The Dubs and the rest

I was in Dublin the weekend before last, to see the Dubliners. Went on my own because I’ve exhausted the very short list of people willing to go there with me for any reason, especially to hear a bunch of old men singing songs with phrases like ‘whack fol la di da’ and such.

I got into the city centre just after midday, which was the perfect time to go for my favourite lunch at O’Neill’s carvery, then feeling very full I walked down to Baggot Street where I was staying in a place so brilliant that I want to go back for longer – it was a hotel room like any other but had a little kitchen thing so I didn’t have to depend on Dublin’s hugely expensive restaurants.

Anyway, it was about half two by the time I settled down and, having awoken at half six to get the train to the airport, and seeing a Susan Hayward film on TV I thought "ah sure, I’ll just have a nap for an hour." I was going to go to Kilmainham Gaol, you see.

I woke up at half five, one afternoon of two in Dublin totally thrown away and so subsequently felt miffed at meself for wasting so much time… I stumbled around and got ready and meandered back towards Starbucks on College Green for a shot of caffeine – FUCK ME ARE FRAPPUCINOS EXPENSIVE IN THE REPUBLIC!. Bought one anyway and meandered up Dame Street past Christ Church, onto Thomas Street and there to one of my favourite venues ever: Vicar Street. Queued for ticket and saw Jim McCann arrive. Went inside and headed straight to the bar like everyone else. Paid THREE EURO, THREE! for a tiny bottle of Coke and then had to stand like a total loser on my own while everyone else hung out with friends. After wasting my afternoon I was feeling a bit shite, like I just shouldn’t have bothered. The usual "Oh WOE, I have no money! Why am I here! Cry MOAR!"

As soon as we could, I went into the actual venue and found my table, only two rows back. Very good view, etc. Started putting together the various bits and pieces of a song I’ve been writing for awhile. Jim McCann came on and introduced the Dubliners, and I was glad to see that they were using it to remember Luke (dead 25 years this year), Ciaran (dead 21 years this year) and Ronnie (who died last year as mentioned here), rather than just as any old show.

As soon as Jim was there, I knew that I was right to have gone to the trouble. As soon as the group themselves came on, I forgot that I’d ever wished I’d stayed at home. They brought on some guests throughout – a young singer who was trying too hard to sound like Luke, Ronnie’s son Phelim (usually an actor) and Luke’s brother as well as another man whose name I can’t recall.

There was one moment that made my heart almost stop in my chest. They played some video of Luke singing but first they just darkened the stage and played the audio of his poem ‘For What Died The Sons of Roisin’. Now this was written by Luke in response to Irish policy during the 60s onwards whereby tracts of land were sold off to foreign buyers and that sort of thing. Played to the silent crowd at Vicar Street, it felt to me like Luke was berating us, fist shaking, from Heaven itself. Now your man Luke was a communist so he didn’t believe in Heaven I suspect, but I hope he’s there and if he is, said poem would have extra verses now too. As it was presented there, it chilled me to the bone and is still rattling in my head.

I do wish that they’d played video of Luke singing Raglan Road rather than giving it to Patsy Watchorn. He’s a perfectly fine singer and he fits well with the Dubliners (he joined quite recently) but he’s just not Luke.

Luke’s brother sang ‘The Parting Glass’. I swear kids, when I die, you’re to play Ronnie Drew’s version of that song for me.

As for Ronnie, they played some video of him singing McAlpine’s Fusiliers, which was nice… but I suppose his death is still kinda recent and it was very odd to see, really.

Good show though, and I am glad I went, even though it’s put me in my overdraft until payday.


I went to Kilmainham Gaol on Sunday. Missed my stop on the bus but got off just in time to not be totally out of the way. It was all by guided tour and it was fascinating. The gaol was used in plenty of films I’ve seen (The Italian Job, Michael Collins, The Wind That Shakes The Barley) so it was familiar to a point. They’ve hosted concerts there (including the Dubliners) and I just thought ‘hey, I’d love to sing here’. It didn’t help the swelling anger in my heart that Luke had spurred on the night before, especially when it was pointed out that the Staters executed some republicans there, in the same way that the British killed the Easter Rising fellows… It’s just a place that summarises very neatly the hypocrisy and violence of Ireland’s past and brings its present into stark relief.

I actually wrote a poem/song of my own after that, sat in Gallagher’s Boxty House eating my dinner. I might post it here, I might even send it to Irish papers or something. I dunno. I can feel Dublin changing, and not necessarily for the better. To a point, in some ways it feels like it could be – say it quietly – just any city in Britain. Honestly. The people are changing too. I can feel the changes since I first visited, and that was only 2004. There are songs about Dublin changing – The Mero, Dublin In The Rare Auld Times – and all cities change, but I think something not-good is happening there and it’s a little hard to describe… but it’s happening. Maybe the Celtic Tiger wrought as much destruction as anything else…


I was working at the Wakestock festival in Wales this weekend past. It sucked. I mean it was awful: small, uninteresting, full of dance music and had an audience made up almost entirely of 17 year olds from Manchester and Liverpool all doing their best to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. This was made very easy by the WKD and Jagermeister stalls. Then on Saturday there was torrential rain. Some scally bastards stole some of my tent pegs so my tent leaked, but I’d already covered everything in plastic so it was half-OK. But I was working the dance music stage that day and couldn’t really leave because of work and the weather so I was stuck listening to drum n bass for fucking hours. HOURS.

Sunday was better. I was at the XFM stage which was live music. I have to say that everyone working there I encountered was really nice, including the DJs (who generally don’t give a shit about what we do because it’s not their music) and the security (a profession that seems to generally attract bastards but not this time)…. but for the first time I really wished I was there as an artiste and not as what I was doing. Because then I would’ve been able to leave.

I was so bored that I kept going back to my tent just to sit. Still with my earplugs in. I read Private Eye at least four times cover to cover. Even the financial articles.

Got lost driving back too, but it was halfway up a mountain in Snowdonia so the views were great. Now wish I was back in Co. Kerry, of course.


Proof (as if I needed it) that I’m in love with Rory Gallagher’s music came when I got home last night and was able to listen to him for the first time since whenever (barring the one CD that I took with my discman that wasn’t scratched to fuck) and I started grinning and dancing around the room.

Tired today, obviously. I should go to bed but……………………………………………………………………………….

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