THE LONG WOMAN'S GRAVE
I got this story from a plaque at The Long Woman's Grave up in the Cooley Mountains above Omeath in Co. Louth. To me, the story seemed to be asking to become a song. Here it is in its new cloak.
THE CANNY AULD LAD
Another version, probably Scottish, of the great folk favourite. I learned this version from my old friend the late Mary Toner of Keady, Co. Armagh.
I got this song from Sean O'Boyle, the well-known folk collector and Gaelic scholar. It is a version of the better known Spanish Lady. Which version came first I don't know.
PEACE AND JUSTICE
In 1994 or perhaps '95, I was invited to sing at an Irish peace rally at the United Nations building in New York. I couldn't find an Irish peace song in my entire repertoire so I wrote this one and put it to the tune of an old American spiritual called That Lonesome Valley, whose message is "You've got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself" — good message and well noted.
THE BOLD FISHERMAN
I learned this dashing little ditty from the singing of the noted Canadian singer, Ed McCurdy.
Slieve Gullion is regarded as the most mystical mountain in Ireland. It stands as a sentinel in the famed Ring Of Gullion and guards South Armagh, whose cultural, mythological and historical abundance is matched only by the beauty of its landscape and the warmth of its people. Dromintee and all the other villages around Slieve Gullion bask in all this magnificence.
THE MAID OF BALLYDOO
The late Sean O'Boyle, the noted folk song collector, told me that when collecting songs in a pub in Mayobridge in County Down, he asked a cattle dealer if he had any songs he would record for him. The cattle dealer replied "I'll give you the raw bar!" This lovely song is the "raw bar" he contributed to Ireland's song tradition.
MEN OF NO CONSCIENCE
The old adage about man's inhumanity to man rings as true today as when it was first uttered. Then, of course, there's another old adage about reaping what you sow — that seems to be true, too.
THE DARKLEY WEAVER
I had a few words of this song, but no melody, so I added some verses, a chorus and a melody and here's another variant of Nancy Whiskey, as it is popularly called. Darkley, Keady and Annvale, all my home territory, were spinning and weaving centres in the now-defunct Irish linen industry.
THE MAID OF FIVEY
This great old song tells the age-old story of someone dying of a broken heart because of unrequited love. It tells the story beautifully. The jig that follows is called Tatter Jack Walsh.
THE GOLDEN VANITY
This is, I believe, an Australian version of the old favourite sea song.
THE LOUGH TAY BOAT SONG
This Scottish song is one of the most beautiful love songs I know.
Although this is undoubtedly a music hall song, it is very much rooted in the rich Irish musical tradition as can be discerned in its most Irish of rhythms.
SHIPS OF WAR
All through the 1970's, 80's and 90's, a well-equipped and armed British gunboat has been deployed in the narrow expanse of Carlingford Lough, between Co. Louth in the Irish Republic and Co. Down in Northern Ireland, intimidating and sometimes harassing the fishermen from around the lough's shores and the pleasure craft that ply the lough. What ever became of the 200-mile limit???
A re-telling of the old song of unrequited love. I had a couple of verses from another version of the song, added some new verses and a new melody and chorus and here's the result. The more I sing this song the better I like it.
This song is also widely known as "Whiskey In The Jar." I first heard this version sung very well by the late Bob Gibson in New York in the very early 1960's. I was very taken with the song and sang it at a session at the Fleadh Cecil that year. When I returned the following year it was one of the most popular songs in Ireland. This particular version of the song was collected, as far as I know, from Yankee John Galusha in Maine sometime in the 1950's.