Tag Archives: Christy Moore

The next time you hear “Ride On”…

Jimmy MacCarthy

Jimmy MacCarthy

There is something peculiarly folk music about the fact that the name of the man who wrote some of Ireland’s greatest modern ballads is not widely known, internationally at least, despite his songs travelling the world.

This occurred to me recently when I stopped into Kells Irish pub in downtown Portland one evening, and heard the performer on stage break into “Ride On”. The song was made famous, of course, by Christy Moore, on his 1984 album of that name and in thousands of live performances since.

The singer in Kells duly cited Moore’s performance of the song. I’m sure he has, at one point or another, performed “Missing You”, or “No Frontiers”, two other staples of modern Irish folk music.

And which were written by Jimmy MacCarthy – a name, though not as well-known as Moore’s or The Corrs’ (who’ve also recorded his work), ought to be.

“Ride On” alone secures MacCarthy a place in the choir of great Irish songwriters; the addition of “Missing You” would settle any debate on the matter.

But his greatest composition, to my mind, remains his poignant ballad about the tragic boxer Jack Doyle. Outside of song, Doyle’s rags-to-riches-to-rags story is relatively well-recounted. “The Contender” charts the Corkman’s rise and fall across five verses, from “the contender to the brawl”, as MacCarthy frames it.

It’s a masterclass in songwriting, a work that’s tragic without being sentimental, that’s affectionate but open-eyed. Perhaps fittingly, my favorite version of the song is the one below, recorded live by Moore in 2006. (MacCarthy’s own studio version, from his 2002 album “The Moment”, sounds overproduced, though his live performance of the song, which I saw in Wexford that same year, was wonderful).

Accompanied by guitarist Declan Sinnott, Moore mixes up the pride and the pathos of Doyle’s story. He also pays tribute, at the outset, to the man who wrote the song.

The next time you hear “Ride On” then, or the great London-Irish emigrant song “Missing You“, or even The Corrs’ breathy take on “No Frontiers”, tip your hat to Jimmy MacCarthy.

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Let it rain. Somewhere else.

Come on in, the weather's lovely.

Come on in, the weather’s lovely.

I’m Irish; therefore I know rain.

The Gaelic word for the phenomenon, ‘baisteach’, is pretty close to my own reaction when I pull open the curtains on an October morning to be greeted by dripping leaves.

Rain. Vast soggy swathes of my youth were soaked in the stuff. Summers swept away, winters seeping into one single drenched grey mass.

In a part of my brain – call it the Celtic cortex – it never stops pouring down. Showers that struck on holidays in Galway at the age of 12 continue still; the deluge that I swam through the first time I climbed Carauntoohill continues to pour down its sodden flanks.

As an Irishman for me rain is as much a state of mind as a natural phenomenon.

Great Recent Downpours I Have Known: The 72 hour burst that drenched our American visitors on their first trip to Ireland in September 2012; the mist that soaked my wife and I as I proposed under Mweelrea mountain seven months earlier; the torrents of a single night that flooded our block’s garage in October 2011.

Magnificent falls all.

—–

After a dry (by Irish standards) summer the rain returned to Dublin this week, three days of grey skies and damp air, broken only by dreary deluges and spot flooding.

At least in the west of Ireland they had an unlikely distraction, an apocalyptic ‘black cloud’ attacking gravestones and a church tea room.

'Travellers surprised by sudden rain'. Utagawa Hiroshige

Soft day? ‘Travellers surprised by sudden rain’.
Utagawa Hiroshige

The only memorable airbourne event I encountered in recent days was a lightning strike over Dublin Bay early on Tuesday morning which – I later discovered – struck an Aer Lingus plane.

Other than that it’s been raincoats, umbrellas and the sodden, sinking feeling that Autumn is here, with winter (read: same rain, just colder) to follow.

This persistent feeling that, regardless of how pleasant it might be today, rain is just around the corner, likely accounts for the outlook of the Irish pessimist class.

The fact that I – figuratively at least – approach many of life’s challenges with an umbrella in one hand and a dripping macintosh in the other is often remarked on by my other half.

Hailing from Southern California, where rain is seen as some quaint Old World folk memory, her usual outlook is a progressive optimism.

Guess whose approach works better?

As I write this it’s…. well, let’s just say that it’s not dry outside. But it will be tomorrow, they say. And there may even be sun, we’re promised, ‘in parts’.

Until then I’ll be – like Christy Moore – cursing this cold blow and the rainy night.

Let it rain. Just elsewhere.

 

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Stout with the old…

It's not you Arthur. It's us.

It’s not you Arthur.
It’s us.

GUINNESS is Irish?

Pull the other one. The other tap that is. The one that contains lager.

Because the stout is off.

If, as predicted by some, drunken hordes stumble around Dublin tomorrow most won’t be fuelled by the black stuff.

Most of them will be putting back lager and/or wine. Or vodka. Or a cocktail of the above.

They’re less and less likely to be sinking pints of stout.

Which is why, in a roundabout way, the country’s spent the past week getting very animated about Arthur Guinness Day.

Diageo, who own Guinness and pack a hefty marketing punch, want to reverse the drinking trend.

For the past five years they’ve sponsored music events around the world, a commemoration based on a ruse based on the Guinness founder’s birthday.

This year’s no different, except there’s more outrage in the mix.

From doctors to folksingers, Government ministers to irked pub regulars, the backlash has been considerable.

A lot of ungrateful Irish are refusing the invite to Arthur’s birthday bash.

Nonetheless pints will be raised at 17.59 tomorrow, and A&E admissions will, it’s claimed, rise by a third this evening.

All a-board? Pic: Dean Molyneaux

All a-board?
Pic: Dean Molyneaux

Then, glasses washed, tills cleared and hangovers underway Ireland will rise tomorrow and get on with it.

The to-ing and fro-ing surrounding Arthur’s Day will peter out in the coming days, as most discussions of Ireland’s drinking do, until the next crisis is reported.

And Guinness will resume it place as the top of taps, as planned. Right?

Yeah right.

Whether or not we see Arthur’s Day again, or a variation of it, the stricken love affair between the Irish and their ‘national drink’ is unlikely to be repaired anytime soon.

Sales of Guinness in Ireland were down five per cent in the year to June last and are expected to fall further. “Another very tough year,” is the official Guinness line.

Pub-owners in Ireland might describe it in less charitable terms. Sales in Ireland have been falling since 2008 and show no signs of stopping.

The Guinness Storehouse may be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction but most of the 40m pints Diageo plans to pump out each year at the adjacent St James’ Gate facility won’t be sipped anywhere near the Liffey, they’ll be sent abroad.

The brand remains a behemoth in Ireland, no doubt. One in three pints sold here is a Guinness.

Calling time? Guinness drinkers in its heyday.

Calling time? Guinness drinkers in the stout’s heyday.

But the problem – for Diageo – is that the Irish are drinking less and less of these pints, and frequenting less and less bars.

A generation have done the once-unthinkable – they’ve called time on the Irish pub. Bars here closing at the rate of almost one a day, according to the drinks’ industry.

The Irish haven’t stopped drinking though. We’re just doing it at home. And not with Guinness.

If Arthur’s Day continues – despite this year’s controversy – it risks becoming more and more of an anomaly – a rare day when Irish pubs are actually full of drinkers.

In a decade’s time the occasion may be seen as less of a public order or health menace and more a quaint reminder of the way we used to do things, way back when.

Arthur? Who was he?

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