Mudcat Café message #2089751 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41161   Message #2089751
Posted By: GUEST,Jim Carroll
29-Jun-07 - 03:22 AM
Thread Name: Which Irish Troubles Songs are Offensive
Subject: RE: Which Irish Troubles Songs are Offensive
'Take It Down',
I have to say the only singer I have heard sing this was Dominic Behan, who tended to wear his heart on his sleeve.
To address Big Mick's point; I was an apprentice on the docks in Liverpool and it struck me as early as that how rich the use of language was among the people I was working with; the nicknames, the trade names for tools, and the ready, creative humour.
Writers like George Ewart Evans in the UK and Studs Terkel in the States went some way towards drawing attention to our oral history, but even they only scratched the surface.
My first experience in recording anybody was in the late sixties when I was asked to interview a friend's grandfather, an elderly Liverpool docker who had fought in the trenches in W.W.1. I was extremely nervous, but totally without need. The minute we arrived, before we had even switched the recorder on, your man Tommy began talking, and over the weekend gave us four or five hours of his experiences.
One of the most moving pieces of recording I have ever done was when he started to talk about 'deserters - men who simply walked away from the noise of the guns in the trenches. It appeared that Tommy had virtually forgotten we were there and had begun to re-live his youth (he had lied about his age to enlist in the army).
He told us how the military police would pick these 'deserters' up and take them back to base, where they would automatically tried, sentenced to death and imprisoned, awaiting execution.
But if there was a 'push' on, they would be taken out and placed in the front line to fight; when the worst was over, they would be returned to base and executed.
He said, "One minute you were fighting next to a man, the next you were reading a note posted on the side of the billet saying that he had been shot by a firing squad".
At this point he burst into tears - and we had some difficulty talking due to the lumps in our throats.
I've always believed that one of the great values of our traditional songs is the experiences of 'ordinary' people (are there such things; aren't all people extraordinary) that went into their making.
If I wanted to find out the whys and wherefores of, say the Battle of Trafalgar, I could go to the history books and get the dates, the politics behind it, the officers - I may even be able to find how many ordinary seamen were killed and wounded in the engagement.
But if I wanted to get some idea of the experiences of those 'ordinary' seamen, what it felt like for, say a miner, or a millworker, or a farm labourer who had been pressed into the navy, or in a drunken moment, had signed up by a recruiting officer, then I would have to go to the songs.
As I said before, many of the songs we sing are vital parts of our history containing information that can be found nowhere else.
Jim Carroll