St .Patrick’s day coincides with my daughter’s birthday, and it’s for that reason alone rather than a desire to celebrate some weird version of Irishness I have been forced to brave the revellers on an annual basis.
If we were to celebrate Bastille day by dressing up in berets and stiped jerseys, bedecked with a string of onions and bladdered on red wine it’s just possible someone might point out this was all a bit, well racist really. There’s nothing the British public seems to like more though than putting on an emerald green hat in the shape of a pint of Guinness and just getting completely pissed though.
It’s all a new thing to me of course and that probably the only reason I’m grumpy about the whole ‘celebration’, when I was a kid, we didn’t even go trick or treating, I just find the rate at which new celebrations are developing is getting out of hand (I did enjoy data protection day a few weeks back though).
So, in an attempt to join in the fun, I’m going to dedicate a few posts to Ireland. Its not my specialist subject, despite being just a short ferry trip away Ireland remained a mystery for most of us English when I was growing up. In general, there weren’t any Stag and Hen trips to Dublin. Most of us, if we chose to fly at all would have gone to somewhere warm rather than damp.
Recently an old episode of Morecambe and Wise was uncovered which included, to our liberal horror, a sketch featuring Irish stereotypes. It was a sign of the times; Irish jokes were standard currency in every workplace and playground. What we knew about the Irish is they might be charming or illogical or bewildering but they were also a bit thick, we knew this because we were told it every day on the television.
There was a smattering of respected Irish entertainers, most notably Val Doonican. I’ve always had a soft spot for Val, he was the least edgy person ever and he claimed to have owned the first guitar in Ireland which just about seems possible. There were plenty of others, the Batchelors, Terry Wogan and an awful lot of Eurovision contest winners. Like the North of England Ireland seemed to produce a fair crop of singers and comedians.
In the rock world the pickings were pretty slim though. At the beginning of the 70’s there was Van Morrison in the North and Rory Gallagher in the South, and that was about it. Both of then had come up through the show band circuit. The show bands would tour Ireland playing whatever they needed to play, county and western, Elvis, ballads, if the public liked it they would play it. The best showbands were big in Ireland and totally unknown anywhere else in the world. They would play the length and breadth of the island playing church hall where the audience were patrolled by priests who ensured nothing untoward was going to happen.
It all sounded pretty grim and it probably was which is why, for most of the 70’s any musician who wanted to make a living beyond the showband circuit had to leave their home and move to England, usually London.
AL that was to change, it was that there punk thing again, by the end of the decade there were fanzines, venues and record labels and now Ireland’s a cosmopolitan kind of place that even allows gay marriage (I think)
But in the 70’s it was very different