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Archive for January, 2010

Mise an Fear Ceoil

Seamus Ennis

Seamus Ennis (1919-1982) from the Naul, North Dublin.

Just a short post, I’ll let the music talk.

I’ve been returning to Leagues O’ Toole’s fantastic book The Humours Of Planxty, which has opened me up completely to the music of Seamus Ennis. Ennis essentially served as a mentor to Liam Óg O’ Flynn of the legendary band, and also collected countless songs and sheets of music all over Ireland and indeed the UK.

Seamus spent his last years in a mobile home in the Naul, close to the land on which he was raised and where the sound of his fathers pipes would shape his life. Those very pipes, antique pieces in themselves, were to be played by Willie Clancy and Liam Óg later on in Seamus’ company.

He died in that small mobile home.

Those days will be remembered
Beyond out in the Naul
Listening to the master’s notes
As gently they did fall

Christy Moore, Easter Snow.

The Rainy Day/The Merry Blacksmith/The Silver Spear

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Earlier this week, RTE broadcast a very well made documentary on the history of Nelson’s Pillar. The programme contains amazing archive footage along with contributions from Des Geraghty, Jimmy Magee and David Norris. If you missed it, viewers in Ireland can watch it on RTE Player until Monday, 15 February.

Though it focuses on the bombing of 1966, the documentary tells also tells the fascinating story of how in 1955 a group of UCD students, involved with the Irish National Student Council (INSC), occupied the pillar. Dropping a banner of Kevin Barry over the edge, they tried to melt Nelson’s statue with homemade “flame throwers”. Gardai used hammers to break into the pillar and tried to arrest the students but they had to be released after the gardai were attacked by sympathetic members of the public.

After the statue was blown up in May 1966, Nelson’s head was stolen by NCAD students from a storage shed in Clanbrassil Street as a fund-raising prank to help clear their debts. Wearing sinister black masks, they held a very civil press conference explaining their motives. The head made several secret appearances over the next six months including making its way onto the stage of a Dubliners concert in The Olympia Theatre!

Nelson’s head now rests peacefully in the Gilbert Library in Pearse Street.

“Not us says I.R.A.” Dublin, 1966.

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Dublin firefighters inspect the General Post Office, from \’The Dublin Fire Brigade\’ (2004,Dublin City Council Press)

Recently, I spent painful hours online attempting to track down information on the Guinness Fire Brigade, but it was a hard task! Bass, Powers and Guinness all operated functional (and branded) fire services in their respective workplaces due to the nature of production and the risk posed. My interest in the men of what was branded the ‘Arthur Guinness and Sons’ Fire Brigade, centres around the events of Easter week 1916, but is by no means limited to that week alone.

Guinness, along with Powers Distillery , were both called out by Captain Purcell of the Dublin Fire Brigade during the 1916 insurrection to assist the city Brigade, who, along with Pembroke and Rathmines firefighters, found themselves working against the odds.

The Irish Times Focus on 1916 gives some extent of the damage caused to the city during the uprising

Fire had raged from the GPO towards the Liffey, reaching back along Henry Street to Henry Place and Moore Street, advancing towards Liffey Street, almost as far as the Irish Independent’s printing works on Middle Abbey Street. On the Sackville Street frontage, the Metropole Hotel, standing between Eason and the GPO, was gone, and with it adjoining buildings including the Oval bar. Thom’s printing works was destroyed.

On the Saturday night, well into the uprising that had, in the words of Captain Purcell, done at least £2.5 Million worth of damage to the streets of Dublin, it became apparent that there was a very real threat Jervis Hospital was going to burn to the ground. Purcell called on the fire brigades of Guinness Brewery and Powers to assist his Brigade. Occasionally under fire, they worked heroically and ensured the safety of the hospital.

Dublin Fire Brigade,1916 period standard. Las Fallon collection.

Little is known about the Guinness Fire Brigade in so far as a date of formation. Their exploits during Easter Week are documented in so far as possible in Tom Geraghty and Trevor Whiteheads ‘The Dublin Fire Brigade’ published by Dublin City Council in 2004 and an essential read for all interested in the history of the city. Yet they were a different Brigade, seperate from the Dublin Fire Brigade entirely. Thus, they have remained somewhat of a mystery.

Firefighters training at the site of what is now the Guinness Storehouse attraction

Some interesting insight can be gained into life for the Brewery fire and rescue squads from Edward J. Burkes recent The Guinness Story: The Family, The Business, The Black Stuff (O’ Brien Press, 2009) The book also provides information on the companies support for the repression of the Easter Rising, which makes for interesting reading in itself (for example a company of Dublin Fusilers were allowed set up in the Robert Street grainstore, and Guinness Daimler trucks topped with railway engine smoke boxes were a popular mode of transport and defensive/offensive tool for British forces)

Guinness firefighters, around the 1950s. Notice the \’AGS\’ branding of helmets.

From Burkes book, we can gather information of a fire at the Guinness Brewery in 1820, as reported in the Freemans Journal. All breweries and distillers in the area operated a fire-service (No surprise due to the highly flamable nature of the work) and all, along with the insurance companies of the area, helped to ensure no extensive damage occured.

One can only be reminded of recent events and the fire in the Guinness complex when they read the company press-statement which boasted…

“….the damage done is not very extensive, nor of such a nature as to stop the business of the brewery even for a day”

Brewery Fire Brigade piece.

The Guinness Fire Brigade in the 1930s.

The Guinness Fire Brigade in the 1930s.

To many people,the Guinness fire-helmets are the most exciting part of the story. Below, I’ve included some snaps of Guinness helmets over the years, from the time of the Rising up until the mid 1900s. AGS, of course, stands for Arthur Guinness and Sons.

A patch from near the end of the Brewery Brigades lifetime. Las Fallon collection.

Guinness has long been a powerhouse of Dublin life, employing thousands of working class people in this city through boom and bust alike, but this is certainly an overlooked aspect of the story. The men of the Brewery Brigade, perhaps more than anyone else, show there was,and indeed remains, much more than stout at the heart of Saint James’ Gate.

\’Arthur Guinness and Sons\’ early helmet. Las Fallon collection

Helmet from mid-century period, again branded \’AGS\’ Las Fallon collection

My thanks to the lads at the contemporary Guinness Fire and Rescue Service for getting in touch. This image shows the modern service Guinness operate on site.

Credit to D.Doyle for photograph

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The CHTM team (bar DFallon who’s gallivanting in Belgium) will be enjoying a day full of soccer, music and food as part of the African Nations Cup Final celebrations in Dalymount Park this Sunday.

With free entry, traditional African food to taste and reggae & afrobeat DJs till late – you’ll be mad to miss it.

For more information, check out the Facebook event.

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January 30:

After you’ve recovered from the January Punky Reggae Party, head into town on Saturday for the Recession Club. Moving their operation from Shebeen Chic to Pravda, expect the usual classic sounds of punk, ska and rockabilly.

January Recession Club

February 6:

Garage rock n roll with the lovely Laura Lovejoy on decks.

February Retro Revival Club

March 13:

A two room ‘Mod Extravaganza’ featuring the best DJs from Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast and Wexford.

March 'From The Vaults' Mod & Soul Night

April 10:

Bubbles, the legendary Dublin 80s Mod night, is back with a vengeance for one night only.

April Bubbles Mod Night.

May 23:

A one day festival featuring the island’s best mod, ska and rockabilly bands. Something for everyone and all for a good cause.

May 'Rockin Road' Festival

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“…in 1966 Eddie and Finbar Furey won the international folk award in Tralee against eighty other groups. For this they got £170 in prize money which they say lasted about three days. ‘It went to charity’ says Eddie. The ‘Guinness charity’ says Finbar”

Finbar and Eddie Furey LP

Finbar and Eddie Furey, Transatlantic Records, 1968.

“You’ll meet a tall, dark handsome man….” she told my mother. Mrs. Furey that was, who used to tell fortunes up in Ballyfermot. “Jesus, she got that one wrong!”

I had a great time recently researching the Liam Weldon article, and got a laugh out of the images and memories it brought to mind especially for my mother. German TV cameras in the front garden, Christy Moore on the wall, a whole family at work musically. The Fureys were much the same, on Spidel Road.

Six in the family, the four boys and the parents. A musicial house to say the least. Another cornerstone of what I consider the great forgotten Trad-scene of Ireland, the Downeys acts. For all the romanticism surrounding traditional music in Ireland at the time (1968), you hear very little about Ballyfermot and what was going on there. The Furey Family, The Keenan Family , Paddy Sweeney (who did some time in the Dublin City Ramblers), The Weldon Family, and all the drop-ins you’d get on occasion for The Phoenix Folk Club, with the likes of Andy Irvine, Jim Page, Donal Lunny, Barry Moore (Better known now as Luke Bloom), Mary Black, Ronnie Drew, Mick Hanly and others. Christy Moore did a fundraiser for the folk club too, and things were really going on to say the least. You were no one without an instrument up there, with mam trying out the fiddle briefly and the father opting for the bodhran.

Anyway, the album.

An amazing array of instruments. Whistles, pipes, bodhrans, guitars, whatever you’re having yourself. Finbar and Eddie were sweeping awards from a young age, with several junior championship awards for pipes under both belts, and the Ulster Senior Trio championship taken along with the father, Ted.

The Spanish Cloak
Come by the Hills
Sliabh Na Mban
Dainty Davy
Tattered Jack Welch
The Flowers in the Valley
Pigeon on the Gate
Graham’s Flat
Leezy Lindsay
Piper in the Meadow Straying
The Curragh of Kildare
Eamonn an Chnuic (Ned of the Hills)
This Town Is Not Your Own
Rocking the Baby

Come By The Hills:

“Eddie’s first song was written by Scottish TV producer Gordon Smith. The words are set to the traditional Irish air Buchal an Eire”

The Curragh of Kildare:

“Sometimes called the The Winter It Is Passed and was said by Dean Christie (Who included it in his collection of traditional ballad airs in 1876) to have been written about a highwayman called Johnson, who was hanged in 1750 for robberies committed on the Curagh, the pen heathland that stretches to the East of Kildare”

Enjoy these two. While currently away in Belgium, nothing makes me long for a Downeys pint like this LP! More on the way friends, more on the way.

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Some friends of ours are organising a benefit night next week to help raise money to erect two monuments in the memory of Charles Donnelly, poet, anti fascist and UCD graduate. The first near his birthpace in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone and the second near the spot where he died at the age of 23 in the Battle of Jarama.

Unfortunately the night clashes with a gig I’m organising but we still encourage people to help to finance the stone’s engraving and its transport to Madrid by attending the event or sending money directly (details below)

The night will comprise music, poetry and song but, more importantly, it will give like-minded people who appreciate the continuing significance of the Spanish War of 1936-9, an opportunity to meet up, have the craic and celebrate the spirit and legacy of people such as Charlie Donnelly.

To reserve tickets beforehand or make a donation, contact:
Eddie O’Neill at 087 271 2864 or eddietyrone@gmail.com.

Note: I wrote an article about Donnelly’s time in UCD last year.

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