As Easter week draws to a close I thought I’d write a little bit about my most recent painting “Easter Rising.”
The Easter Lily is a calla lily, adopted by Irish republicans symbolically to commemorate the revolutionary combatants who died as a part of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is traditionally worn at Easter time. It is also used by various factions of Irish republicanism to commemorate the deaths of their soldiers and activists.
On Easter Monday, April1 24, 1916 Irish revolutionaries took up arms against British rule in Ireland, seeking to establish an independent Irish republic. The majority of the conflict took place in Dublin, planned and led by seven members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council.
Patrick Pearse, a schoolmaster and Irish language activist led the Irish Volunteers. He was supported by the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly, and 200 women from Cumann na mBan – the Irish Women’s Council. They seized key points in Dublin, making the General Post Office the headquarters of the uprising where they delivered the Proclamation of the Irish Republic claiming independence from Britain and the establishment of an Irish Republic.
The following day the British authorities declared martial law, and deployed thousands of reinforcements to suppress the uprising. The streets of Dublin were in open warfare that lasted for six days. The Irish revolutionaries put up a tough resistance and the fighting was fierce. Frustrated British troops began engaging in war crimes against Irish civilians.
The Portobello Killings
On Tuesday, April 25 British soldiers took the pacifist activist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington hostage and used him as a human shield. They blew up a tobacco store and captured Labour Party councilor Richard O’Carroll, two journalists Thomas Dickison and Patrick MacIntyre , and the young boy James Coade. They executed all the captives and secretly buried them in Portobello Barracks.
The North King Street Massacre
North King Street was the scene of some of the heaviest combat between Irish and British soldiers. On Saturday, April 29th after British soldiers succeeded in overrunning a well barricaded rebel post, they broke into the homes of noncombatant civilians and shot and bayoneted them, killing 15 men. The soldiers then pilfered the bodies and secretly buried them in backyards and cellars.
There were numerous other civilian casualties suffered as a result of the British assault amounting to more than half the loss of life during the uprising. British forces eventually surrounded the Irish factions and bombarded them into submission, laying waste to vast areas of the city. Between the superior military strength of the British Army and the fear that more innocent civilians would be killed, Patrick Pearse ordered an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29.
In the aftermath the British arrested 3,500 Irish, sending almost 2,000 of them to prison camps. The leadership of the rebellion was executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol between May 3 and 12.
Even though it was technically a failure the Easter Rising succeeded in inspiring hope in an independent Ireland. The British response to it caused a strong negative reaction in the Irish population and a wave of support for Irish independence swept across the island. By 1919 the Irish War of Independence broke out and lead to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the establishment of the Irish Free State. The technical defeat resulted in the Independent Ireland it had sought to achieve.
In 1926 during the tenth year anniversary of the Easter Rising the Irish Women’s Council introduced the calla lily as a badge sold outside of Catholic churches to be worn on Easter Sunday in commemoration of the uprising and to raise relief money for the families of Irish political prisoners. To this day it is still a symbol of Irish identity and remembrance.
Many songs have been written in commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising. One of the most well known and perhaps the unarguable official song of remembrance of the rising is “Foggy Dew,” written by Father Canon O’Neill.
Death is a popular theme in Irish Music. Emblematic of this is the Irish Wake, an often rowdy gathering of mourners around the body of the departed, traditionally held in a family member’s home. McGuire’s Irish Pub and Rich McDuff have drawn upon this theme in the production of The Irish Wake, CD of popular Irish tunes.
Proclaimed as “music for and about an Irish Wake that includes solemn to lighthearted and humorous tunes,” the Irish Wake delivers upon its promise. These are high-quality musical arrangements making use of traditional Irish instruments, and with a few tunes characterized by layers of vocal harmonies. This is most noticeably heard on “Amazing Grace,” sung by Molly McGuire, making for a creatively unique and interesting rendition of the song. Some of the other highlights include “Rosin the Beau,” and “Isn’t it Grand Boys” (featuring the Boston Boys, a group of young McGuire’s patrons), and the title track – a Rich McDuff original.
This is a somber disk containing 14 tracks, each one another variation on the theme of death, and in some cases resurrection. Packaged in the standard CD jewel case, the cover photo is quite fitting for the music on this disk; an old Irish cemetery marked by generations-old Celtic crosses enduring the turn of the centuries, reaching grimly toward a grey sky.
Produced by Rich McDuff, and featuring Molly McGuire, the McGuire’s Pipe Band, and many local singers and musicians who frequent the pub, The Irish Wake is a great choice for fans of Irish music looking for a mellower listening experience. Entitled to compliment the Irish Wake, a green, rum-based drink popularized by McGuire’s Irish Pub, this CD is a clever bit of marketing as well as a pleasant journey through Irish music. A patron can enjoy an Irish Wake at the bar or in the restaurant, and before exiting the pub, stop in the gift shop and pick up a copy of this disk to remember his experience at McGuire’s.
It can also be ordered here.
The Irish have produced some of the best drinking songs ever written. Characterized by their catchy melodies, comical lyrics, and their tendency toward tragic endings; a good night of pub-singing is a communal activity with much crowd interaction and participation. The following is a list of my top nine Irish Drinking Songs, in no particular order. Why nine? If you must ask, perhaps you need to learn more about the Irish.
1- Beer, Beer, Beer
This is a straight forward song in praise of the fictionalized inventor of beer, Charlie Mopps. The name is meant to rhyme with barley and hops. The lyrics mostly describe how beer is made, where it is sold and how much better life is now that it has been invented. As far as creativity is concerned, lyrically this song is not the best. But it’s a great sing along tune the best thing about this song is its catchiness for group singing.
2- Waxies Dargle
The singer tells us of his woman and his friend’s woman going about trying to get money in order to go to the “Waxies Dargle,” a popular vacation spot on the bank of the River Dargle. Like so many other Irish drinking songs, the two women go about selling personal possessions, even some belonging to the singer himself in order to afford drinking money. The catchy hooks ends each round with the words “”What’ll ye have? Will ye have a pint? I’ll have a pint with you, sir. And if one of us doesn’t order soon we’ll be thrown out of the boozer.”
3- Whiskey You’re the Devil
A bit of a counterpart to “Whisky in the Jar,” this song is about the hazards of drinking heavy spirits. “Whiskey You’re the Devil” contains one of the wittiest verses in Irish drinking music; “Said the mother ‘Do not wrong me. Don’t take me daughter from me. For if you do I will torment you and after death, me ghost will haunt you.’” The chorus of this tune is the kind that just urges one to sing along.
4- Finnegan’s Wake
Tim Finnegan was a construction worker who had a bit of a drinking problem. He had a drink every morning before going to work. One day he had a bit too much and fell off a ladder and broke his skull. After everyone arrived at his wake, Finnegan’s widow served lunch followed by whisky punch. In short order some one said the wrong thing to another and a fight breaks out. Bottles of whisky are hurled through the air until the liquor platters over Tim’s corps. The whiskey magically revives him. Tim Finnegan stands up from the bed cursing the waste of good liquor and asking if they really thought he was dead.
5- All For Me Grog
Grog is a combination of liquors popular especially amongst sailors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Essentially it was a mixture of whatever was left over. The lyrics of this song tell us of what appears to be a pirate coming ashore with his plunder. He spends all his money on wild nights with gin drinking women. The poor fellow parties his way through several days until he is “sick in the head” and “full of pains and aches.” He eventually sells everything from his boots to his shirt for money to buy beer and tobacco and decides to head back out to sea in order to get away from all the trouble he has caused for himself in port.
6- Jug of Punch
Whiskey Punch is made with sugar, lemon, and water … and of course whiskey. This song begins with a man sitting peacefully in his room. Before long he is overcome with the desire to go out and have a drink. We next meet him in the pub with a “pretty wench” on his knee, but before long he finds himself in a bad way. The song traditionally ends with the singer proclaiming that upon his death; “just lay me down in my native peat with a jug of punch at my head and feet.”
7- Dicey Riley
One of the catchiest tunes in the Irish Drinking repertoire; Dicey Riley is about one hard drinking woman. She starts each day with a few drinks and continues on throughout the rest of the day. Each night she closes down the pubs, trashed and if she doesn’t have a friend to see her safely home she’ll sleep off her drink on a local park bench, only to do it all again the next day.
8- Whiskey in the Jar
Perhaps one of the most over played Irish drinking tunes, this one is a standard that has even been performed by the heavy metal band Metallica. The song is really about a robbery. The singer tells how he encounters one Captain Farrell in the mountains and demands his money at the point of pistol and rapier. He is eventually betrayed by his beloved Jenny, arrested and taken away by the very same Captain Farrell.
9- The Wild Rover
Actually a song written for the Temperance Movement, it is ironic that this song has been so lovingly embraced as a drinking tune. Simply put, the song is about a roving man who has decided to repent of his rambling and drinking ways. Along with “Whiskey in the Jar,” “The Wild Rover” is one of the most well known Irish drinking songs, so when it is played it is sure to get some crowd interaction.
Many great historical chiefs are celebrated in Native American popular culture. The most commonly remembered names include Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Tecumseh and Chief Joseph. Along with these belongs the 18th century Muscogee Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, a great man who is not as commonly spoken about, but is just as significant to both Native American and United State history as those formerly mentioned.
Alexander McGillivray was the principle chief of the Creek Nation near the end of the 18th century. He was the son of Sehoy Marchand, a French-Creek woman from the powerful Wind Clan. His father was the prominent Scottish trader Lachlan McGillivray who immigrated to Creek country in 1736 from Dunmaglass, Scotland, and spent the majority of his time in Little Tallassee and Otciabofa which was also called Hickory Ground  on the Coosa River. This is where Lachlan met Sehoy.
Lachlan secured lands amongst the Creek people near the ruins of the French Fort Toulouse close by Little Tallassee. There, he planted a garden and built a plantation house, naming it the “Apple Grove.” In time Lachlan became a wealthy trader, entrenched and well respected among the Indians.
When Alexander was a young man his father sent him to Charleston, S.C. to be educated in the British tradition. After returning to his home on the Coosa River, Alexander was honored as a chief on the Creek National Council and given the name Hopue-hethlee-Mekko or “Good-Child King.” Shortly thereafter he was commissioned a colonel in the British army and installed as the English Agent to the Indians. He donned the uniform of a British officer, with the headdress of a Creek chief, complete with the white feathers of his rank and led a faction of Creek warriors in the Battle of Pensacola.
Before long, Alexander rose to prominence, becoming the principle chief of the Creek Nation. Being a fan of European history, he preferred to use the term emperor, though his actual power in the nation was severely limited and somewhat tenuous. He was a frequent visitor to and property-owner in Pensacola, FL, negotiating treaties with the Spanish who were the dominant European power in the region. He led Spanish funded attacks on American frontier settlements in Georgia. After the American Revolution, McGillivray was invited to Virginia where he received a paid Generalship from George Washington in the United States army.
An eager capitalist, Alexander McGillivray was also an investor and silent partner in Panton, Leslie and Company who opened a trading post on McGillivray’s property, the first brick and mortar building established in Pensacola, FL. His first wife was Vicey Cornells who bore him two daughters: Peggy and Lizzie. His second wife was Elise Moniac, the sister of the Choctaw chief Red Shoes and they had three children: Margaret, Alleck and Elizabeth.
As a native statesman, McGillivray worked tirelessly throughout his career to create a Creek Nation recognizable and respected by European nations, but still distinctly Creek, distinctly “Indian.” Much like his Cherokee neighbors he succeeded, at least until 1830, when the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson, robbing the people of their lands.
In January 1793 McGillivray traveled to Pensacola for a business meeting with William Panton. On the trip he developed a fever and never recovered. On February 17, 1793 at eleven o’clock at night, in the home of William Panton, Alexander McGillivray died. He was buried in the garden of Panton’s house in Pensacola, laid to rest with full Masonic honors . Alexander McGillivray was such a loved and respected leader that he was mourned throughout the lands. His obituary ran in London in the Gentleman’s Magazine.
“Feb. 17. At Pensacola, Mr. McGillivray, a Creek chief, very much lamented by those who knew him best. There happened to be that time at Pensacola a numerous band of Creeks, who watched his illness with the most marked anxiety, and when his death was announced to them, and while they followed him to the grave, it is impossible for words to describe the loud screams of real woe which they vented in their unaffected grief. He was, by his father’s side a Scotchman, of the respectable family of Drummaglass, in Invernesshire. The vigor of his mind overcame the disadvantages of an education had in the wilds of America, and he was well acquainted with all the most useful European sciences. In the latter part of his life he composed, with great care, the history of several classes of the original inhabitants of America; and this he intended to present to Professor Robertson, for publication in the next edition of his History. The European and the American writer are no more; and the MMS of the latter, it is feared, have perished, for the Indians adhere to their custom of destroying whatever inanimate objects a dead friend most delighted in. It is only since Mr. McGillivray had influence amongst them, that they have suffered the slaves of a deceased master to live.”
 Hickory Ground; a very special town and meeting place within upper Creek Country. Creek; Ocē vpofv, also called Little Tallassee.
 It is believed that Alexander McGillivray was the first Mason in the State of Alabama. Some researchers claim that A.M.’s remains were shipped to Scotland and buried on his father Lachlan’s land.
 Gentleman’s Magazine, Printed under the caption: Marriages and Deaths of considerable Persons,” August, 1793, Vol. LXIII, London, p. 767
Lojah is a Native American-Irish folksinger from Pensacola, Florida. He describes his eclectic sound as Creolized Roots Music, influenced by Caribbean rhythms, Celtic melodies, and Southern American blues. His music is immersed in social realism, and arcane insight woven together with tongue-in-cheek witticism and a festive vibe. He is currently performing acoustic sets along the Gulf Coast.
“Pub Songs on Palafox” is a four song, lo-fi, EP recorded in the raw as a live-air production that captures the energy and sound of a Lojah solo performance as executed while busking downtown in competition with the various sounds of a bustling city street.
Lojah begins with a rowdy Irish pub tune, “Dicey Reilly“, about a lush of a woman who spends her life crawling from pub to pub; a sailor’s favorite. “The Black Velvet Band” is another classic Irish ballad about infatuation, deceit and injustice which takes us out of the pub and away from the Emerald Isle to a penal colony in Australia. Following up is “Looks Like Jesus“, a rockabilly-blues styled piece and a Lojah original that tells the story illustrating the conflict between despair and ambition, shroud with esoteric imagery, set in the Southern atmosphere he calls home. “Miss Constance” concludes the record, a naughty Caribbean-styled tune about the perils of younger women.
Toasting is a peculiar custom in Western society. Nearly everyone who has a drink makes toasts, but few realize that they are taking part in an ancient custom with roots in the old pre-Christian religions of Northern and Western Europe: the Sumble.
The Sumble is an ancient communion rite that was historically practiced by Germanic and Celtic peoples. This rite is portrayed in the epic poem Beowulf and other sources of Germanic and Nordic folklore. Sumble is closely related to the English tradition of Wassailing, popular especially as part of the Yuletide.
The majority of those whom actively participate in Sumble today are religious Heathens, practitioners of the old Germanic and Celtic religions. They base their rite directly off of the 11th and 12th century Nordic customs as recorded in their respective texts. In its most basic elements it consists of a gathering into a drinking hall, or a circle, a blessing or consecration is recited over the drink, a libation, and a sharing of the sacrament by the participants from the same vessel.
The sacrament is usually ale or mead, and historically it was served with toast. This is where the term toast originates, as in drinking a toast. A series of rounds of toasting take place. In rites in which the Sumble is the central or sole focus there are typically a minimum of three rounds. In traditional Heathenry it is standard for the first round to be dedicated to gods, the second round is dedicated to heroes and the third round is dedicated to ancestors.
The leader of the ceremony typically makes the first toast to a patron deity, takes a drink from his drinking horn. Then, the next person in order makes his toast. This continues in order until all have had a chance to toast. Then that round is ended and the second round begins. After the third round the rite may come to an end or it may continue.
If the Sumble continues any number of themes may be proposed. Common themes are boasts in which the participants are allowed a chance to tell a tale of their own great successes. Oaths may be sworn, goals may be professed, and gifts may be exchanged. Open rounds may also be called in which anything of value may be offered to the community: stories, songs, poems, or prayers. This may continue to a specified number of rounds, until the sacrament is completely consumed or until the participants have nothing more to contribute.
I naturally met JJ Smith at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola a couple years back. Kilted in the tartan of the Lamont clan, JJ runs a show that is not just a folk music performance but a bit comedic shtick as well. His crowd-interactions make for some of the evening’s high points.
JJ’s style stands out from the majority of the singers I’ve met on the Irish pub tour in several ways. To begin with, his personalized renditions of the classics reveal significant blues, and American country music influences, which bring the Celtic style home to the American South. Live, JJ makes use of a lot of bass runs on his guitar which often helps to add a subtlety and a sense of motion outside of the songs’ basic chord structures.
JJ hails from Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, Scotland, but has resided in St. Petersburg, Florida for the past several years. While in the States, he has steadily toured the southeast and managed to produce two album releases: Druid Roots Going Home, and his solo album JJ The Balladeer. They’re both great and very distinct from each other.
Druid Roots was a trio JJ was a part of, a rather eclectic mix of folksy styles. The album projects a heavy Celtic theme with very noticeable elements of East-Indian drumming, country-western music, and a hint of rock and roll. My favorite track is Stonehaven Waltz, a traditional sounding Celtic ballad, but the whole album is worth the listen.
The Balladeer contains 15 tracks of excellently produced Celtic ballads. JJ’s resounding baritone voice coupled with the full and sometimes booming open strings of his guitar create layers of richness within each song. The songs are mostly mellow, somewhat nostalgic pieces. The highlights include Galway Shawl (my personal favorite); a cover of the classic U2 hit I Still Haven’t Found what I’m looking For; and Whiskey on a Sunday.
Larry Kernagis is distinguished as the Chief Leprechaun of the Nashville based Celtic band cleverly named Def Leprechaun. With a full repertoire of classic Irish folk and drinking songs, Larry also tours as a solo act. I was fortunate enough to meet Larry at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida during this summer.
As a skilled performer, Larry’s rich personality shines through his stage show. He’s friendly and personable, and interacts with the crowd brilliantly, accepting requests or limericks from the audience, bringing them into the show rather than keeping them as simple observers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit in with him on a couple different occasions.
Since many newcomers to the Irish music scene may not be familiar with the well known or regionally adapted responses to the classic ballads, Larry often takes a moment to bring them up to speed, making the evening a truly interactive experience. He also brings with him a set of “The Viking Pirate Captain’s DL Songbooks,” with the lyrics to over 100 of the world’s favorite Irish pub songs for use by the audience.
Larry is fluent on both banjo and guitar, switching between the two instruments frequently throughout the night, adding to the diversity of his style. He plays to his crowd, and as the night progresses Larry might incorporate other well known American classics in the spirit of Jimmy Buffet and Elvis Presley, but he otherwise keeps the set tight with Irish tunes.
Larry Kernagis is originally from Chicago, but relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he formed his band Def Leprechaun. His performances make for an evening of ruckus and revelry. Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to think of him not only as a great performer, but as a friend.
Don’t miss Larry Kernagis, whether he is in Pensacola, Nashville, or Las Vegas. If you’re a little Irish or even just a fan, you’ll love Larry’s show.
Rich McDuff is Northwest Florida’s most popular Irish folk music performer. With a loyal and regular fan base, Rich helped build and define the music scene at McGuire’s Irish Pub while performing there for more than twenty years.
Although the moose-kissing tradition at McGuire’s predates Rich’s arrival on scene, he is responsible for writing the accompanying, and now entrenched “Kiss the Moose” song. He explains “When I began playing here, asking a first-time patron of McGuire’s to kiss the moose might be met with a bit of confusion and resistance. The traditional aspect was lost on them. I figured if there was a song to go along with it, it would give the tradition a bit more validity for first-time visitors to the pub. And it has worked out pretty well.” Now every act that performs at McGuire’s plays this song, and the moose-kissing tradition has expanded to include not only the moose but a couple other McGuire’s fixtures as well.
Rich is also known or pushing the bounds of the debauchery which is naturally as part of McGuire’s slogan. His “Dirty Limerick” song, played to the classic mariachi tune of “Cielito Lindo” contains rhymes that could even surprise a hip-hop fan. Many of Rich’s regulars eagerly look forward to this point in the evening, awaiting their opportunity to share the stage with him and recite their own limerick specially prepared just for this song. The best and most classic limericks are written on a scroll and tucked away in the secret archives, only to be taken out upon the performance of this tune.
Even more entertaining, energetic, and amusing is Rich’s version of “Seven Drunken Nights,” with extended responses – a wee bit too naughty to be written down here. This point of the night is when you are likely to see the most crowd participation. This rendition of the classic Irish song is memorable, if not for the increasingly lengthy responses, but the reactions and looks on the faces of new comers to the McGuire’s scene.
Crowd interaction is a major part of Rich’s act. You never know just where the night will lead or how ridiculous the antics are likely to become.
Rich’s set also contains a set of American country, and acoustically played classic rock songs familiar to everyone. As a classically trained guitarist, Rich McDuff’s musical talent becomes most apparent when he plays a traditional jig or reel or the occasional classical guitar piece.
Rich’s revolving schedule alternates between the pubs in both Pensacola and Destin, Florida. While he is away, his regulars in Pensacola always look forward to his return. Some will even make the drive to Destin to see him when he is performing there.