In Lockdown 2020

Songs tunes and poems recorded during the Coronavirus Lockdown in the Spring of 2020.

The material has its roots in the Ulster-Scots cultural tradition but reaches out to the people of other countries and their identities with tracks such as:

All In The Same Boat

My Bonnie's Not Over The Ocean

Ladies of Lordship Lane

It also seeks harmony between the two distinct cultural

identities within Northern Ireland with such tracks as: 

Boyne Water/Battle Cry of Munster

Londonderry/Derry, Derry/Londonderry Air 

March Beyond The Myths.

This album will have the rare feature of being performed by a solo artist using a variety of instruments and duplicate vocals on multi-tracks.  This reflects the situation for musicians during the Coranavirus Lockdown when they are physically separated from fellow musicians.

The plan is to to include the CD disc in a small book of short stories, song lyrics, visual art and photos in the summer of 2020 -  assuming printers, publishers and recording producers are open for business.   An ideal gift for visitors to Northern Ireland and for family and friends living abroad. The material will also be available online.                    

Review:

This album begins appropriately enough with ‘Morning in Spring 2020’, which immediately evokes the sound of a fifer walking towards and over a hill and an expectation amongst people lined along the sides of a roadway. This is a tune that listeners here in Ulster are genetically hardwired to recognise and relate to.

 

Overall the tone of the album is optimistic when it might easily have been otherwise, given the circumstances and songs like, ’March Beyond Myths’ echo old Scots classics like, 'Marie’s Wedding’.

 

Similarly positive is, ’Get tae Slemish’, in which Willie as an Ulster Scots native is able to blend landscape and language in an easy rolling way that chimes.

Willie’s work here has a timeless quality and draws up from a deep well of Ulster history.

In,’Fishing Since The World Began’, he highlights the often repetitive nature of life for ordinary hardworking people and similarly the track, ’Boynewater/Battle Cry of Munster’, initially touches on the Middle Eastern roots of much Scots and Irish music and opens into a mood piece setting a scene amongst soldiers who are not in battle at that moment but expect to be in one in the near future.

 

In, ’Loves but a Lassie yet./Too Young to Marry Yet.’ we have one track in which Willie has sought accompaniment on this album, from the American fiddler-Eli Bedel, and together they have produced fine fiddle playing that bridges from the Ulster hills to the Appalachian Mountains and back again.

 

Speaking of America, ’Londonderry Derry Air Song', with its repetition of the ’Derry Londonderry’ refrain reminded me of how the 1718 settlers from Ulster in New Hampshire had the good sense to build both a Londonderry and a Derry in close proximity to each other.

 

In all of this Willie looks for a new angle and in the title and lyrics of the song, My Bonnie’s Not Over the Ocean’, he transfigures the certainties of the predictable songs of yesteryear.

 

However it wouldn’t be a Willie Drennan album without a Lambeg and fife tune and ’One bottle more’ provides virtuoso playing by a wiry wee man who produces a drum sound that yes is exuberant, but never threatening.

Finally, ’Flutes at Braidwater Dawn’, is all panpipes effect and creative of an atmosphere wherein the,'dawn chorus'  can be heard to spontaneously join in, conjuring an awakening that touches on ancient times and both loneliness and contentment.

More than any other track this one captures the spirit of Lockdown as many people have endured/enjoyed it in 2020.

 

Alister J McReynolds

August 2020.

Tracks on the album.

 

1/ Morning in Spring 2020 3.37

 

2/ Naethin Tae Dae 1.33

 

3/ March Beyond Myths 3.20

 

4/ Get Tae Slemish 2.28

 

5 / All in the Same Boat 3.26

 

6/ Fishing Ever Since The World Begun. 3.19

 

7/ Boyne Water/ Battle Cry of Munster 3.10

 

8/ Bonnie Kellswater 3.43.

 

9/ Loves But A Lassie Yet / Too Young To Marry Yet. 3.39

 

10/ Parcel of Rogues 3.11

 

11/ Fenaghy Road Saunter 1.45

 

12/ Londonderry Derry Air Song. 2 mins .22

 

13/ Ladies of Lordship Lane 2.31

 

14/ Ballyhoo Song 3.03

 

15/ Country Fiddlers/ Ballycarry Fair 1. 32

 

16/ Dinnae Dinnae Dinnae 1.48

 

17/ Bob Williamson's Flute 4.03

 

18/ My Bonnie's Not Over Ocean 2.01

 

19/ Blaater Awa on the Lambeg Drum 2.50

 

20/ Lambeg and Fife/ One Bottle More

 

21/ Jamie Always Sung 1.45

22/ Doon Through The Gloonan 2.38

23/ Slieve Gallon Braes​

 

24/ Flutes At Braidwater Dawn. 3.30

Album lyrics and background stories.

1/  A Morning In Spring 2920

Inspired by dawn choruses during the Lockdown. I would often wake up early to play music along with the birds.

2/ Naethin Tae Dae

A light-hearted little song in Ulster-Scots that I wrote many years ago. I thought it might be approprite for some folk during Lockdown.

If you don't understand the lyrics or the moral of this song, don't worry about it.

Ay that's whit I'd dae if I'd naethin tae dae

I'd dae naethin ava if I'd naethin tae dae

Naethin ava if I'd naethin tae dae

That's whit I'd dae if I'd naethin tae dae

Naethin ava if I'd naethin tae dae.

Sa whit wud ye dae wud ye dae whit A dae?

For that's whit A'd dae A'd dae whit ye dae

Ay that's whit A'd dae A'd dae whit ye dae

Sa whit wud ye dae wud ye dae whit A dae?

For wae naethin tae dae ther's naethin tae dae

Wae naethin tae dae ther's naethin tae dae

Wae naethin tae dae ther's naethin tae dae

But lilt a wee jig if ther's naethin tae dae.

 

3/ Beyond The Myths.

 

This was first recorded on cassette in Nova Scotia, Canada in the early 1990's. It is also on my first CD album, produced in nova Scotia in 1996. it received considerable airplay on Max Ferguson's very popular radio show on CBC Radio.

Decided to re-record at this time as the ancient myths still need to be addressed in 2020.

 

4/Get Tae Slemish

 

Get tae Slemish an clim tae the tap

Yince yer gan noo dinnae stap

Yince at the tap let oot a big yell

For yer near tae heaven an far fae hell

As Patrick did in his days o yore

Gie a big hooch, gie a big roar

Stannin thonner aneath the sky

Watchin the hale wide warld

Ga passin by.

Aye sowl heth Aye, ay sowl heth aye.

 

Ye'll see oot ower Antrim's glen

Tae Scotlan's shore an hill an ben

Dinegal, the Sperrins an Lough Neagh,

Napolean's Neb the ither way

Ye'll see the raven on the wing

Hear the wee larks sweetly sing

Stannin thonner aneath the sky

Watchin the hale wide warld

Ga passin by.

Aye sowl heth Aye, ay sowl heth aye.

 

Patrick was the boy wha figured it oot

He sa the licht there was nae doot

Stannin thonner aneath the sky

Nae need ava tae wonner why

Fae the moontin tap he sung his sang

That we micht aa sing alang

Stannin thonner aneath the sky

Watchin the hale wide warld

Ga passin by.

Aye sowl heth Aye, ay sowl heth aye.

 

Patrick they says was some boy

Foo o life an foo o joy

Patrick, they says, was some lad

Fit tae soort the guid oot fae the bad

Ony wonner efter six lang yeir

Rinnin roon Slemish wae nae fear

Stannin thonner aneath the sky

Watchin the hale wide warld

Ga passin by.

Aye sowl heth Aye, ay sowl heth aye.

 

The Slemish Mountain is in the middle of County Antrim and rises up high above the Braid River Valley.

From the top of Slemish, on a clear day, you can see for miles and miles -

Scotland's shore and hills and bens.

 

The local belief is that the young Patrick grew up in Roman Britain: specifically in Scotland. He was captured by Irish raiders and sold to local chieftain, Big Milyuk, who's fort was on the Skerry Mountain, across the Braid River Valley from Slemish Mountain. 'Skerry ' is an old Norse word meaning big rock.

 

He was a slave boy who tended a swine herd , or a sheep herd according to some, around Slemish for six years before escaping. Life couldn't have been too bad around Slemish if it took him six years before he decided to explore new pastures. After a period in Gaul [France] he returned to Britain before heading back to Ireland, as a missionary, to try save the souls of the wild pagans of Ulster. 

This song was previously recorded by The Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra as 'Ay Sowl Heth Ay'.

Ay Sowl, heth aye simply means yes indeed, yes indeed.

Napolean's Neb or Napolean's Nose is a local name for Cave Hill that overlooks Belfast.

The last verse didn't make it on to this version but I have included the words in smaller print anyway.

 

 

5/ All In The Same Boat

 

It all begun a long time ago when folk would sail to and fro.

They'd sail to the east and sail to the west and now and again take a wee rest.

And some folk today they travel afar when they go for a sail in their motor car

And some folk at night they take their trip when they sail to the moon in their space ship.

Chorus:

All in the same boat, all in the same boat

In the bus and the train and big aeroplane

We're in the same boat.

 

As you go walking down the street, some rare folk you're bound to meet

As you go walking up the hill, there's more rare folk even more still

And some of these folk have the bad habit of being wile thran or being wile crabbit

Some they will scowl and some they will gloat, the worst of it is they're in our same boat.

Don't matter your colour, religion or creed, the same red blood you're bound to bleed

Don't matter if you dig with your left or your right, the battle of life you're bound to fight

Don't matter if your boat is an ocean liner, a wee row-boat or something less finer

Don't matter if your boat is a luxury yacht or if a wee canoe is all you have got.

Oh it's great to be sailing along, all together as we sing the same song

All together in life's ocean afloat, it's just great until there's a hole in the boat.

When the hole's in the boat and it all starts to sink, all hell breaks lose and you've got to think

Do you just stand around baling out water, or do you abandon ship for it really don't matter.

6/ Fishing Ever Since The World Begun

My daddy was a fisherman, my grandad was a fisherman and he was a fisherman's son

A family of fishermen and they say we've been fishing ever since the world begun.

Ever since the world begun, ever since the world begun

A family of fishermen and they say we've been fishing ever since the world begun.

 

Plaice and pollock and coley and cod, mackeral, bass and skate,

Herrings and haddock and hake and sole, in abundance for your plate.

 

Down by the dock we'd smoke and cure all the extra fish we caught,

They come from the town and all around and all our fish they bought.

 

Then the big boats from far away to plunder off our shore,

They wrecked the seabed and left fish for dead and come back to plunder more.

 

My daddy was a fisherman, my granda was a fisherman and he was a fisherman's son

A family of fishermen and they say we've been fishing ever since the world begun.

 

All the bureaucracy and all the greed made my daddy weep and wail,

He says I fear for you my only son, no fishing boat you'll sail.

 

My daddy was a fisherman, my granda was a fisherman and he was a fisherman's son

A family of fishermen and they say we've been fishing ever since the world begun.

This song was inspired by a short video I watched on social media where an English fisherman was lamenting that his son would not be able to carry on the family tradition: unless drastic action was taken to prevent foreign fishing boats from further plundering of their traditional fishing grounds

 

My personal link to the fishing industry is indirect: I simply love eating seafood and have done since I was a child. My family bought fresh fish once a week, on Fridays, from the fishmongers. This goes back to the time when all Irish Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays and ate fish instead. We were not Catholics but my mother reckoned the best day to buy the freshest fish was on a Friday when the fishmongers were freshly stocked to serve the Catholics.

 

As a bonus on occasions the herring man would come around our street shouting” Herns Alive! Herns Alive!. As children we mostly played outside in those days and when we heard the shouts of the herring man from the neighbouring street we all rushed indoors in excitement to inform our mothers. The older children were immediately sent back out with tanners and threepenny bits; plates, bowls or buckets, depending on the family size, to meet the herring man. The rest of the day was spent in exciting anticipation of the evening meal.

 

The first time I experienced the herring man he came on a bicycle with the herrings in a large basket in front of his bike. After that he came in a small van. At the time I didn't give much thought to where the herring man came from: I was just interested in eating the herrings. In later years though I often wondered if he had actually rode his push-bike from the nearest fishing village which was fifteen miles away. That must have been very challenging indeed, especially riding up the hills with such a heavy load in the front basket. But they were a hardier breed back then.

 

Another strong childhood memory that helps explain my love for the fruits de la mer relates to picturesque Portrush on the North Antrim Coast. My father made a caravan, back before caravans were popular and long before they were mass-produced in far-off places. He mostly parked it in Portrush, which back then had a significant harbour with a significant fishing fleet.

 

On several occasions my father woke me and my older brother up at the crack of dawn to head down to the harbour to buy fresh fish. Sometimes we would watch from a distance as the fishing boats approached and by the time they docked in the harbour a crowd would be gathered around to purchase fish from the fresh catch. Customers standing on the pier reached buckets and other assorted containers to the fishermen in their boats. Containers were filled and money exchanged.

 

Fish was in abundance back then: a traditional local industry still seemed to be in a healthy sustainable condition.

 

In my adult life I have lived on the coasts of several places: Cape Cod, California, Mexico, Texas, Greece, France, Spain, Holland. I even worked in a fish market in Cape Cod for a while and got to sample every type of seafood available on the North American Atlantic Coast. Fish and seafood products in all those always seemed to be still in abundance.

 

That was before arriving in Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes. I got there just in time to have just missed the collapse of the family fishing industry in the Bay of Fundy. That was in 1986. Local fishermen seemed unified in blaming the policies of the Canadian Federal Government in far-off Ottawa for the demise of the fish stocks. At that point I feared the EU, or at least the EEC as it was called back then,were applying the very same policies of short-term greed over long-term preservation of stocks. Turns out I was right.

 

This song is dedicated to those spirited campaigners in the British fishing industry: currently engaged in a last-ditch battle to preserve traditional fishing grounds and stocks.

7/ The Boyne Water/Battle Cry of Munster

This is the one tune with two names.  I heard the Boyne Water as a child and learned to play it on a flute as a teenager. It is the air of an Orange song that celebrates the victory of King William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.  I first heard the tune played as The Battle Cry of Munster by Sharon Carroll on her Irish harp. It was soft, gentle and beautiful. A far cry from the passionate Boyne Water march version. Both versions have there time and place.

The Boyne Water was also once commonly played at a slower pace on fifes to accompany Lambeg drums. It is in this setting that I approach the tune on this album. There are no words as such, just the traditional lilting to accompany the flutes, drums and fiddles.

It is just an ancient air, just a tune, just a piece of music. I hope the spirit of it can be appreciated by everyone who listens.

8/ Bonnie Kellswater.

The Kellswater River rises in the Antrim Hills from the confluence of Douglas Burn and the Glenwhirry River. It meets the River Maine after it has absorbed the Braidwater and together they flow on through Lough Neagh to connect with the mighty River Bann on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Bonnie Kellswater was a common song locally when I was growing up. Several variations of the song have been passed down in the oral tradition.

 

One version included a verse at the end, sung in a different melody, celebrating the Cuckoo which was once a regular summer visitor. I heard this version from Lena Lynn, nee Fullerton, of William Street Ballymena who got it from her Aunt Bella of Kells. I treat this verse as a second chorus, along with the 'Here's a health unto you Bonnie Kellswater' verse.

I must also give a mention the late Dougie Conway, fiddler and singer from Ballymena, who first encouraged me to sing this song with a lilting tempo. That was how it was sung in his family's tradition.

 

Here's a health unto you bonnie Kellswater

For it's there you'll get the pleasures of life.

It's there you'll get the fishin and a fowlin

And a bonny wee lass for your wife.

 

In the hills and the glens and low valleys

Where grows the saftest o linen sae fine

An the fluers are aa drookin wae honey

There lives Martha a true love o mine.

 

Lovely Martha your the first girl that I coorted

Your the yin put my heart in a snare

Your red rosy cheeks I do admire

Your lily white skin and broon hair.

 

Some say that Kellswater rins muddy

I'm afraid she will never rin clear

But nightly as I come her for tae study

I am minnit o them that's naw here.

 

O the cuckoo is a bonnie bird, she sings as she flies

She brings us glad tidings and tells us nae lies

She drinks o Kellswater until her voice sounds clear

And she never cries cuckoo, til the spring o the year.

9/ My Love's But A Lassie/ Too Young To Marry Yet.

 

An old traditional tune with different names. I learnt it on fiddle as My Love's But A Lassie Yet. It is an old Scottish tune collected by Rabbie Burns which went out to North America where it took on various names including Too Young To Marry Yet. This is name that American fiddler, Eli Bedel called it when he came visit a couple of years ago from Ohio. In this track Eli plays fiddle with me and is the only other musician on this album. The reason being that when Eli was here we played several tunes together in my kitchen and recorded them on my wee Pocket Studio recording unit. We just recorded them on single tracks as I didn't know how to work the Pocket Studio properly at the time. As they were on my machine I selected one and added drums and mandolin tracks. Eli is a brilliant young fiddler, banjo player and singer. Check out his music on Facebook.

 

10/ Parcel Of Rogues.

 

Another one from Rabbie Burns. The Immortal Bard wrote his political song about an earlier time in Scottish history. He was taking a swipe at the Scottish ruling classes who he reckoned were bought and sold for English gold. That was the situation as he saw it at the time. I have taken a wee bit of poetic license and altered a word or two to make it relative for the modern age. I have been studying the life and works of Burns from the age of fifteen and I am totally certain he would approve. The sentiments of the song are just as important now as they were back then. Perhaps even more important in this day and age as folk today are being bought and sold for tyrant's gold on a global scale.

 

 

What force or guille we could not subdue

Through many warlike ages

Is wrought now by a coward few

For hireling traitor's wages

The tyrant's steel we could disdain

Secure in valour's station

The tyrant's gold has been our bane

Such a parcel of rogues

In a nation

 

Oh wud that I had seen the day

That treason thus could sell us

In my heid I hear the auld yins say

I hear what it is they tell us

By pith and power til my last hour

I'll mak this declaration

We're bought and sold for tyrant's gold

Such a parcel o rogues in a nation.

 11/ Fenaghy Road Saunter

I composed this wee tune when I heard the story of how  the 13 year old James Perry would walk home after fife lessons and play his fife the whole way to his home.

 

Fife tunes to accompany Lambeg drums are played at a slower pace to the the style of drumming. The tempo of this tune reflects that.

 

James Perrry was born in Bridgend, County Antrim in 1906 and died in1985 .He was a very well known fiddler, flute player and fifer in the Mid Antrim area.

The wee poem below tells the story. James Perry's daughter, Ray Weir has pointed out to me that his fife teacher was his cousin, Jock Leckey. Not his Uncle Jock as stated in the poem. Just goes to prove, you can't believe everything you read in poems.

James, the young fifer

Fifed all the way home

The big drum rhythms going through his head.

 

As slow and steady he sauntered

In time to those rhythms

That were in his head.

 

His mother

Stood on her doorstep

She could hear him from afar

As she patiently awaited his return.

 

A distant shrill at first

From the two miles along the road

But she knew her son was on his way.

 

Few other sounds to be heard in the dusky gloamin'

Just a few birds in their bushes singing along

Before resting for the night.

 

Few cars on the Fenaghy Road in those days

From Cullybackey to Bridgend.

 

No mobile phones back in those days

But the communication

was steadfast and sure

Back in those Days.

 

Louder and louder sounded the fife

As slowly and steady

Still he sauntered

Nearer and nearer to his home.

 

The new tunes learned

From his Uncle Jock

Before being embraced by his mother.

12/ Londonderry Derry/Derry Londonderry Air Song.

Across hills and glens where strains of harp have of-times strayed

Where fiddles and pipes and flutes and drums have played

From Mountains of Mourne to Donegal and Banks of Foyle

To Caledonia beyond the Sea of Moyle.

 

Let's hear it now for the lovely Derry

The Londonderry oh ever so fair

The Londonderry Derry, Derry Londonderry

Derry Londonderry, Londonderry Derry Air.

 

This is a song about a tune that most people call Danny Boy. That is because Danny Boy was the most famous song, of many, that have been set to this ancient beautiful air. An air that has been played historically by musicians across Ireland and Scotland. The tune has officially been known as the Londonderry Air since the early 19th Century when it was first notated by Jane Ross of Limavady. It was subsequently published under the title of the Londonderry Air as Jane Ross lived in County Londonderry.

 

When playing this tune in performances I would usually explain why this tune was called the Londonderry Air. I later learned that in the 1970's some musicians were recording the tune as The Derry Air. An understandable enough thing to do in Northern Ireland where identity, symbols and labels are everything. If you are not from Northern Ireland I suggest you don't even try to understand this.

 

In a gallant effort to keep everybody happy – even though my parents told me over and over again that I would never ever be able to do that – I decided to introduce the tune as the Londonderry/Derry Air. That seemed to work okay for a while but then somebody asked me why I didn't call it the Derry, Londonderry Air instead of the Londonderry, Derry Air. For those of you who understand Northern Ireland you will understand the thinking behind this. So in my determination to keep everybody happy I am now calling it the Londonderry, Derry - Derry, Londonderry Air.

 

I do hope you understand. If not I hope you enjoy the song regardless. It could come close to making most people here near enough happy or it might upset nearly everybody. I will soon find out.

13/ The Ladies of Lordship Lane

This is dedicated to two special ladies who live in Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, London. 

14/   The Ballyhoo Song

 

If you weren't so Ballymena with yer Ballymoney

You'd get a Ballycastle for your Ballyholme

There's a ballyhoo near yer bally everywhere

Yer bally here and yer Ballyclare.

 

When you go for a danner in the north of Antrim

You can Ballybogie till yer Ballyrashane

Ballybogie, Ballintoy, Portbalintrae

Ballybogie down Giant's Causeway.

 

If yer Ballyholme is in the County down

You will Ballynoe all the ballyhoo

When ye meet yer man the Ballywalter

You will Ballyhay a Ballylesson.

 

Have you ever been to the bally Bilfawst

Did you ever Ballyhackamore

Did you meet yer man the Ballymurphy

Or have you never even Ballybeen.

 

If ye cannae Ballycarry ye'd better Ballyhide

Cannae go Ballysloe you might never Ballymore

It's Ballyduff if you Ballybrack

When you're Ballyknockan yer Ballybunion.

 

In 2018 I was guiding and entertaining a group of hikers who were spending a week walking the hills and coastline of County Antrim. This was organised by Freewheeling Adventures of Nova Scotia. It was their first time in Northern Ireland and they had lots of questions to ask the natives about Northern Irish peculiarities.

 

One such question was, “ why are so many places were called bally something and what does that mean.”? I explained bally was an old Irish Gaelic word for settlement and literally means town of, townland of or home of. I recited the apparently nonsensical line I heard as a child: “If you weren't so Ballymena with your Ballymoney ye'd get a Ballycastle for yer Ballyholme”.

 

I tried to explain that in this case the word bally could also mean anything you wanted it to mean, or nothing at all, and that in modern English ballyhoo refers to a lot of nonsense or fuss.

 

The Canadian hikers didn't really understand the point of it all but nevertheless they were intrigued enough to create a wee song around it all. They came up with a few fun lines and the Freewheeling tour guide, Adrian House, set it to music. Adrian happened to be a very accomplished singer -songwriter from Newfoundland.

 

I later developed the idea into The Ballyhoo Song by adding a few verses and expanding the melody.The end-result is a comprehensive story that addresses the complexity of language in Northern Ireland. There is Old English. Modern English, Irish Gaelic, Ulster Scots and local variations of all those forms of speech. There is also dialect, slang and rhyme that hints at alternative meaning.

 

It all does make some sort of sense, to me, and contains some profound insight within. Although I accept that only people in Northern Ireland who are familiar with all the various forms of local language will totally get it straight away. Northern Ireland is full of folk who are multi lingual and they don't even know it.

 

The place names are mostly from counties Antrim and Down, or Belfast – pronounced Bilfawst in Ulster Scots. In the last verse however I threw in a few colourful ballys from other parts of Ireland to allow more depth of meaning for the story.

 

The initial verse (chorus) actually refers to the fact that the people of the Ballymena area are considered to be thrifty with their money as a result of their historic Scottish connection. This has been often exaggerated to suggest that Ballymena folk are tight with their money, stingy and even greedy to the point of being mean. Of course there is absolutely no justification for this as Ballymena folk are actually very generous and kind by nature. What it is: if you are from Ballymena you have naturally inherited a profound comprehension of fiscal management - and that is something completely different. It has been said that Ballymena children learn to count before they can walk. Of course this is just nonsense: a load of ballyhoo, but is probably related to spurious tales of children not been given shoes and socks until they were able to count all their toes.

 

A few notes for those who are not Northern Irish multilinguists.

When a place name starts with with bally it has a capital B. When bally does not have a capital B it refers to something else. I hope that is clear.

Ballybilfawst is the same place as Belfast. It's just pronounced different.

In Northern Irish lingo the expression “yer man” does not necessarily mean that the man being referred to is your man.

15/ Country Fiddlers/ Ballycarry Fair

From the poems of John Clifford

The air is the same as used by Rabbie Burns for his  'Green Grow The Rashes O'. Also used  by  James Orr, the Bard of Ballycarry, for his ballad entitled the Balycarry Fair.

16/ Dinnae Dinnae Dinnae

 

 

Dinnae let ocht ava get tae ye

Dinnae get aa het up

If ye let ocht ava get tae ye

It niver wull let up

Dinnae lay doon in the muck an the glar

Dinnae lay doon in the sheuch

For if yer lay doon in the muck an the glar

A doot hi yer getting er reuch.

 

Dinnae let big boadies dunt ye

Dinnae let them push ye aroon

For if ye let big boadies dunt ye

They'll dunt ye til yer doon

Dinnae let them waak aa ower ye

Dinnae let them dae ther thing

If they try tae waak aa ower ye

Jist lep ye up an sing.

 

Dinnae heed aa folk tell ye

On thon TV

Dinnae heed aa folk tell ye

On B.B.C

Never heed aa they tell ye

Never heed ocht ava

Never heed aa folk tell ye

Jist lissen tae yer da.

This is an old song of mine that has not been previously recorded. I originally introduced it as a father's words of wisdom to his child. It was inspired by the fact that when I was a wean my parents and other older family members continually provided me with words of sound advice. They were particularly enthusiastic about advising me on things that I should not do. They would say, “ Dinnae dae this, dinnae dae that an whitever ye dae, niver, iver dae thon ever again”.

 

The first verse relates to the fact that they would often advise me that when things went wrong, as evidently they would at times, I should simply pick myself up, get over it and get on with life. The message was that if I would ever let things get to me it would surely only ever get worse.

 

Similarly the second verse relates to their warning to never let anyone intimidate me or bully me. It was clear that this was not only in the physical sense but it related to all those in positions of power who inevitably would abuse their power on a regular basis. Never acquiesce or bow down in subservience to any of them was the message.

 

Last, but not least, was the advice to never necessarily believe everything everybody tells me. It was stressed how important it was to understand that experts and people in positions of power and influence were not necessarily always right about everything all the time. This clearly applied to the media, educators, doctors, specialists: experts of all sorts and even ministers in church. Yes, even on rare occasions it was possible the minister in the kirk would not necessarily be telling you always the right thing at all times.

 

It clearly applied to anybody who was trying to sell anything at all at any time. And all this before “critical thinking” was a thing.

 

It was all sound advice that I fully comprehended and embraced. But even with all that it is possible, for even me, to lift my eye of the ball and have momentary lapses.

Second hand car salesmen automatically qualify for inclusion in the list of types who should not automatically be believed. Just before the Big Lockdown I bought a second hand car in a hurry. I took the salesman at his word and of course my momentary lapse proved costly.

 

This it why this song is so important to me. I clearly need to keep reminding myself on a regular basis not to necessarily believe everything folk tell me. This rule of thumb is as important now as it was when I was a wean.

17/ Bob Williamson's Flute

 

This song is better known as The Ould Orange Flute. I decided to call it Bob Williamson's Flute instead. The basic story is of how Bob Williamson married a Catholic even though he played his Orange flute on the Twelfth of July as it yearly did come. And when the boys in the townland made some noise about it Bob fled with his wife to the Province of Connaught. All was fine until the local priest encouraged Bob to play his flute in the Mass at chapel on Sundays. But the only tune he could ever get out of the ould Orange flute was the Protestant Boys and such like. In the last verse of the song the priests decide to ceremoniously burn the Orange flute at the stake as a heretic. They bought Bob another flute to play in the chapel instead. The last few lines of the song go on to explain however that as the Orange flute was engulfed in flames and smoke they could still here it playing the Protestant Boys, defiantly til the end.

As a child I was always curious about the meanings of songs and my main concern with this one was: what ever happened to poor Bob Williamson? I got the bit about the defiance of the Orange flute but nobody ever seemed to know what happened to poor Bob. Did he ever manage to make it back to Ulster or was he condemned to Connaught till his dying day? Were the ashes of his flute scattered on his grave? Did he have a bunch of weans? Are there now lots of Williamsons living in Connaught? Do they all play flutes? Can they play the Protestant Boys? If anyone knows the answers to the above please let me know.

So, I decided to leave out the last verse of this song and just focus on the fate of the man and not the flute. This song is of course was meant to be humorous. Not certain who wrote it but it might have been Richard Hayward in the early part of the 20th Century. It has been sung mostly by folk from the Unionist community but has also been recorded by such famous Irish musicians as the Dubliners, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Maken.They are not Unionists or Protestants: just musicians who like a bit of crack. Everybody needs to be able to laugh at themselves especially in this day and age of political correctness where it is all too easy to offend somebody when no offence is meant.

I decided to record this song during the Lockdown after I heard the story of what happened in a chapel in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh. Canon Jimmy McPhillips, the now quite well known Canon Jimmy McPhillips, was delivering an online Mass to his congregation during the lockdown. In early May I think it was. At the end of the video he pressed a button to play some sacred music to conclude the Mass, but instead the chapel was filled with the not so sacred sound of an Orange marching band playing The Sash. The priest said “Sorry, I picked the wrong one. Sorry about that. It's a bit early for that isn't it?” He then pressed another button and something more suitable played as he left the scene.

The video immediately went viral – out to the far side of the world and back. Everyone, Protestants and Catholics, had a laugh. Some thought at first the priest had genuinely made a mistake or else somebody had played a trick on him. But no, Canon Jimmy McPhilips obviously has a sense of humour and knew what he was doing. Brilliant. This humorous incident then sparked a debate on social media about the origins of The Ould Orange Flute and that in turn inspired me to record the song.

As well as the humour this song also allows for examination of what the Twelfth of July was all about. I grew up in the country and didn't really begin to understand there was some sort of difference between Catholics and Protestants until I moved into the town when I was eight years old. It was in early July and the street I was living in celebrated the Twelfth with an Orange arch, bunting and union jack flags. I made new Protestant and Catholic friends that summer and didn't really understand there was some sort of difference until we all went to school at the start of September. We didn't all go to the same school but after school hours it didn't make any difference. Didn't seem to make much difference for the adults in the street either. The Catholics would sometimes ridicule the Protestants for celebrating King Billy crossing the Boyne three centuries previous. It all seemed to be just friendly banter and on the 12th morning some of the Catholic families would put out chairs and even settees in front to their homes as they didn't want anybody standing in front of their house: blocking their view when the parade would pass.

There was one story I remember from those days. A neighbour lady, Mrs Patterson, had a large painting of King Billy Crossing the Boyne on her living room wall. One day she went out for an errand up the town and when she returned King Billy was gone and a large photo of the Pope had taken his spot on the wall. Well most people didn't bother locking their doors in those days and neighbours would often pop in and out.


 

My parents owned a wee corner shop. A very busy place as most of the street seemed to a lot of their shopping in there. So the first thing Mrs Patterson did upon discovery of horrific incident came into our shop to inform my mother. She pretended to be enraged and vowed dire consequences for the culprit when she found out who did it. The most likely culprit was a Catholic friend, Arthur McDonald who strenuously denied this at first, of course. For a few days everyone talked about and laughed about the disappearance of Mrs Patterson's King Billy. It was of course all sorted in the end and Billy and the Pope returned to their natural environments. The key thing here is everyone in the street, including Mrs Patterson, got into the humour and banter of it all.


 

My father was not an Orangeman even though his father had been. A common mantra of my father was “join nothin'”. Still, my family thoroughly enjoyed the Twelfth traditions and festivities and as a child I was intrigued with the history of The Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Derry, and I loved the music. And I still do. So it was a natural thing for me as a teenager to join a flute band where I learned to play a musical instrument and got to share the traditional music with other young people. I certainly was not motivated by wanting to upset my Catholic friends and neighbours. I suppose Bob Willamson hadn't been either.


 

This is not to take away from the fact that once the tragic and futile 'Troubles' kicked off, around 1970, Northern Ireland descended into a land of division, distrust and hatred. It is worthwhile though to reflect on the fact that it wasn't always like that. In recent times there have certainly been huge moves towards reconciliation and perhaps the story of Bob Williamson and his Ould Orange Flute can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone once again. Well nearly everyone. I suppose I'll find out soon enough.

Like Bob Williamson I play a version of the Protestant Boys at the end of the song. This version is in the setting that would have played on the fife to accompany the Lambeg drums. It is normally played as a jig of course.

18/ My Bonnie's Not Over The Ocean

Whatever happened to this world we live in

Whatever happened to this world so free

Whatever happened to this world we live in

Can anyone explain it to me.

My Bonnie's Not over the ocean

She's not even over the sea

She's right there jus over the river

But thegither we can never be.

Inspired by fact that so many people were separated from family and close friends during the Lockdown.

19/ Blaater Awa on the Lambeg Drum

 

It aa begun in tha Gairden O Eden

Wae Adam blatterin til he wus bleedin

He drumt awa on a steecht fig leaf

Til it driv poor Eve baith daft an deef

An sum folk noo are aa jist tha same

An Adam's the boy wha is tae blame

When ye hear yins blaaterin aff in the nicht

Blaaterin awa wae aa ther micht

 

Blaater awa on the Lambeg drum

Blatter fae noo til the kingdom cum

Its writ in aa tha buiks o lore

Ooryins blaatert in days o yore

 

Tha Young Patrick stuck up on Slemish moontin

Scunnert wae sheep he was meant tae be coontin

Driv tae tears near begunnin tae dote

Til he fun oot whit ye cud dae wae the skin o a goat

He drumt for love and drumt for joy

Ulster's pride thon drummer boy

Folk hear tha music Young Patrick made

For miles an miles aroon tha Braid.

 

At tha Boyne they says it wus sum sicht

Big drums gien James sic a fricht

At he says tae hissel he'd be better ta flit

Ower tae France an A doot he's ther yet.

Noo if thangs hud turnt oot tha ither wye aboot

It'd a been wile bad ther is nae doot

Sa blessins ontae thon Wulliam's boys

Wha riz tha big roar an riz tha big noise.

 

Fae aroon Armagh tae tha Portydown

Ye'll be fit tae hear tha great big soun

Roon Tannragee an tha Markethill

Lambeg drums aye dunner stil

Fae Portglenone tae ayont Broughshane

Fae Conner tae Clough tae Ball rashane

When yer oot an aboot an hear tha big roar

Blaater alang like in days o yore.

 

 

 

 

The playing of the Lambeg drum is an Ulster tradition and is seldom heard outside of Northern Ireland. It is named after the village of Lambeg in County Antrim. There are two traditional styles of playing. “Time” drumming is when fifes, in the higher octave, accompany structured Lambeg rhythms.  This style can be heard in parades. The second style is “ match” drumming: for competitions to determine who has the best drum. It is all about the drum but of course it takes a skilled drummer in this style to bring out the ultimate tone and pitch that the judges seek.

 

What I do is different. The roots of what I play is in the fife and “time” drumming style of mid-Antrim: an exceptionally rich musical heritage which is preserved and commonly practised to the present day.

 

On stage, the tone of the drums I play have to be less sharp and have a deeper and fuller sound: especially for indoor concerts. This is achieved by having a slightly heavier goat skin and by not tightening the drums to the extent that is necessary to win a drumming match nowadays. This actually makes the drum sound louder while not be piercing on the ear for audience members who are close to the stage.

 

To make the Lambeg appeal to concert audiences the performance has to be delivered with energy and passion. It is crucially all about the audience, about connecting with the audience: as is the case with all forms of live performance.

 

A small minority of cultural purists take exception to the fact that I occasionally “dance” or “ birl and twirl” or “lep aboot” while playing the Lambeg drum on stage. I accept this is not normal and is most certainly breaking with tradition. Although Lambeg rhythms to me always seemed conducive to dancing.

 

As a boy of around 12 years of age I remember watching in awe as a group of about 8 to 10 older teenage girls spontaneously danced with passion as Lambegs and fifes paraded over Harryville Bridge in Ballymena. The impromptu, unstructured fusion of traditional social country dancing and rock and roll all looked perfectly fitting to me. Mind you I haven't witnessed anything quite like it since, I must say. Which is too bad.

 

But for me the moving of the body while playing a drum has just seemed natural ever since: even if your drum is massive and very heavy. It helps you feel the rhythms and enjoy the emotion and the passion. In turn the audience gets to feel the pleasure as well. I encourage other Lambeg drummers to at least try it. Life is too short to miss out on such simple pleasures. It gets the heart pumping and the blood rushing through your veins. Has to to good for you: in moderate doses.

 

There may well be those who do not appreciate the lyrics of this Lambeg song. They may think it makes a mockery of a rich cultural tradition. On the contrary the opposite has been the plan. Enjoying the crack and not taking ourselves too seriously has long been an established trait in Ulster culture. Hopefully we are not losing all that too rapidly.

20/ Lambeg and Fife/ One Bottle More.

For this recording I played the Lambeg inside my open barn and recorded from an upstairs bedroom window on the other side of my back yard. Originally I didn't think I was going to be able to record the Lambeg at all on my mini Pocket Studio recording unit. It wasn't built to cope with such decibels at close range. Worked not too bad I think.

 

I then recorded a fife tune over the top, and a bass drum, just to be different. The tune is an old Mid Antrim fifing classic, One Bottle More. It was very common among fifers when I was growing up and one of the many fifing tunes that often crossed over into the local fiddle music as well. As a teenager I was bombarded with fifing tunes along with fiddle tunes and marching band tunes. As I learned mostly by ear many of the tunes I only half-learned but One Bottle More was one of the tunes that stuck out and I eventually learned it so that I could play it on my own from memory. For this I need to think two people: My uncle Bertie Templeton, who played this tune on fife, tin whistle, accordion and banjolin. I must also give credit to master musician Ashley Ford who I first met when I was home on holiday in the late 1980's. I was living in Canada at the time. I took a cassette recording of Ashley playing fifing tunes back to Canada with me and, as a result, One Bottle More was one of those tunes that got wedged into the music compartment of my brain. So thank you Ashley Ford and Bertie Templeton for this tune.

This 19th Century tune has previously recorded by me as part of a fifing medley on the Ulster Scots Folk Orchestra CD, Endangered Species, 2001.

 

21 Jamie Always Sung.

 

When Jamie sung the rafters rung and Lylehill Church did reel

His voice it rang a clarion clang just like a cannon's peel.

The choir sang loud and all the crowd took up the holy strain

But Jamie's ball ris over all, tempestuously plain.

 

Ah wide did he his wild voice fling, promiscuous and free

But despite the fact he could not sing, while all the more sang he

With clamorous clang and resonant bang, his thunders round he flung

He could not sing a single thing, but Jamie always sung.

 

This poem is from the collection of William McKinney (1832-1917). His extensive collections of poems, stories and artefacts are on display at the Sentry Hill Museum in Newtownabbey. Prior to the opening of the museum in 2005 I was engaged by Newtownabbey Borough Council to recite some the poems for the audio section of the museum. This poem stuck out for me for some reason. Must be some thing to do with Jamie's spirit, attitude and defiance.

Following this I actually got to recite the poem from the pulpit of Lylehill Presbyterian Church as part of the Dander With Drennan TV Series. This church in Templepatrick was where Jamie sung over a hundred years earlier.

For this recording I have added a wee song version of the poem. Dedicating to the memory of Jamie of course

 

22/ Doon Through The Gloonan

 

My mother often told stories of her bicycle rides, as a teenager to the village of Ahoghill from her home on the Killybeg Moss Road - three miles there and three miles back. She worked in a shop in the village and attended church choir practices. She often met local characters along the quiet country roads: she yelled "yo ho"! and waved to workers in the fields as she went doon throughThe Gloonan. They yelled and waved back. One young local lad often made a point of being out on the road when she would be riding home. That stopped when my father stared courting her and rode on his bicycle towards Ahoghill to meet her and accompany her home. I thought all that deserved a tune.

 

23/ Slieve Gallon Braes

 

As I went a-walking one morning in May

To view your fair valleys and mountains so gay

I was thinking o your flowers all going to decay

That bloom around ye bonny, bonny Slieve Gallon Braes

 

As oft in the morning with my dog and my gun

I'd wander these mountains for joy and for fun

But these days are now all over and I'm going far away

So farewell unto ye bonny, bonny, Slieve Gallon Braes

 

And as oft in the evening with the sun in the west

I'd rove hand in hand with the one I loved best

But the joys of youth are vanished and I can no longer stay

So farewell unto ye bonny, bonny, Slieve Gallon Braes.

 

Sure my name's James McGarvey and I hope you'll understand

In the townland of Derrygernard I owned a farm of land

But the rent was so high and the tax I could not pay

Whis causes me to wander from you Slieve Gallon Braes.

 

This is one of my favourite songs of emigration. It is believed to to have been written by James McGarvey who emigrated to Canada in the early 19th Century. I can't find any details of where in Canada this talented song writer moved to but it is believed he is related to the McGarvey family who are buried in the Presbyterian graveyard in Moneymore. Slieve Gallon Braes are close to Moneymore in south eastern County Londonderry. During the Lockdown I thought it was very relevant to connect the emotions and pain of those who felt the need to emigrate in days gone by, in the knowledge that they would never see loved ones and friends ever again, with the pain felt by many who were also separated from their loved ones during Lockdown.

 24/ Flutes at Braidwater Dawn

Spring 2020, during the Lockdown was an exceptional time which will be mostly remembered as a time of hardship. But it was also exceptional for the peace and calm that it offered: with few cars on the roads and no aeroplanes in the sky. The songbirds seemed to sing louder and longer than they had ever done before. Some of my recording was done outside my rural home near the River Braid. Songbirds, roosters and the sounds of the river often integrated me into their dawn chorus.

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