Posts Tagged ‘Ballyfermot’

“…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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Downey’s Pub, Ballyfermot Road, Dublin 10.

“I remember when they did this place up, in the mid 1980s, there was music playing in the jacks then. They tried to ban jeans and all, it was never going to work. Anyway, in I go to the toilet, and there’s an old lad swinging forward and back at the urinal, scuttered and on another planet. ‘New York, New York’ is playing over the music system.

‘Jesus, they really have done this place up’, he says to me. ‘Frank Sinatra wouldn’t be seen dead taking a piss in Downeys last year!’

Christ what a pub. The above story, is from lfallon (the da) who used to frequent Downeys and another pub or two up this stretch. Still, it’s safe to say that Downeys was always the local best. No better man to enlist for the day then.

Downeys of Ballyfermot is, amazingly, the only pub Google image search never heard of.

Sunday night. Straight past the ‘Bar’ door. “The locals drink there” says lfallon, and “…the piano music (Not eh…literal piano music) stops when a new face walks in”. You might review the odd pub on the internet young lad, but here you’re a newbie. Watch and learn and all that. The lounge it is. The bar will happen soon, we won’t try swim before we can walk.

The lounge is jammed. Good luck finding a seat. “They’re up! Grab it!” I grab the seats, lfallon grabs the pints. They drop them down and all. They’re €4.20 (quite reasonable in this part of the world) and look as good as a pint of Guinness can. These are top class pints.

We’re not long into it, in fact she’s still settling, when the dad launches in to a story. A local punter and Ballyfermot character, previously employed by the great Arthur Guinness and Sons, used to pop in here every morning to ‘clean the pipes’. The pints were said to be the best around, no bollocks pints of stout. Still are.

The telly’s are on. All three of them. They’re not loud though, the volumes down and the locals are deep in conversation. (and believe me, these are locals- everyone looks like they’re paying rent on the seats but still remain friendly and one gets the impression this small club is always looking for new members) You hear snippets of it. The neighbours this, D’ya remember that. Great stuff.

It’s not long before you’re buying raffle tickets. This is a real community pub. Only half an hour later, and you’re putting money in the box for the local old folks. The ‘banter’ (and God, I hate talk of ‘the banter’) is actually there.

The raffle goes ahead, and Team Fallon, naturally, win fuck all. Nevermind that. The pints are coming in thick and heavy now, and all is well. EVERYONE, and I mean everyone in the place, from the 20something year old females at the table opposite to the local old lads by the bar, is on the black stuff. Yer only man around here it seems.

Liam Weldon, just one of the characters you'd often find at the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club back in the day

Upstairs, hidden away, you used to find the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Club, in fact- the music is back by all accounts. Only a few months back I was here myself, to see the wonderful Andy Irvine of Planxty fame. A great spot. Back in the day I’m told everyone from Liam Weldon to Mary Black, The Fureys to Jim Page would be found here. It was one of ‘the’ folk clubs. If the atmosphere upstairs was anything like that in the 2010 lounge, the place must have been electric up there.

The ‘last orders’ lights are flashing now.

Palmerstown, in so many ways, is very close to Ballyfermot. Still, the lesson learned tonight is this- never leave home at 9pm to visit a pub like this. You’d want to be here earlier me thinks. Pubs like this fill up on a Sunday night for a reason.

You can learn so much from your old man if you can get him to his own old local, and God I learned plenty here. It’s hard to fault this place (The Guinness remains top-notch, the place as clean as when that fancy reopening occurred in the mid-80’s, and the punters as friendly as you’ll find anywhere), but it’s a hard pub to leave. Straight into the chipper next door, and the chat begins.

When can we go back?”

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Liam Weldons 'Dark Horse On The Wind'

“Yet there’s always hope in anyone singing as well as this man sings on this record, singing words as true and as deeply felt as these, in this voice both lonely and full of power. This is Dublin singing and Irish singing, as Dublin as the Easter Rising, as Irish as the Love Songs of Connacht or Flanders fields or the Limerick Soviet that got clobbered”

-Pearse Hutchinson on Liam Weldons ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’

James Connolly (Track 5)

Liam Weldons ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’ is one of the classic Dublin albums. Both my own parents are of Ballyfermot stock, and Liam lived opposite my mothers family home where she says a familiar face or two could often be seen. Ballyfermot played no small part in the ‘Folk Renaissance’ of the 1960s and 70s of course, with Downeys and other pubs in the area hosting fantastic singers nights and sessions, the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Night in particular. The Fureys of course were a huge part of the scene locally, as was Liam, but names and faces like Christy Moore would swing by on occasion too. Only quite recently I saw Andy Irvine upstairs in Downeys, so some of the tradition remains.

I’m rambling here however, back to ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’. A ’76 classic from Mulligan Records. A class act, thankfully brought back to us in 1999 with a star-studded launch in the Cobblestone (sadly on the other side of the city from Ballyfermot, but all is forgiven) An album that opens with a song reflecting on the troubles of the time in which it was written, lamenting our dead and cursing the nature of the “nation of the blind” that ensured yet more would join then. An album that closes with a beautiful song about, of all the innocent things in the world, the Jinny Joe. Between the Mausers and the Jinny Joes, we find songs of love and songs of class conflict. Blue Tar Road in particular dealing with, what Liam himself termed

“Travellers being pushed from pillar to post by the corporation and even some mortgage-minded vigilante type citizens”

Fintan Vallely, writing in the Sunday Tribune in 1999 about the songs of Liam Weldon, stated that

“Uncompromising, these challenged the middle-class complacency of the Irish Free State, and dangerously he trod ground shared with critics of a Irish national identity which he believed in”

That perfect Dublin mix, of the personal and political, the songs of love and the songs of liberty, is what makes ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’ the classic it is. Here, you’ll find ‘James Connolly’ (perhaps the best rendition I’ve heard, and a song of a man Liam termed “Irelands greatest socialist revolutionary”) and Smuggling The Tin, a nice short number on smuggling tin across the border into the free state.

While Liam was unsure who had written James Connolly, in ‘One Voice’ Christy Moore writes that he himself had

“…long since recorded it before I learned that it was written by Patrick Galvin, the Cork poet and writer. We have subsequently met.

….I did a subsequent recording for an album commemorating 100 years of the Scottish Trade Union council. The inclusion of the song caused anger among certain Scottish Trade Unionists who cared not that Connolly gave his life, living and dying, for all workers north, south, east and west. It was ironic uproar indeed, for Connolly was born in Edinburgh in 1869”

Liam Weldon passed away in 1995.

Smuggling The Tin (Track 2)

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