McGarvey’s tobacco shop, popularly known as ‘An Stad’, was a guesthouse and meeting place at 30 North Frederick Street. It was a popular meeting place for the Irish nationalist and cultural movements in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was described in the press in 1903 as “the centre of Dublin Gaeldom.”

Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA. He was a familiar sight in An Stad. (Image: NUI Galway Archives,  http://archives.library.nuigalway.ie/cusack/)

Michael Cusack, founder of the GAA. He was a familiar sight in An Stad. (Image: NUI Galway Archives, http://archives.library.nuigalway.ie/cusack/)

Amongst others, it was frequented by James Joyce, Major John MacBride, Oliver St. John Gogary and GAA founder Michael Cusack. Harry C. Phibbs, who was a member of the Celtic Literary Society, remembered that “McGarvey’s place was truly a stopping place for anyone interested in the Irish Revival Movement to drop in, meet some other people, know what was going on. It was conveniently located to Rutland Square where many of the societies and branches of the Gaelic League had meeting places.” Cathal McGarvey, who founded the business, was a well-known humourist and song writer, indeed he penned the words to ‘The Star of the County Down.’ Oliver St. John Gogarty, who lived conveniently close to An Stad, recalled of him and his establishment:

There was a great atmosphere of nationality gathered about the Stad. It was a good place to slip out to at night, for one who lived about fifteen doors away, and to talk about the revival of Gaelic. Even if few people talked to me there was always Cathal, who was too civil and too much of a business man not to talk to anyone while waiting for a revival of the nation.

Phibbs remembered years later that Michael Cusack cut something of an unusual shape in the establishment, and that “one of the people who would occasionally wander in was ‘old man Cusack’, a bearded old stalwart who called himself ‘Citizen Cusack’. He always carried a green muffler around his neck and Wielded a heavy blackthorn stick.”

Major John MacBride, whose presence in An Stad was noted by intelligence police (Image Credit: South Dublin County Council Libraries)

Major John MacBride, whose presence in An Stad was noted by intelligence police (Image Credit: South Dublin County Council Libraries)

Police intelligence files from the early twentieth century reveal that McGarvey’s was closely monitored by intelligence. When Major John MacBride returned to Ireland from Paris, having fought in the Second Boer War with the ‘Irish Brigade’, it was noted by police intelligence that he frequented McGarvey’s, in the company of known ‘Secret Society’ men, a reference to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. MacBride was a well-known figure in Irish society for his exploits in South Africa, and had lectured in America to enthusiastic audiences on his fight against the British there, telling the media in New York that “‘Winston Churchill may say what he likes about the war in South Africa being over, but I tell you the war is not over. The Boers will fight just as long as there is a man, woman or child alive.” Following his U.S speaking tour, he had married Maud Gonne in Paris, but the marriage was a brief and unhappy one, leading him back to Dublin. Among the men spotted with MacBride at An Stad were Arthur Griffith (founder of the Sinn Féin party)  and veteran Fenian John O’Leary.

At the time of Cathal McGarvey’s passing, it was noted in the press that the  visitor books would surely become a hugely important historic resource. Having begun in 1990, and continued until about 1905, the books “contain entries of interest by every Irish-Irelander of note who lived in Dublin between those dates.” 30 North Frederick Street today is the building shown below, though a building further down the street at 43 operated under the name ‘An Stad’ in more recent times. We’d be interested in hearing more on that, if street number changes historically are at play here or if these were two separate institutions.

30 North Frederick Street today.

The decay of 30 North Frederick Street today.

In the years that followed independence, it remained a popular meeting place with republicans. It was managed for some time by Maire Gleeson, an active participant in the War of Independence who was a member of Cumann na mBán, as well as being active in the intelligence network of Michael Collins. With the coming to power of the Fianna Fáil government in 1932, republican prisoners were released from Arbour Hill, Portlaoise Prison and Mountjoy, with Frank Ryan among the twenty IRA men released by the new government. The Irish Press reported that many of the prisoners made by the well known meeting place, and that “An Stad Restaurant in North Frederick Street having been reached, the prisoners found the streets literally black with people to clasp them by the hand. Cinema apparatus was installed in front of the restaurant, and Mr. Frank Ryan was persuaded to address the microphone.” Five years later, in 1937, it was again the location for a celebration in honour of released republican prisoners, which included Moss Twomey, who had been IRA Chief of Staff prior to his arrest.

In 1938, there was an abortive attempt by some members of the IRA to attack the Nelson Pillar on O’Connell Street. Tim Pat Coogan has noted that the plan lacked the sanction of IRA Chief of Staff Sean Russell, but that the plan had been “to set the explosives, withdraw and notify the police, giving them time to cordon off the area.” Coogan interviewed an IRA member of the time who told him that men had actually walked down O’Connell Street with wads of gelignite on their person, before the mission was abandoned. The men had set off, naturally enough, from An Stad!

An Stad itself was raised by the authorities on several occasions in this period, who clearly regarded it as an institution affiliated to the republican movement. While it remained an active guesthouse in the decades that followed the 1930s, its affiliations with the advanced nationalist movement seem to have weakened. It seems a real shame that such an important meeting place of the early twentieth century is unmarked by any plaque.

The Proclamation first read aloud by Pearse on the steps of the GPO on Easter Monday is a document synonymous with Easter Week and the birth of the modern Irish State. Widely accepted to have been composed by Pearse himself, there remain very few physical copies in existence.

Though it was intended for 2, 500 copies of the Proclamation to be printed in Liberty Hall and distributed around the country, it is likely that fewer that 1, 000 actually were, and these were entrusted to Helena Moloney for transport to the GPO. Seán T. O’Kelly, the second President of Ireland would from here take these and billpost them around the north and south inner city. The paper upon which they were printed was of poor quality, so very few remain. Fewer still exist of a facsimile of the Proclamation issued by the Irish Citizen Army for the first anniversary of the Rising in 1917 of which there is believed to be a sole surviving copy.

The Proclamation in full

The Proclamation in full, from typefoundry.blogspot.ie

The responsibility for printing the document lay with Michael Molloy and Liam O’Brien, two Volunteers, and Christopher Brady who had until now overseen the printing of ITGWU Weekly, “The Worker’s Republic.” Compositor’s and printers by trade, these men were approached by James Connolly in the run up to Easter week and asked to forego the planned parading of Volunteers in St. Anne’s Park on Easter Sunday morning and to instead meet him in Liberty Hall for a task he had prepared for them. Upon arrival, Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh, also present, handed them a sheet of paper with the words of the Proclamation inscribed upon it and remarked “Do if you wish to, and if not we won’t be the worse friends.” All three accepted the job.

As the men launched into their work, it became obvious that they would not have enough print to finish the job. The machine upon which they were to perform their task, an old Wharfdale Double- Crown machine upon which the Irish Worker was printed was wholly inadequate for the task at hand, the paper of an inferior quality, and print for the machine severely lacking. Different fonts had to be used, (the wrong font for the letter ‘e’ is used in over twenty instances,) many letters had to be fashioned out of others (in several cases, a capital ‘E’ was made from fashioning the type out of a capital ‘F’ and adding wax,) and eventually the men realised they would not have enough type and would simply have to borrow some more.

The Three Printers of the Proclamation. Irish Press,  Tuesday April 24th, 1934.

Irish Press, Tuesday April 24th, 1934.

The type was borrowed from an Englishman named William Henry West, a printer whose premises were located on Stafford Street. Following the tradition of Wolf Tone, the protestant revolutionary who Stafford Street would eventually be named after, West appears to have been sympathetic towards the cause for Irish Freedom. Census returns for 1911 list West as 41 years of age, with an address at Brigid’s Road Upper, Drumcondra. His job title is “Letterpress Printer” and his religion is given as “Cooneyite.” Cooneyism was an offshoot of a home based church movement known as the “two by twos” which gained some traction in Ireland in the late 19th and early 20th Century in Ireland. It was known as an “itinerant” religion and its lay people called “tramp preachers” due to the homeless and destitute nature of their calling.

West was printer of choice for the ITGWU and appeared twice in the courts alongside Jim Larkin. In January 1913, he appeared as a co-defendant with Larkin in a case in which Mr. William Richardson was claiming a sum of £500 after allegedly having been libeled in the Irish Worker. In September of that year, he appeared in a bankruptcy case involving himself, with the creditor bringing the case again him the same Mr. William Richardson, still looking to eek out punishment for his alleged libeling. In examination of his firms accounts, William Henry West had listed the ITGWU’s debt as a “bad debt,” or one which he deemed unrecoverable. West’s examination by the prosecution is below:

Mr. Larkin owes you £227 for the printing The Worker- isn’t Mr. Larkin the proprietor of The Worker?

He is, and he owes me £227.

Have you put that down as a bad debt?

Yes, because it is a bad debt.


Because I cannot get it.

Can you not recover it from Mr. Larkin?

I wish you could show me how. (laughter)

Has Mr. Larkin refused to pay the amount?

Well, he cannot pay.

He refused to pay?


Did you ask him for it?

Of course, often. But he can’t pay what he hasn’t got.

You know that Mr. Larkin is Secretary of the ITGWU?

Yes, I have heard so.

And can you not recover this amount by suing him for it?

Do you think I would do that, when he’s my best customer? (laughter)

The case also makes reference to debt owed by other organisations, including the Labour Party and a drama class at Liberty Hall, and asked whether he could not sue for payment, to which he replied “I don’t believe in suing, I’ve never sued anybody in my life,” again to laughter.

The Witness Statement of Commandant Liam O’Brien states that on Easter Sunday, upon realising their shortage of type, Michael Molloy was ordered by Connolly to West’s printers along with a messenger and Citizen Army man employed by the Worker’s Republic who was known to him by the name ‘Dazzler.’ West provided the type, under the auspices that it was to be returned to him intact or compensated if lost- it was his livlihood after all. Of course, this wasn’t to be as Liberty Hall was first, pounded by shells from the Helga, and gutted by fire. When entered by British soldiers after the fighting had died down, they found the second half of the type still on the machine.

What happened to West after Easter Week, I can find no reference. But his is another story of the many from the Rising. The English protestant printer who supplied the type for the Irish Proclamation.

Thanks to Darragh Doyle and others, we now know more about the rumoured closing earlier this week of two landmark Dublin 8 pubs – The Lord Edward and Fallon’s.

Both floors of The Lord Edward pub will remain open but the upstairs seafood restaurant is closing its doors after 47 years in business. Fallon’s has recently been sold and may shut temporarily for refurbishment but they’re definitely not closing.

It’s as good a time as any to briefly look at the history of these two pubs.

Perched on the corner of Christchurch Place and Werburgh Place, the Lord Edward is a five-storey over-basement building, once part of a substantial terrace. Built in 1875, the former dwelling house was refurbished and reopened as a public house in 1901 by the Cunniam family. However, it is said that there has been a licenced premises on the site since the late 1600s.

The Lord Edward, August 1979. Credit - sergios56.

The Lord Edward, August 1979. Credit – sergios56.

The ground floor lounge bar features gas lighting, a “confession box” snug, a mahogany and granite bar and a selection of antique bar fittings. The first floor cocktail lounge has a traditional beam ceiling and extensive stained glass. It was formerly the Cunniam’s dining room while the rooms above were bedrooms.

We can see from the 1901 census that 1 Werburgh Street was occupied by Thomas Cunniam (40), a “Licensed Grocer”, from Co. Wicklow, his wife Margaret (31) from Dublin and her mother Elizabeth Kenny (60), a “Green Grocer” from Wicklow. They had two children – Hugh (4) and Elizabeth (3) – and employed two Grocer Assistants, a cook and a nurse.

In the 1911 census, it would appear that the same Cunniam family are living in the house but there are some discrepancies in ages and names. Thomas Cunniam (47), a “Licensed Grocer”, from Co. Wicklow is listed along with his wife (now named) Anastasia (38) from Co. Wicklow. They have four sons and two daughters including Hugh (15) and Elizabeth (14) which match. The family employed two Vintners Assistants, a cook and a general servant.

The Lord Edward, nd. Credit - Fintan Tandy (Old Dublin Pubs FB group)

The Lord Edward, nd. Credit – Fintan Tandy (Old Dublin Pubs FB group)

When the famous Red Bank restaurant on D’Olier Street closed in April 1969, the smart-thinking Tom Cunniam poached a lot of the now-jobless staff for his new Lord Edward seafood restaurant which opened in September of that year. Some of the staff that made the switch include chef Eamonn Ingram who trained in the old Russell Hotel and waiter Tom Smith who were both still working in The Lord Edward until 10 years ago at least.

The Lord Edward, c. 2014. Credit - Flickr user 'fhwrdh' via dailyedge.ie

The Lord Edward, c. 2014. Credit – Flickr user ‘fhwrdh’ via dailyedge.ie

In 1989, the Cunniam family sold the pub to Dublin-born businessman David Lyster and his wife Maureen who still own it today.

So while it’s sad to see the restaurant closing, we’re more pleased that the pub is unaffected.

Fallon’s, otherwise known as The Capstan Bar, has recently changed hands. As a result, the vast majority of the wonderful memorabilia (relating to football, local history etc.) has been removed from the now-bare walls. Staff expect the pub may shut temporarily for refurbishment (hopefully they’ll redo the toilets and little else) but they’re definitely not closing.

On a side note, we believe the Capstan in question refers to the British brand of cigarettes and not the nautical rotating machine.

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Rock against the Referendum 1983

Great find from the Irish Student Movement Research Project who originally uploaded the scanned document onto their Flickr page.

It’s a poster for three benefit gigs in September/October 1983 in aid of the Anti-Amendment Campaign. This wide reaching group unsuccessfully fought against the Eighth Amendment which introduced a constitutional ban on abortion in Ireland. Thirty-two years later and we are unfortunately still fighting to repeal it.

Anti-Amendment Music - Rock against the Referendum (1983). Uploaded by Student History Ireland Project.

Anti-Amendment Music – Rock against the Referendum (1983). Uploaded by Student History Ireland Project.

The leaflet indicated that the ‘Anti Amendment Music’ sub-group had the support of many of the country’s leading musical acts including Bob Geldof, Paul Brady, Christy Moore and the Tokyo Olympics.

Ringsend’s finest The Blades also backed the fight and played a benefit gig for the campaign in September 1982. They, along with the Rhythm Kings and Some Kind of Wonderful, headlined the annual The Lark in the Park concert in Saint Anne’s Park in Raheny in July 1983. Illustrating the point well that these ‘on side’ bands were really at the top of their game when they helped the campaign out.

The poster offers an interesting snapshot into the Dublin music scene of a time featuring some of the leading gigging bands in three iconic venues. The first of which is now demolished, the second one completely unrecognisable and the last renamed.

On 30th September, Dublin funky reggae band Some Kind of Wonderful headlined the first gig in McGonagles (now demolished) on South Anne Street off Grafton Street. Support came from Max (featuring former members of the Soulmates and the New Versions) and pop music luminary BP Fallon. Other enticements to get punters through the door included food, wine and “video” (!)

Some Kind of Wonderful (nd). From 'U2: Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every Song' by Niall Stokes (2005)

Some Kind of Wonderful (nd). From ‘U2: Into the Heart: The Stories Behind Every Song’ by Niall Stokes (2005)

On 9th October, pub-rock group the Rhythm Kings featuring Ferdia MacAnna (aka Rocky de Valera) played The Baggot Inn. The venue, which along with McGonagles was a crucial cornerstone in the Dublin live music scene for decades, has been completely refurbished and was reopened recently as a Mexican-themed bar called Xico.

On 14th October, stand-up comedian Billy Magra hosted a night in The Sportman’s Inn (now known as Kiely’s) in Mount Merrion. The Club Comedy nights, along with others that Billy ran in the Project Arts Centre and the Mansion House, helped develop the live stand up comedy scene in Dublin and played host to amongst others the late Dermot Morgan, Kevin McAleer, Michael Redmond, Ian MacPherson and Mannix Flynn (today an independent Dublin City Councillor).

If anyone has any more posters from ‘Anti Amendment Music’ gigs or related memories, please get in touch or leave a comment.

Early Houses of Dublin (2015)

(This was originally featured on our Facebook page which may have been missed by some of our readers. It was hugely successful with 372 likes, 60 comments and 114 shares)

There are close to 1,000 pubs open today in Dublin city and county. Of these, around 15 are part of an exclusive club. Known as Early Houses, these are public houses that were granted and still avail of a special licence (dating back to 1927) which allows them to open from Monday to Saturday at 7am. Regular pubs can start serving from 10.30am.

We’ve previously looked at the all-hours drinking culture of Bona-Fides, Kips and Early Houses in this article.

Originally these places catered for dock workers, market traders, fishermen, night workers and those attending early-morning fairs. Today the clientele is a little more varied and depending on where you go, you are likely to rub shoulders with wired shift-workers (postmen, nurses etc.), thirsty early risers, tourists who have landed into Dublin early and all-night revellers who have no intention of going to bed yet.

Brand New Retro recently scanned up a hilarious 2003 article on Early Houses from the legendary and must missed Slate magazine.

The Chancery featured in The Slate (2003). Scanned by Brand New Retro.

The Chancery featured in The Slate (2003). Scanned by Brand New Retro.

Since 1962, no new pubs have been added to the list and they are considered a dying breed. In 2008, the government put forward legislation to revoke Early House licences but they eventually decided to leave them as they are. For the time being anyway.

The 12 Early Houses left in the city centre are clustered on the Northside around Capel Street close to the old Markets and on the Southside around the Quays and Pearse Street area which would have the ports of call for dockers and sailors. See map below.

The Fisherman’s Bar, attached to The Waterside pub, in the Northside coastal village of Howth is the only early house in the Dublin suburbs as far as we know. There were early houses in Dun Laoghaire and in Bray Dart Station but they’ve since closed their doors.

Slattery’s on Capel Street is the only one that offers food and is unquestionably the place to go if you want a Full Irish breakfast and a pint at 7am.

The Dark Horse (which hosts a monthly ‘Breakfast Club’  for early morning ravers), The Chancery and The Capel are the most popular spots for the mad-out-of-it crew.

M. Hughes, due to its location, probably attracts more members of the legal profession than the other pubs.

Similarly the Galway Hooker in Heuston Station would be the natural spot for a thirsty traveller before he jumps on an early-morning train.

The rest of the pubs would normally be full of locals and regulars so a better place if you are looking for a quiet early morning pint but they probably won’t be too hospitable to Ebenezer Goode and a large group of his mates.

We’ve put together this handy map for locals and tourists who might find themselves looking for an early morning tipple :

Map of Dublin Early Houses. Credit - Sam (CHTM!)

Map of Dublin Early Houses. Credit – Sam (CHTM!)

Thirty years ago in 1985, Ireland was gripped by the summer of moving statues. From Ballinspittle in County Cork to suburban Dublin, people gathered at religious monuments in the hope or belief that they would witness statues physically moving before their very eyes. While this story is well-known now, one aspect of the story has largely been forgotten. At Ballinspittle, where huge crowds and sections of the international media gathered over several months, the monument of the Virgin Mary was attacked with axes and hammers by a fundamentalist religious group from Dublin, leading to a high-profile court case, media appearances and a few broken windows in Clondalkin (more on that below!)

Irish Press (5 May 1986)

Irish Press (5 May 1986)

1985 in Ireland is perhaps best remembered for the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement at Hillsborough, as a year of much violence in the North and for the founding of the Progressive Democrats by Des O’Malley in the South. For many reading this however, it is perhaps a year best remembered for standing at roadsides and roundabouts.

Ballinspittle in Co. Cork, the centre of much of the media attention in 1985. (Image: Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, via www.geograph.ie)

Ballinspittle in Co. Cork, the centre of much of the media attention in 1985. (Image: Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence, via http://www.geograph.ie)

Ballinspittle, about 5 miles southwest of Kinsale, was to find its way into the pages of the New York Times and papers right across the world as a result of events there in July 1985. The first reports in the Irish media began to appear around 26 July, with reports of two local women claiming to have seen the statue of the Virgin Mary in the town moving, at a shrine that had been there since the 1950s. What was interesting is that the local Parish priest was in no hurry to endorse the claims being made, remarking that he had no comment to make. From small groups of local people, word spread throughout Munster in particular, and by 31 July the press were reporting that 5,000 people had shown up at the monument on a single night. The media jumped on all of this, but there had been claims earlier in the year, by schoolchildren in Kerry, that they had witnessed a Marian statue in their local church move. Fintan O’Toole, as a journalist with Magill, travelled to Kerry and interviewed some of those who had claimed to witness the Marian statue there moving, in a feature which was published before events at Ballinspittle. Now however, with what was allegedly happening in Cork, people took those claims more seriously too and this was seen as a chain of events.

Magill reports on the claims of a moving statue in Kerry. (Source: http://politico.ie/magazine/magill/1985-05-16)

Magill reports on the claims of a moving statue in Kerry. (Source: http://politico.ie/magazine/magill/1985-05-16)

The Bishop of Cork, Michael Murphy, issued a statement informing people that “direct supernatural intervention is a very rare happening in life, so common sense would demand that we approach the claims made concerning the grotto at Ballinspittle with prudence and caution. Before a definite pronouncement could be made by the Church all natural explanations would have to be examined and exhausted over a lengthy period of time.” This approach was similar to that which had been taken in Kerry by the church.

For the local economy at Ballinspittle, The Irish Times reported that “the shops and the two local pubs have been given an unexpected boost in an otherwise quiet tourist season.” One woman wrote to the newspapers noting that bus companies seemed to be making a killing bringing the curious and the faithful from right across Ireland, while it was reported one man got a telling off from the gathered crowd for opening his chip van directly opposite the shrine, something one journalist noted was found to be “unsuitable to the solemn nature of the occasion.” A local told a visiting American journalist that “Knock spawned souvenir shops and a partially-completed airport, why can’t we do the same?”

The story made the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and the paper quoted the Government press secretary Peter Prendergast as saying “three-quarters of the country is laughing heartily. In Dublin, the citizens are anxiously watching James Larkin on O’Connell Street to see if it will move.” The BBC sent a reporter from Newsnight (above) and a team of cameramen to Ireland. In the weeks that followed, people began claiming that similar scenes were occurring at shrines at Dunmanway and Courtmacsherry, while in Kilkenny, there were reports of over half a dozen locations where statues were ‘moving’, and there too the church urged caution and scepticism. There was an academic intervention from staff at the Department of Applied Psychology in UCC, who claimed that “people sway when standing still for a period of time and what they are looking at appears to move.” They called it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’. They claimed that it was an issue of light, as “the statue appeared to move only when it is dark.” In the North, Unionist Jim Wells of the DUP told the media that:

We find much of Roman Catholic doctrine repugnant… [we find it repugnant] that the Virgin Mary is regarded as a deity that can be prayed to, who can forgive sins and heal the sick and all that, that shrines which can supposedly move in Ballinspittle or wherever it is can delude thousands into believing that there are some magical powers. That is superstition of almost African tribal levels.

"Moving Statue No. 76." A cartoon from Freedom News, a radical newspaper in Cork at the time. (Credit: Irish Left Archive, https://cedarlounge.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/freedom-news-cork-irsp-october-1985.pdf)

“Moving Statue No. 76.” A cartoon from Freedom News, a radical newspaper in Cork at the time. (Credit: Irish Left Archive, https://cedarlounge.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/freedom-news-cork-irsp-october-1985.pdf)

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Chant! Chant! Chant! via irishrock.org

Chant! Chant! Chant! via irishrock.org

Chant! Chant! Chant! were one of the most original and exciting bands to hit Dublin’s post-punk music scene. Active from 1979 to 1982, they played a jilting sort of New Wave that would find a natural home amongst your Talking Heads, Wire, Gang of Four and XTC records.

The line up was Eoin Freeney (vocals), Robbie Wogan (bass), Larry Murphy (drums) [ex. The Threat] and Paul ‘Mono’ Monohan (drums) [ex. The Threat]

Journalist Liam Mackey reviewing the band in the Project Arts Centre(26 June 1980), on the same set as Derry’s The Moondogs and Cork’s Nun Attax, wrote:

Chant! Chant! Chant! offer glimpses of what the embryonic Talking Heads must have been like struggling to create coherent music out of all those bubbling, half realised ideas in a New York loft way back when. They’ve got something of the dark pulse of Joy Division too and their methodology – songs constructed around the startling bass runs of Larry Murphy – has a precedent in the work of the Public Image chaps…

Their recorded legacy is sparse with only a track (‘What do you know’) on The Boddis EP (1980) also featuring Big Self, Departure and the peridots ; one hard-to-find single (Quicksand/Play Safe) on DIY label Peig the Man from July 1981 and a 3-track live recording (Ballet no.1/Forty one/Say so) on the Dave Fanning Rock Show Session from the same month.

Self-described ‘writer, hack and music fan’ John Fleming has written a special account for CHTM! on the band’s 2013 reunion gig and their impact first time around when the band were a “dark force to be reckoned with.”

Grand Social, 2013

A few numbers in, it starts to flow: Quicksand. It’s May 2013 and Chant! Chant! Chant! are back on stage after 31 years. Five hundred people bought their record in 1981 on the Peig The Man label: Quicksand with its B-side Play Safe. Having been zapped through a time warp, Chant! Chant! Chant! play tightly, a gang of now older mates but still as thick as thieves. Nostalgia for lost moments is pulverised. Singer Eoin Freeney thanks the crowd, joking about this one-off reunion concert at the Grand Social venue in Dublin. “At this rate, our next gig will be in 2043,” he says. “So… See you then.” The ageing audience share the wistful smiles of mere mortals.
Chant! Chant! Chant! – each word followed by an exclamation mark – are temporarily back. It is the start of summer 2013 and they have returned through time’s thick ether, magnificently but momentarily. They take the stage. The lads stand nervously. The frontman’s cool, leopard-print shirt inspires the confidence they all badly need. Some conceptual music floods from the speakers. Edgy smiles fade away. Slow seconds crawl. The tape ends. The drums, the bass and the guitar crank into machine mode and Chant! Chant! Chant! begin to play. The singer stays motionless, beaming himself back from 1981 as the magical wall of sound builds behind him and he gets into character. Two camera guys dart back and forth, capturing the event with digital technology, training 21st-century lenses on every second of the legendary Dublin band’s return. (Some of these videos have now at last been posted on YouTube.)
Lead singer Eoin Freeney in action in 2013 in the Grand Social. Image via Youtube.

Lead singer Eoin Freeney in action in 2013 in the Grand Social. Image via Youtube.

Tune after tune bleeds out. 41. What Do You Know. Play Safe. Chant! Chant! Chant! were Dublin’s Factory band that never was. A mesh of punk and funk, they stalked the same world that produced A Certain Ratio, XTC, Wire, Gang of Four, Pil and Josef K in late 1970s Britain.
Dublin, early 1980s
The wonderful Quicksand sucks you down. Down along the damp and gritty trajectory of the last three decades. Back to Dublin of 1980 and 1981 and 1982, when this city was the small-scale capital of limited opportunity. The scratchy guitar and huge slabs of bass swirl the audience back through time like agents of Adam Eterno. They bring us to the Judge and Jury on Bolton Street, to the Ivy Rooms on Parnell Street, and, aaaah yes… remember the Magnet on Pearse Street? Nascent stars of a small firmament that will soon peter out are queuing for pints between sets – there’s the boys from Amuse who would yield Blue in Heaven and Backwards Into Paradise. There’s The End who would spawn Something Happens and a certain radio host. There’s Meelah 18 who would become Aslan, there’s The Blades, a support band Microdisney and The Atrix who will live forever.
It’s the summer of 1981. The gigs were full of snapped guitar strings (Cormac Wright, The End), bass drums bursting (Johnnie Bonny, also of The End) and the singer of A Further Room belting out their single Psychedelia Disco as he dangled from one arm, his fist clenched on a beam that just might break. But Chant! Chant! Chant! had the best musical mishap: a sound desk exploded. After three short tunes in the Judge and Jury that summer, electricity had the last laugh. The plug was pulled: the show was over. A noble decision to give refunds was taken, and fists of 50-pence pieces were handed back to 80 or 90 disappointed fans.
Band members and the future
“That was Robby who gave you your cash back all those years ago,” said drummer Paul “Mono” Monahan, three decades later at the reunion gig. “There were so many on the guest list that night we gave out more money than we took in.” That one-off gig was short and sharp too, a lesson in post-punk art economy. And the music? It transcended memory’s distortion: despite the obscurity of the endeavour, some of us knew what we were at back then.
Chant! Chant! Chant!,  1980

Chant! Chant! Chant!, 1980

Larry Murphy was the god of the band’s pulsing bass. He still is now, and lives in Spain. Mono had pre-gig butterflies but was delighted his offspring got to see his old man’s crew were cool. Guitarist Robby Wogan lives in England: he was relieved to be going back this time without having to give any more cost-ineffective cash refunds. And singer Eoin Freeney looked like one of the happiest inhabitants of the planet tonight, leading his team of elegant 1970s/1980s men through the matrix of music and memory.
Due to geography, rehearsals posed logistical challenges. But over the course of 10 European months, the fiftysomething year olds all dug in. They disinterred their sturdy tunes and collective identity. Just as they might have sunk down forever into the Quicksand of culture, they dragged themselves back out in May 2013.
Will Chant! Chant! Chant! ever play another reunion gig? “No!” the men chorused. But packing their instruments away, they seemed less certain.

Fore more information on the band’s history, check out their entry at Irishrock.org and U2theearlydayz.com. Two great resources. Also this brilliant interview with singer Eoin from Thumped.com (2013)

For more CHTM! pieces on music history, check out this link.


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