GOREY blog.


SPILLANE AN FÁNAÍ in GOREY- GUAIRE, Contae Loch Garman.


Well lads, flushed with success after last year's TV series for TG4, SPILLANE AN FÁNAÍ (Spillane The Wanderer) we were delighted to head off again this year on a great ramble around Ireland which led us at last to the 6th and final town of this series; GOREY County Wexford. 


The theme of the series, to be broadcast this October on TG4, is me, the FÁNAÍ, rambling around Ireland, a traveling minstrel, a ROVING BARD, to six small and wonderful, historic, beautiful Irish towns, where I work behind the bar in a pub, get to know the local characters, legends, history, music and folklore of the place; and then I go and write a song about the town. Last year's songs were then released on an album called LIFE IN AN IRISH TOWN.


I've written five songs this year, about the towns of ATHENRY, BOYLE, KELLS, YOUGHAL and KILLALOE and so I came to the final challenge; to write a song for GOREY, a very happening town set down in the Sunny South-East, in the Model County of Wexford, three miles from the Sea, surrounded by endless fields of Strawberries, Golden Beaches, soaked in History, site of much of the fiercest fighting of the 1798 Rebellion. Wandering Minstrel that I am, I have been here before, and played a couple of deadly gigs in a venue called the Corkscrew, now no more. I also played a brilliantly mad gig here in the local Boys CBS with the whole school packed into the hall and they all chanting Óró Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile and the Poc Ar Buile at the top of their voices, in ard a gcinn is a ngutha!


In GOREY we rolled into a fantastic public house called FRENCH'S on the busy, bustling, tree-lined Main Street. This pub has remained untouched for over a century and retains the character of a real, REAL old Irish pub. Pub on one side and Agricultural supplies on the other, the sign over the door says FRENCH'S PREMIER HOUSE For All Kinds of High Class Drinks and Groceries. We were made to feel very welcome here by Jim French and all the staff, Noeleen, Dara, Rob, and Tom Ryan who was very helpful in showing me the run of the taps and the till. It is a great little pub, full of character, and t'wasn't long before I was pulling pints and serving drinks and having the crack with the  Gorey folk. I was already looking forward to the famous TRADITIONAL MUSIC SESSION which happens here every Thursday night. 


THE MONUMENT, 1798, THE HISTORY.

I was interested in exploring the history of the 1798 rebellion and was brought up to the monument by Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, local teacher and councillor, who filled me in on the history of the UNITED IRISHMEN. Beside the High Cross, I was interested to see a special monument in honour of MILES BYRNE, a local man who at age eighteen had fought in all the major battles of Oulart, Vinegar Hill, Tubberneering, and who then went on to fight with Michael Dwyer in Glenmalure, and took part in Robert Emmet's failed rising before escaping to France, where he went on to become Brigadier General of Napoleon's IRISH LEGION, sharing the fate of so many of his countrymen;  "War dogs battered in every clime" who fought under every flag in Europe.

The full text of THE MEMOIRS OF MILES BYRNE can be found online and is a wonderful account of the fighting in Wexford. This brilliant piece of writing took hold of my imagination and I thought it would make a good theme for my GOREY song. As a small boy Fánaí I was captivated by songs like THE RISING OF THE MOON, KELLY THE BOY FROM KILLANE, BOOLAVOGUE, COME TO THE BOWER, IRISH SOLDIER LADDIE, THE CROPPY BOY, and I was wondering would it be possible for me to write such a song? In this day and age like?


Well lads walking in to FRENCH'S is a bit like walking into a movie set, going back in time, and then for some more TIME TRAVEL like, who comes in but JESSICA DE BÚRCA  with her MONTAGUE HERITAGE SERVICES Company, all dressed up like 1,000 years ago like. It's a local Gorey Company that does authentic clothes, weapons and gear from Ireland long ago, for movies and re-enactments etc. They did stuff for the TV series VIKINGS. 1,000 years ago people wore wool and linen but also silk that came all the way from China, for the better off, like. They decked me out in the garb and I hit the street with shield and spear, protecting the people.


With a fierce thirst for even more history we shot over to the historical town of FERNS, once the ancient Capital of Ireland and the seat of the King of Leinster, Diarmuid MacMurrough, DIARMUID AN CLADHAIRE, the man who brought the English and the Normans to Ireland. He was after robbing another King's wife and that's what led to all the trouble, like. He gave his daughter AOIFE to STRONGBOW and they all came over and built castles and won wars, LIKE THEY OWNED THE PLACE. Buíochas mór le Peadar Ó Conchubhair, ár dtreoraí, a d'inis an scéal ar fad dúinn go beacht, soiléir!


Among the great characters we met in French's was DOLORES LYNCH (The Hen Woman), a very lively woman in her eighties who told us many great stories, and the fascinating tale of her uncle DIARMUID LYNCH, a forgotten Irish Patriot who was one of the key architects of the 1916 Rising, and the last man to leave the GPO. Lynch did not take part in the Civil War but made several unsuccessful attempts to stop it. Sharp differences arose between himself and De Valera about how funds raised in America should be spent. Dolores was proud to refer us to a book about her uncle called "DIARMUID LYNCH - A Forgotten Irish Patriot" by Eileen McGough. 


THE MUSIC OF HORSESHOES, AN IRISH POET, A WEDDING CAKE!

Out and about, like, we we went on a trip up to THE GAP where I was introduced to the local popular sport of HORSE SHOE THROWING by Joe O'Donoghue and The Gap Horseshoe Club. T'was a lovely summer's evening up in that field throwing the shoes with the locals and the Wicklow Mountains looming in the distance, and the music of the ol' clang of the shoe bangin' the spike, like. Ceol crúite! Thanks to Bróna Ní Chionnfhaolaidh of the local Conradh na Gaeilge club who was an excellent guide.


Bróna also told us all about Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin a major Irish language poet in Gorey who wrote many novels and collections of poetry. Everywhere we went around GOREY we were impressed by the great respect the people had for Diarmuid who passed away in 1985. Another name which kept coming up was his close friend, artist PAUL FUNGE, one of Weford and Gorey's most acclaimed sons.


There was fierce talk in the pub of the secret wedding of local muso Kevin Leacy and Michelle, who had slipped away to some faraway shore and got hooked on the QT. Anyway on  arriving back to Gorey and to French's they were surprised by a lovely wedding cake inside in the pub, and a bottle of champagne, and there were toasts all round. Lovely to see it, and Long Life and Happiness to the Bride and Groom!


A BOOKSHOP, AN ELVIS, A CLOWN !

One of the best bookshops I have ever been in in my life is in Gorey. It's called the ZOZIMUS BOOKSHOP and is inside THE BOOK CAFÉ on Main Street. JOHN WYSE JACKSON is the BOOKMONGER and he is a fountain of knowledge. New and secondhand books and great books on music and everything. It is an Aladdin's Cave of books. D'aimsíomar leabhair phróis agus filíochta Dhiarmuid Uí Shúilleabháin ar an seilf ann.


Back in the pub I was busy pulling pints and we were having an ol' sing song like when this dude starts singing in this silken voice like Elvis Presley himself "Love Me Tender" like - it was CATHAL BYRNE, local chanter who knows how to sing a song, like, and t'was good fun accompanying him on the old caballero Spanish guitar, like, on that most beautiful of melodies.


Another great character we met in GOREY was GIGGLES THE CLOWN aka John McLoughlin, a professional CLOWN! He is a FEAR GRINN, a Gaelic speaking clown, and it was gas altogether to hang out with him and watch him undergo his transformation from JOHN to GIGGLES! He was a howl! He has this infectious laugh and it was a treat to travel around the town with him and into the park where he entertained the kids from GAELSCOIL MOSHÍOLÓG. The kids adored him. We sang a few verses of DILÍN Ó DEAMHAS and GIGGLES made all kinds of things out of balloons. 


A MIGHTY SESSION OF MUSIC!

Then Thursday night came and FRENCH'S filled up with great traditional musicians who tore into a mighty session of music. Well let me see now among others there was Mark Redmond on the pipes, Kevin Leacy and John O'Brien on flutes, Debbie Byrne on the box and singing like a lark, Nodge on guitar (spelt Nhoj - John backwards, like) who sang a great new original song called THE SOCIAL WELFARE MAN, Niamh Ní Shúilleabháin on fiddle and beautiful singing (gar-iníon le Diarmuid an file), Brian McLoughlin on bodhrán. In fairness lads it was A BRILLIANT SESSION! I dived out from behind the bar and joined them for an outstanding version of NÍL 'NA LÁ.


MY SONG

On our last night in town I gave them a rendition of another 1798 song THE CROPPY BOY, and then I tore into the WORLD PREMIERE of my brand new GOREY SONG, lyrics below! I have to say it did go down a bomb lads! HAPPY DAYS IN THE HIT FACTORY! THANK YOU GOREY, ROCK ON!


Buíochas mór le Síle Ní Dhúill agus craobh áitiúil Conradh na Gaeilge a bhuaileann le chéile sa Purple Sage Café sa chiorcal comhrá and thanks to Criostóir Doyle for showing us his model of the firíní beaga working the pit-saw.

A huge thanks, as always to the FOREFRONT Productions team; Producer Tony McCarthy, Cameramen Barry Donnellan and Colin Morrisson, Soundman Steve McLoughlin, P.A agus Gaeilgeoir Ciara Hyland, Joe McCarthy, Jean Crowley and Tony Murphy back in headquarters! Buíochas mór le Proinsias Ní Ghráinne agus gach éinne i bhfoireann TG4. Gura míle! Well done everyone! Another ball in the backadenet! Liathróid eile báite i gcúl an eangaigh! Thanks especially to Tony McCarthy for devising this wonderful series which has inspired me to write all these new songs.  I dream of releasing them all in the Autumn, when the Series hits the TG4 Screens, on another Killer FÁNAÍ CD Album! Dream On John, Dream On! 


The song is based largely on THE MEMOIRS OF MILES BYRNE, here are the lyrics, but again lads you'd wanna hear the ceol to get the effect like. It's kind of a traditional sounding marching tune like in that most deadly, dramatic and darkest of keys; E Minor!


GOREY

Fág a' bealach! Éirinn go Brách!


When Miles Byrne from Ballylusk came a riding through the dusk,

Upon his dappled mare, there was freedom in the air,

In Camolin and Shillelagh, Castletown, Cúl Gréine, 

With the brave United Irishmen he learned to march and drill,

The men from Forth and Bargy who stood with General Harvey,

Marched their gallant army up on Vinegar Hill,


The ones who fought at Gorey fought for Freedom and for Glory,

To liberate their country they rallied to the call, 

The shackles of religion had impoverished her children, 

But the brave United Irishmen they stood for one and all, 

Equality, Fraternity and Liberty for all. 


The floggings and half hangings, picketings, pitch cappings, 

Upon the heads of croppies they poured their burning crown, 

Against the vile atrocities committed on the citizens, 

Genreal Abercrombie, in conscience he stood down,

The men from Forth and Bargy who stood with General Harvey,

Marched their gallant army up on Vinegar Hill,


The ones who fought at Gorey fought for Freedom and for Glory,

To liberate their country they rallied to the call, 

The shackles of religion had impoverished her children, 

But the brave United Irishmen they stood for one and all, 

Equality, Fraternity and Liberty for all. 


Such hell-fire and damnation served upon a nation,

To hear the pitiful wailing and the sighs of those around,

To see the people murdered, and see his chapel burning,

Caused brave Father Murphy to turn and stand his ground,

The men from Forth and Bargy who stood with General Harvey,

Marched their gallant army up on Vinegar Hill,


The ones who fought at Gorey fought for Freedom and for Glory,

To liberate their country they rallied to the call, 

The shackles of religion had impoverished her children, 

But the brave United Irishmen they stood for one and all, 

Equality, Fraternity and Liberty for all.


Presbyterian and Anglican, the Catholic and Mussalman,

The Baptist and the Adventist, the Wailer at the Wall,

The shackles of religion had impoverished her children, 

But the brave United Irishmen they stood for one and all, 

Equality, Fraternity and Liberty for all.


And Bigotry Beware, and Tyranny Take Care, and Villainy Despair, FÁG A' BEALACH! ERIN GO BRÁCH!



Published on 27th March 2016


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