shannon Airport runways to supply local farmers with some kind of fodder. I don't remember a fodder scarcity of this severity ever before but then, as you too know to your cost over there, the world's weather patterns have greatly changed in recent years about everywhere.
Have we a very major environmental crisis coming quickly down the road? Is it feasibly soluble?
Enough of that.
For what it is worth, on the lighter side, I've just finished a piece for another paper about a conversation I claim I had two days ago in the lovely parish of Labasheeda by the Shannon with a very big, very black, very angry dissident Republican bull!
He was complaining bitterly that his ancestors, who had gored Black and Tans for Ireland in their day, were turning in their graves because his farmer master was now trying to feed him English hay! He said he was going on strike, both a hunger strike and a romantic strike because he could not be expected to go about his siring business every day with his two stomachs full of putrid gas from the dire English hay.
I felt very sorry for him and said so. These conversations are rare but occasionally possible if you tune your mind a certain way.
Speaking of tunes, The Gathering festivals and events are starting to enliven the longer days of early summer right across the west, and I've enjoyed several good sessions already across Clare including, last week, a lovely and lively evening in the famed Lena's pub in the village of Feakle in East Clare.
This is the territory of the fabled Clare seer and herbalist Biddy Earley, and much of her magic is still about the atmosphere. Catch it sometime if you can.
I had another splendid evening in my own Honk Bar outside Shannon in the genial company of fellow blogger/photographer Jim Lowney and his wife Jen. The stories flowed free and we had great craic the night before their holiday ended and they flew back home from Shannon.
But anyway, somewhere through the sessions and songs, I have produced a gift for those of you intending to come over for any of The Gathering events. This gift is especially for those men who are likely, in pubs or hotels, to be asked to sing a song as part of the companionship of the night.
I've noticed that many Irish Americans find it difficult enough to sing a song under such circumstances; it seems to be much easier for us than you. Whether or not we can sing in any fashion we are likely to deliver anyway and divil take the hindmost.
As a smoker my own voice is now, shall we say, well nicotined and not as sweet or true as in the days of yore. Hence I've protected myself with my new song called “A Song for Bad Singers,” and I can guarantee that it works very well.
The concept, if I may say so with due modesty, is quite brilliant. You know, nobody can criticize your singing as you produce these lines, in any fashion, to any of the many airs of your choice.
You have duly delivered your song, held up your corner of the table, and you are certain to get a few laughs along the way, especially with the chorus.
It is my gift to any and all of you, and no royalties or fees apply.
And change as many words and lines as you like. Nobody is going to notice.
Here it is, and good luck with it!
This voice that you hear,
Offending your ear,
Once belonged to a boy soprano,
At the age of 13, all scrubbed up and clean,
Beside old Sister Bridget's piano,
The party piece was “Danny Boy” sung with altar boy joy,
All those high notes soared out golden free,
And in 1955 twas great to be alive,
For twas heard on the old BBC.
And when it broke in '58 they said it still was great,
So it sang all the songs of the time,
It rocked around the clock at the baptism of rock,
With the Clancys sang “Sweet Mountain Thyme,”
Unafraid of “Blue Bayou” and with Elvis sang too,
“Wooden Heart” and that fraulein by the Rhine,
And when the Beatles had their day,
It sang I love you yeah yeah yeah,
And that ballad called “Sweet Summer Whine.”
But now it smokes and it croaks on the high notes it chokes,
It grates like an old jailhouse door,
It's gone hoarse, it's gone coarse, every night it sounds worse,
And it can't sing “Danny Boy” no more.
It said "I love you" in its youth,
Just once it was the truth,
Soon after, at the altar,
It said "I do,”
A little on "Kids time for bed!" Lullabies oer sleepy heads,
Crooning the teething years through,
Twas still well fit for “Danny Boy,”
At family times of joy,
“Rocks of Bawn” and “The Rivers Run Free,”
And “The Fields of Athenry” as the speeding years went by,
“Noirin Bawn” and “The Banks of the Lee.”
But twas abused and twas misused,
Far too often it was boozed,
Twas even lost once or twice along the road,
It had to learn how to cry when loved ones said goodbye,
And to groan 'neath some years' heavy load,
“Danny Boy” at last cracked it,
And totally wrecked it,
Now it can barely limp down to “Spancilhill,”
“Raglan Road” is far too wide for it to reach the other side,
And at singsongs it's silent and still.
For now it smokes and it croaks,
On the high notes it chokes,
It grates like an old jailhouse door,
It's gone hoarse, it's gone coarse, Every night it sounds worse,
It don't go near “Danny Boy” no more...
For it can't sing “Danny Boy” no more!
Any air, any night, any place you like. And I'm giving it an unconditional guarantee!
Good luck with it! See more: Irish Roots