Thursday, November 27, 2014
Time For Leaving
There's brandy in Quebec at ten cents-a-quart boys
The ale in New Brunswick's a penny-a-glass
There's wine in that sweet town they call Montreal boys
At inn after inn we will drink as we pass.
And we'll call for a bumper of ale, wine and brandy
We'll drink to the health of those far far away
Our hearts will all warm with thoughts of old Ireland
When we're in the green fields of Amerikay.
In my personal opinion by far the finest of all modern folk groups to come out of the British Isles was neither Pentangle nor Steeleye Span nor even Fairport Convention but Ireland's Planxty. Formed in 1972 the core of the group consisted of Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Liam O'Flynn - other musicians were temporary members including Paul Brady. They released six albums between 1973 and 1983 - the eponymous debut being surely being surely one of the greatest in the entire genre.
The last time the original line-up played was between late 2004 and early 2005 at gigs in Galway, Dublin, Belfast and the Barbican in London. Planxty produced a truly extraordinary body of work - my personal favorite is their version of the Scottish folk song Johnnie Cope about the second Jacobite Rising and the Battle of Prestonpans.
A week ago I was listening to a live album recorded at the Olympia Theatre Dublin in 1980 which included the magnificent Emigrant's Farewell to Ireland - there is another excellent version of this on youtube by Andy Irvine alone. The lyrics talk about the leave-taking of Ireland from the port at Derry to a future which promises more than a feudal struggle for survival against inconceivably difficult odds. Although in more cynical days I would consider the lyrics to be a wee bit hackneyed to the point of parody, the fact remains that the diabolical collapse of social mobility and financial security today makes them sound like nothing more than reasonably accurate journalistic reportage. Also, having grown up and fucking wised up over the years, I find the song very moving in turn regarding the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic labour movements from Ireland to North America in the late 18th and 19th centuries away from tithe extractions, rack-renting and hunger.
2014 seems to have been the defining critical mass moment whereby so many hard working British people have come to realise that the prognosis for the next twenty years - after the previous decade of prolonged recession - looks truly bleak beyond comprehension. Hence the toxic labour market proudly stands watch alongside the unparalleled Ponzi property scam over mass public disorientation, fear and alienation emanating from the population surges of the past ten years across the geographically small and industrially bereft British archipelago.
Life is certainly not gauged within clear and expectant parameters of love, warmth, light, protection and hope for most working people in such Future Shock circumstances. Meanwhile the mainstream press continues to present middle class life in the UK as resembling that of your average highly paid and well-groomed Scandinavian graphic designer and says naught as to the transformation of our capital city alone into something resembling a screaming and obscene hologram of Lucifer's own creation.
With this kind of disconnectivity in the loop already from our folk past in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies it really has taken no particularly radical leap of rationale to now witness the genocide of working class Europe at the Somme, Passendale and Verdun - including thousands upon thousands of brave foot soldiers from Belfast, Dublin and all four provinces of a then British Ireland - transformed into a crass and fundamentally vile advert for doomed Christmas turkeys.