Thursday, March 10, 2011

Come Join the Virtual Parade: It’s Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s Season!

By Nicholas Stix

In our Irish neighborhood, it is currently St. Patrick’s Season. While Manhattan and the rest of the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, we on “the Irish Riviera” celebrated our own St. Patty’s Day last Saturday, and the celebrations will continue on the 17th. What that means, practically speaking, is that there are two nights here on which it is impossible to get a taxi, because the drivers are all drunk.

While I am one-quarter Irish, via my paternal grandmother, on St. Patty’s Day, everyone is Irish! However, I don’t drink on St. Patty’s Day.

I have become, for the most part, a blue-nose, the high point of my drinking life having been when I was 13-15 years old, and could drink half the ex-cons in my neighborhood under the table. Since I will be celebrating my annual 21st birthday this spring, that period would have been … um … er … six to eight years ago!

(My sobriety has gone to such extremes that when my boy was born, I didn’t touch a drop for over a year, so afraid was I that I might drop the lad.)

My boy and I attended the local parade, which is the second biggest St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York, if not in America.

And the weather played along. Though the day wasn’t as stunning as last year, at least the rain held off. The march was a little shorter this year, because Mayor Bloomberg cut the amount of overtime for the cops working it. Since Hizzoner didn’t show up, I was unable to engage in my annual practice of turning my back on him, as he passes. Apparently, Bloomberg, who has never been kind to this working-class and middle-class community, was afraid of quite a few of my neighbors doing likewise. (According to the MSM, there are no white working-class New York neighborhoods, only “solidly middle-class” and “affluent” ones. That would mean that our neighborhood is full of “solidly middle-class” and “affluent” garbage men, cops, and firemen.)

All sorts of Irish pipe and drum bands groups march, playing Irish and Scottish folk songs, representing labor unions, workplaces, Catholic schools and Irish fraternal organizations, their members wearing kilts in the colors of the Irish county from whence their groups’ founders came.

Kilts? Bagpipes? Scottish folk songs? Well, both peoples are Celts, but beyond that, explaining the Scottish roots of much Irish-American folk culture is way above my pay grade, and would take a James Fulford, or even a David Hackett Fisher.

There were fewer Irish and Scottish folk songs than usual: No “Wild Colonial Boy,” no “Danny Boy,” and some of the traditional Irish songs that I heard every year in my childhood, such as the tune played at the end of The Quiet Man,* have completely disappeared. In their place were endlessly repeated versions of the Army and Marine Corps hymns. Not that I have anything against the Army or the Marines, but as my boy observed, it wasn’t St. Army or St. Marine Day.

My son confirms that there were two rounds of “The Minstrel Boy” and one of “Tunes of Glory,” the latter a one-time staple that had been MIA in recent years.

An óg-Laoch/The Minstrel Boy (Colm Meaney and Bob Gunton in Star Trek: The Next Generation)


Lyrics by Thomas Moore
To the tune of “The Moreen”

The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you will find him,
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.

“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain,
Could not bring that proud soul under,
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder.

And said: “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!”

At their Irish Page, Vivian and Jack write,
An emotionally stirring and inspirational song, the “Minstrel Boy” was written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) who set it to the melody of “The Moreen”, an old Irish aire. It is believed by many that Moore composed the song as a memorial to several of his friends he had met while a student at Trinity College and who had participated in the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen. One died in prison, another was wounded, and a third captured and hung. The song originally consisted of two verses. Due to its popularity, a third verse was added by unknown authors at the time of the US Civil War…. [NS: And the fourth?]

“The remarkable thing is that such Moore Melodies were rousingly sung around the piano in Victorian English drawing rooms oblivious of the fact that ‘the foeman’ and ‘slavery's chains’ referred to the English yoke.”…

The immediate origins of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland can be traced to the setting up of the Society of United Irishmen in Belfast in October 1791. Inspired by the French Revolution, and with great admiration for the new democracy of the United States, the United Irishmen were led by Theobald Wolfe Tone, Thomas Russell, Henry Joy McCracken and William Drennan. They came together to secure a reform of the Irish parliament; and they sought to achieve this goal by uniting Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter in Ireland into a single movement.

I first heard “The Minstrel Boy” sung by Sean Connery and Michael Caine at the climax of The Man Who Would be King, John Huston’s 1975 comeback masterpiece, based on the Kipling short story.

I have never been a fan of science fiction in general, or of the Star Trek spinoffs, but the power of the scene in which Colm Meaney and Bob Gunton sing “The Minstrel Boy,” to chords of mystic memory, cannot be denied.

Thanks to leggy1977.


Tunes of Glory (Scotland the Brave): The Marching Dukes of Marlington


I’m including this bagpipe-free performance because the Marching Dukes of Marlington, who play the song with such passion and precision, are an excellent high school marching band in Alliance, Ohio, and out of gratitude to TheBatDEWde, who posted the performance under both titles.

Nowadays, if you seek at Google or Youtube for “Tunes of Glory,” you either get videos of the popular, eponymous pipe and drum band, or excerpts from the classic, 1960 Ronald Neame movie, starring Alec Guiness and John Mills.

But I grew up on “Tunes of Glory” as a St. Patrick’s Day staple. I’d never heard of the title, “Scotland the Brave,” which it turns out, is one of Scotland’s “unofficial” national hymns, until producing this virtual parade.

Granted, I’m hopelessly ignorant, but until now, I shared my ignorance with 200 million or so of my fellow Americans, who enjoyed hearing “Tunes of Glory” every year. See my previous remark about the Scottish roots of Irish-American culture.

Tunes of Glory (Scotland the Brave): Pipe and Drum Band


The last minute or so is another tune.


The Wild Colonial Boy: Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers


The Wild Colonial Boy
By Francis McNamara
(Many variations, but this is the one that Makem and the Clanceys sing here.)

There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name,
He was born and raised in Ireland, in a place called Castle Maine,
He was his father’s only son, his mother’s pride and joy,
And dearly did his parents love the wild colonial boy.

At the early age of sixteen years, Jack left his native home,
And to Australia’s sunny shores he was inclined to roam,
He robbed the rich, he helped the poor, he shot James McEvoy,
A terror to Australia was, the wild colonial boy.

One morning on the prairie, as Jack, he rode along,
And listening to the mockingbird sing it’s joyful song,
Up came a band of troopers, Kelly, Davis, and Fitzroy,
They’d all set out to capture him, the wild colonial boy.

“Surrender now Jack Duggan, for you see we’re three to one,”
“Surrender in the Queen’s high name, for you are a plundering son,”
Jack drew two pistols from his belt, and proudly waved them high,
“I'll fight but not surrender!” said the wild colonial boy.

He fired a shot at Kelly, which laid him to the ground,
And turning ‘round to Davis, he received a fatal wound,
A bullet pierced the fierce young heart, from the pistol of Fitzroy,
And that was how they captured him, the wild colonial boy.

Thanks to vlikavec.


Danny Boy: King Singers at the Salt Lake City Olympics, 2002


Irish folk melody, lyrics by Fred E. Weatherly

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling,
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside,
The summer’s gone, and all the flowers are dying,
‘Tis you, ‘tis you must go, and I must bide.

But come ye back, when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed, and white with snow,
‘Tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so.

But if ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an “Ave” there for me.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my dreams will warmer, sweeter be,
And you’ll not fail to tell me that you love me,
I’ll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

Thanks to Wehrheim04.

At the top, I referred to the tune played at the end of The Quiet Man, which had completely disappeared from the local parade. Well, in the course of putting together this little parade, I finally learned that the name of that music, which is inseparable from St. Patrick’s Day, is indeed, “The St. Patrick’s Day March.”

I usually pass on watching the official parade on TV, where all of the organizations that march in my neighborhood parade also march, but this year, I plan on watching, to see if they do it right in Manhattan.

The St. Patrick’s Day March from John Ford’s Fort Apache (first 1:26)


Thanks to DukeFanGermany.

The St. Patrick’s Day March, Played by Englishmen on, of All Occasions, the Queen’s Birthday


I’m including this version to show that the March can be played perfectly well by pipers.

Thanks to Winnie9212.

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