Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Cross the Rio Grande

166 years ago this April, John Riley, leader of the subsequent "San Patricio Battalion" crossed the Rio Grande. He crossed those waters just before the outbreak of war between Mexico and the U.S.A.
Riley was deserting the U.S. army and joining up with the Mexican. It's amazing to wonder what led him to that decision. Was it the rumblings of fellow Irish soldiers fed up of ill-treatment and discrimination in the ranks of Uncle Sam? Was it the sound of the church bells over the river in Matamoros, calling the faithful to the same Latin mass he would have heard at home in Clifden, Ireland? Or was it the sight of some senorita washing her hair by the banks of the river? Were her flowing locks the final straw, sending him racing down to river and over to Mexico? Was he alone? Did he wade into the flowing river and swim across? Or had he the luxury of a boat?
What we do know is that he became a leading figure in the conflict that was to come, that being the U.S. - Mexican War of 1847. It is known in Mexico as "el guerra del 47." The Mexican nation lost this war and half of their territory. As the U.S. army flooded through Mexico City, many Irishmen stood waiting at gallows outside the city. They had been waiting there since early morning, they waited for the American flag to go up over Chapultapec Castle--the sign for the cart to be literally pulled from under them. This was part of a series of hangings which saw the deaths of 49 men of the San Patricio Battalion, marking the biggest public execution in U.S. military history. The San Patricio's ranks, although distinctly and predominantly Irish, contained men of other ethnicities, including many Germans. The soldiers' common Catholic religion galvanised their brotherhood. Most, but not all, of the San Patricios had defected from the U.S. army--an army to whom they felt they owed no allegiance. They fought in Mexican Ranks 'til the bitter end.

I took this photo at the commemoration last year in San Ángel, Mexico City. San Ángel is where some of the hangings took place. The plaque in the background lists the names of the San Patricios who died for Mexico. The eagle is a symbol of Mexico.

I was in Mexico City last September as part of a documentary by Kieran Concannon, for Tg4 (the Irish language T.V. Station). The documentary traces the story of John Riley from Ireland to Mexico. It is interwoven with songs inspired by John Riley and the San Patricios, one of which is my own song, "Pa' Los Del San Patricio." Our visit to Mexico coincided with the commemoration at San Ángel. 18 of the San Patricios were hung in the square where the commemoration takes place. The documentary is narrated and presented by myself and will be broadcast in September to coincide with the commemoration in Mexico City. A ceremony also takes place in Clifden, Ireland, the place of Riley's birth.

Above is the track "Pa' Los Del San Patricio" from my first CD "Songs From an Outpost."

It was really heartening to see the respect and honour with which the San Patricios are held in Mexico. The last battle of the San Patricios took place by the convent of Churubusco. All around that area the Mexican government pays homage to "the Irish Martyrs."  Both the photos to the left were taken in the Vicinity of San Patricio Plaza. The first is "Irish Martyr's Street." The second is a plaque to John Riley, untouched by the mad graffiti surrounding it.

In the center of the Plaza of San Ángel, there are park benches with this inscription: "Alvaro Obregon," which is the name of a former president of Mexico, that name is now a city municipality. Many people don't realise that Irish names were "hispanicized" in Spanish speaking countries just like the Anglicisation of Irish surnames in Britain and America. So "Ó Brian" became "Obregon." Funnily enough I used this ruse myself while buying a train ticket for Vera Cruz, in Mexico City. Instead of calling myself Charlie O' Brien (and looking on at the tellers inevitable doleful expression as she tried to write it down), I told them my name was Carlito Obregon, and lo and behold no need for a lengthy spelling lesson. She had it in one and I was on my way to Vera Cruz!

                                              This is the "Obregon" seat in the Plaza of San Ángel, Mexico City.     


Above is a picture of the cathedral in Vera Cruz. They are currently renovating the church--note the little man on the dome on the left.
Vera Cruz is where John Riley was eventually released from the service of the Mexican Army. We visited the cathedral there, where we waited patiently for the Padre, who was the only person authorised to show us the cathedral's death records. It has long been speculated where and how John Riley died. There are many theories, one of which was that he died in Vera Cruz, not long after being discharged from the army. The records in Vera Cruz seem to confirm this.
The Padre's secretary, Miriam, is shown above with the records which contain John Riley's death cert. She is pointing his name out to me on the page. Kieran, the director of the documentary is in the foreground. The photo was taken by Cliona Maher, an Irishwoman who is living in Vera Cruz for years. She was extremely helpful to us in our travels!

The records taken down by the priest in 1850, and shown by Miriam in the photo above, record: "In the H. [Heroic] city of Veracruz, on the thirty first of August of eighteen hundred and fifty, I, Don Ignacio Jose Jimenez, curate of the parish church of the Assumption of Our Lady, buried in the general cemetery the body of Juan Reley, of forty five years of age, a native of Ireland, unmarried, parents unknown; died as a result of drunkenness, without sacraments, and I signed it."

While in Vera Cruz, we visited a beautiful Spanish Fortress called San Juan de Ulua. It dates to 1565. Wandering around the ruins we met this fisherman who had just netted this mighty fish.

When we think of history, we think of dates, actions defined, outcomes, not the slow passage of time. I think of John Riley in the weeks leading up to his death, lounging pensively in some bar in Vera Cruz, gazing out at the sea. I imagine his long hair covering his face and the two D letters that were seared into it by the Yankees, as punishment for desertion. Perhaps, to clear his head, he took a walk down by the dockside? I see him meeting with some fisherman, having a chat, maybe his dark mood lifting for a moment. Did he imagine his future in Ireland as he gazed out at the horizon? Was he planning for a never reached shore in Galway?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Tale of Four Visits and Two Songs

Fredrick Douglass -- Famous Abolitionist and Former Slave.

American President, Barack Obama, is coming to Ireland in May, and he may visit Cork to unveil a statue to Fredrick Douglass. Obama has been petitioned by, among others, two African-American and two Irish-American Senators. Though it is not the main reason for his visit, the unveiling of this statue is, in my opinion, the most important thing he will do on his visit, and I for one welcome the whole endeavor. As regards Douglass, he was a leading figure in the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and was a former slave himself. His autobiography, "Narratives of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave," was a bestseller in its time. He traveled Ireland in 1845 and was greatly influenced by his time there. By all accounts, he met some very like minded people in his travels and was treated with equanimity everywhere he went. God knows would he be so lucky now! The statue of Douglass is to be erected in University College Cork.

Below are some quotations concerning Ireland, from Douglass's letters to William Lyod Garrisson, another notable abolitionist and founder of the paper "The Liberator" -

"Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! the chattel becomes a man." (A chattel is a slave).

"One of the most pleasing features of my visit to Ireland was a total absence of all manifestations of prejudice against me, on account of my color."

"The limits of a single letter are insufficient to allow any thing like a faithful description of those painful exhibitions of human misery, which meet the eye of a stranger almost at every step. I spent nearly six weeks in Dublin, and the scenes I there witnessed were such as to make me 'blush, and hang my head to think myself a man.' I speak truly when I say, I dreaded to go out of the house. The streets were almost literally alive with beggars, displaying the greatest wretchedness—some of them mere stumps of men, without feet, without legs, without hands, without arms—and others still more horribly deformed, with crooked limbs, down upon their hands and knees, their feet lapped around each other, and laid upon their backs, pressing their way through the muddy streets and merciless crowd, casting sad looks to the right and left, in the hope of catching the eye of a passing stranger—the citizens generally having set their faces against giving to beggars. I have had more than a dozen around me at one time, men, women and children, all telling a tale of woe which would move any but a heart of iron. Women, barefooted and bareheaded, and only covered by rags which seemed to be held together by the very dirt and filth with which they were covered—many of these had infants in their arms, whose emaciated forms, sunken eyes and pallid cheeks, told too plainly that they had nursed till they had nursed in vain. In such a group you may hear all forms of appeal, entreaty, and expostulation. A half a dozen voices have broken upon my ear at once: 'Will your honor please to give me a penny to buy some bread?' 'May the Lord bless you, give the poor old woman a little sixpence.' 'For the love of God, leave us a few pennies—we will divide them amongst us.' 'Oh! my poor child, it must starve, for God's sake give me a penny. More power to you! I know your honor will leave the poor creature something. Ah, do! ah, do! and I will pray for you as long as I live.'"

Douglass's visit to Ireland coincided with the first outbreaks of the Irish famine -- an event that changed, irreparably, the whole social, cultural, and political map of the country. We would do well to remember that the great conflagrations of the Famine's fire raged after he left, and in the west -- not in the cities. It is indeed sad to think that the people Douglass walked among, in those streets, were the lucky, and those he associated with, the blessed. Many of the beggars he saw were refugees from beyond the pale -- our own little wild west. The fact they had made it at all to the cities counted them lucky, and that self same "luck" held their agony prolonged. "The Luck of the Irish," as the saying goes. Douglas himself was lucky to escape slavery. Due to his own drive and ingenuity, he gained freedom and associated with some of the great thinkers of his time (including our own Daniel O' Connell). O' Connell called Douglass "the Black O' Connell of the United States."
To give another insight into the lie of the land in Ireland in the time of Douglass's visit there, this following quote is from French sociologist Gustave De Beaumont. He wrote it after he had visited Ireland in 1835 -- a decade before the onset of the Great Famine.

"I have seen the Indian in his forests, and the negro in his chains, and thought as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not then know the pitiable condition of unfortunate Ireland... in all countries more or less paupers may be discovered; but an entire nation of paupers, is what was never seen until in Ireland."

One other notable visit to Irish shores is to occur in May -- that of the Queen of England. It looks like both the visit of Obama and The Queen will occur in the same week. Personally I'm opposed to the Queen of England coming to Ireland. In Killarney, our local councillors were all clamouring for her to visit, namely to commemorate Queen Victoria’s sojourn in Killarney in 1861. Victoria -- who is the self same Queen that presided over the Great Famine and visited Dublin in that Famine's worst year. The security involved then was huge and I'm sure to avoid violence this time round the same treatment will be rolled out for Queen Elizabeth, damn the cost. Of course, all those calling for this Royal Visit are hoping it will bring some much needed money to the country! It is viewed by those in power as a kind of coming of age for Ireland, where she finally grows up and joins the first world and western culture fully and completely. It also ties the ribbon of partition neatly in a bow and legitimises completely that fabricated border.
The whole visit throws out whatever ounce of shame or vestige of collective consciousness as regards history we might possess. Only last year the "National Famine Commemoration Center" was opened in Mayo. Invitations were sent out across the world to representatives of many countries, including the U.K. The U.K. sent no representative -- though 14 other nations did, and there was a representative of the E.U. to boot. So what do we do this year? We have the Queen herself invited for "A Royal Visit," and in Killarney, our representatives in local government call for a commemoration of the visit of Victoria of 1861 hoping Elizabeth will come in tow.
Of course this visit is planned with making money in mind, rest assured our local representatives care naught for Queen Elizabeth, nor Ireland for that matter. They are only hoping to fill up their coffers with English gold, namely gold of the tourist variety. They would do well to remember that Victoria's visit to Killarney bankrupt the Herbert's of Muckross. Victoria stayed with them for a mere two days. Don't build your castles on sand.
Although it seems we probably won't, after all our heartfelt entreaty, be graced with Elizabeth's presence in Killarney, we will have her paraded around Dublin. As if her's was not the same line that denied us the Republic we fought and died in droves for in successive rebellions from 1798 to 1921 -- that Republic upon which our whole state is supposedly based upon! Not to mind the carnage her line perpetuated in Ireland for long centuries before 1798.
Let the Queen come and commemorate the Great Famine this year -- let her come up to Mayo. This of course is not what is planned, instead we have to uphold a pretense. How can we ever have a country that respects itself and others if it sells itself out for silver and forgets its history at the drop of a hat? for a few pound? "We're bought and sold for English Gold," as Robbie Burns said of his own tribe long ago.

This is a telling picture by Windsor McKay Ca. 1920. It reminded me of "clamouring forth their heaped praises" in the song lyrics I wrote below (though the lads in the picture above look a tad more confused than those in the second verse of the song!).

I wrote a song about all this furore entitled "The Famine Queen," below are the lyrics. Heres a link to the track on Bandcamp.

The Famine Queen
Come gather round people what ‘er your persuasion,
be it pirate, a pauper a prince or a thief.
I'll tell how my mind lept in wild consternation,
to hear of Elizabeth’s visit, and Victorias adoration -
Oh the feats and travails of the Famine Queen!

One evening of late into Killarney I strayed,
Hearing men in high places all highly esteemed -
Pouring out their libations, clamouring forth their heaped praise,
gladly queuing in columns they rallied in oration -
for the Mighty Monarchs of England and the Famine Queen.

They sent out the word to Elizabeth doting
to grace us all with her presence so calm and serene.
Like in Killarney of old with the Bold Victoria -
Unfurl your banners for stern commemoration
of the feats and travails of the Famine Queen.

Ladies petticoat’s, plumes in all style and variety,
Soldiers marched of all rank and station replete.
Never was seen a vision of such pomp and piety
when the butcher's apron hung from each pole and station,
And waved on heaving throngs by O' Donnchú’s keep.

Up went new constructions in style and precision,
her regal self we regaled all the while.
Paupers and peasants were ne’r seen so industrious,
such loyal respect and royal dedication,
Resound bugles bursting for the famine queen.

Her coaches and retinue with ladies in waiting
All dazzling, all dappled by lakes so serene -
They peeked into valleys then up mountains so glorious
Ladies ner’ viewed them before of such high station,
Oh the feats and travails of the famine queen.

No let’s not have starving ghosts haunt our praises
Let Gods castigation quell our scurrilous pride.
A lazy insolent race, so seditious,
Sir Trevelyan was right, shure he received commendations
from the Bold Victoria the Famine Queen.

No lets not hear tell of her paltry contribution
to starving men through the country in dire need replete.
Drink a health to Elizabeth's visit,
Let us toast merrily Victoria's high station,
oh the feats and travails of the Famine Queen.

In the year of Eighteen Hundred and Forty Eight
Victoria was in Dublin, crowds submissed at her feet,
Banquets and praise were lavished for the visit,
Elizabeth now graces us for commemoration,
resound bugles bursting for the famine queen.

The Ottoman King in his regal seat,
10 000 pounds he promised for famine relief,
"1 000 will do," Victoria instructed.
They tried to turn back his boats at Drogheda in contention,
oh the feats and travails of the Famine Queen.

The Choctaw nation gave forth lavish contribution
16 years after their own Trail of Tears.
Let us all now sing out their praises.
Ring out resound in stark oration,
and damn the accursed Famine Queen.

Now for songs of a nations wrongs,
starving labour once a groan, now a true voice,
ring out resound in stark oration,
Ours was no tempest of distant location -
but a hell of lightening under the Famine Queen’s sea.

Lord Tennyson of Victoria was much in her favour,
He praised her to the heights of our own lovely reeks.
As he wove in loom of rhymes and of reasons,
from the west gloom and shadow then conflagration -
Famine raged its like ne’r before seen.

Let Elizabeth come and commemorate the Famine
Up in Mayo each year crowds gather with grief.
Men came representing many nations
opening the national famine commemoration -
Not one from the home of the Famine Queen.

This image is mainly composed of graffiti etched into the window of Dinis Cottage -- a 200 years old hunting lodge in Killarney National Park. That photo was taken by my girlfriend Alice -- here's a link to the rest of the window graffiti in that cottage. This graffiti was engraved into the window with a knife by a British army soldier. The opposite corners of the image contain -- an engraving of Victoria's 1860's visit to Ross Castle, Killarney, and a 20th century photo of the Royal Irish Constabulary marching through the town. 

The image above forms part of the inlay card of "Where Splendour Falls," an album of songs concerning Killarney that I have in mind to make. The references to Tennyson in the last few verses of "The Famine Queen" is mainly due to his being the Poet Laureate of Britain during Queen Victoria's reign. He wrote this poem, for instance, in praise of her. Lord Tennyson wrote the lyric "The Spleandour Falls" on a visit to Killarney in homage to our lakes. This is a beautiful choral version of the lyric. My own musical version was composed before I knew of any musical accompaniment to the lyric. My version and the coral piece are different beasts entirely, as you can imagine!

St Patrick's Day "Pattys Galore"-- A Recipe for Disaster.

I'm back in Atlanta after celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Savannah. It has the second largest St. Patrick's day parade in the world I am told. They have a custom in Savannah; of families of Irish origin from the town, marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade. It was great to see all generations of the one family marching together, proudly strutting down the street. Sometimes they glided by on floats replete with comfortable chairs; for the older members of the family. Near enough to where we watched the parade was "the Irish Green"; where people from the surrounding Irish neighbourhood used to often assemble for diversion and the likes. It seems they still do -- though in sorely depleted numbers -- they must have all been marching!

"The Shamrock Lounge" taken on the Irish Green. Pity about the wonky spelling of "ceol agus craic aneso." 
It looks like there was neither ceol nor craic but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. We passed by at the wrong time I'm sure!

For curiosity's sake, we walked down by the riverfront and River Street, where the majority of the festive madness was taking place. It took us a good half hour to traverse the length of the street. The thoroughfare was thronged with people dressed in green, some in various states of undress. Most notable of the scantily clad folk, were a group of strippers outside one pub, valiantly trying to entice people into the premises with their gyrations.
Having enough of the madness we wandered towards the center of town, where we came across a mighty Irish bar called "O' Connell's". It was the quietest Irish bar in Savannah, and the only authentic one as far as I could see. The place serves no food--which is always a good barometer for a decent Irish bar (for better or worse!). The owner is a young fella called Dan O' Connell, Dan plays Irish music and tries to make the place accommodating to Irish musicians, like any decent publican and public house at home.

I've lately been collecting words of Irish Gaelic origin in American English. I saw a fair few people in Savannah with green t-shirts emblazoned with "Hooligan" and it reminded me of this expression's Irish origin! The t-shirts are to be found in Walmart -- along with Drunken Leprechaun wine and other such Cultural gems of "St Patty's Day".

Hooligan - From the Irish surname "O' hUllacháin"- pronounced o hoo lich awn.

Shinangans -- From "sin anachain" -- pronounced Shin on a kin which means -- thats trouble/devilish behaviour. Anachain's most common meaning is -- disaster -- but it also can mean trouble.

Clan/klan -- From "clann" -- pronounced k lown. It means family.

Bogey Man -- From "púca"/"púcaí" -- Which in Irish is a type of spirit (of the other worldly variety not the spirits you imbibe that is). Pronounced -- Poo ka/poo kee, poo ka being singular, poo kee being plural.

Baby (as in darling) -- From  Báb -- Slang for a girl, a young attractive one that is. Pronounced -- Baw b.  I've heard it used in poems of Eoghan Rua from the 1700's, and báb is still in use; for instance in the Irish for "Hen Night" -- coisír na mbáb (literally girls party).

To brag -- From "bréag" -- which means to lie. Pronounced -- bray a g.

Galore -- From "go leor" -- which means lots of. Pronounced gu lore.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Daredevil Johnny

Last Sunday in Little Rock, Arkansas, I interviewed the great-grandchildren of Dynamite Johnny O' Brien. It was great to talk to them and find out more about their fiery antecedent. They were extremely accommodating, and I certainly got some great stories from them. So I'm another bit along the road to finishing up my radio documentary about the aforementioned Johnny, who I learned also had the sobriquet "Daredevil Johnny". Below is a picture of Kristin Agar (Johnny's great-granddaughter) and myself.

I learned of Johnny's connection to "The Maine" -- an American battleship which sunk in Havana harbor on the eve of the Spanish-American war of 1898. Years later, in 1912, the Maine was raised from the harbor. Johnny "put on his best morning suit, a starched white shirt and bow tie and climbed onto the rusted and patched deck of the battleship. He hung an American flag from a mast and piloted the boat out to the open sea -- where the crew came on board and opened the valves in the bulkheads to let the water rush in as sailors on nearby ships blew mournful "taps" into the air". O' Brien kissed the flag saying "Old Glory vanished under the foam with a flash of red, white and blue as vivid as a flame". Then the maine slipped under the white foam and meanwhile "30 000 people marching in the St. Patricks Day parade in New York paused, all the church bells chimed for five minutes in a tribute to the heroes who had gone down years before with the ship".
The more I discover about Johnny Dynamite the more amazed I am at the extent of his adventures. He seems to have been involved in every revolution and fracas from Colombia to Cuba, New York to Japan and back around again!

From Left to right - Cynthia East (Johnny Dynamite's great-granddaughter), Myself, and Kristin Agar (Johnny's great-granddaughter).

"Helena, Las Vegas and the hills of Donegal"

I just made it back to Atlanta after a whirlwind trip around Arkansas and Mississippi, and quite a few places in between. We covered 1500 miles (thanks Susan!): from Atlanta to Memphis;  Memphis to Little Rock, Arkansas; then on from Little Rock down to The Delta, namely Helena and Wilmont, gazing on at all those long flat old flood plains that stretch out seemingly forever, to an Irishman at least. God knows what it's like out west! Perish the thought.

From the delta we eventually made it to Indinanola, Mississippi, then through Alabama and eventually back to Atlanta, Georgia.

Helena, Arkansas is a delta town that is hard to categorize, one thing is for sure, though -- it has seen better days. Helena is in Philips County, one of the poorest counties in Arkansas. The town is situated poised on the Mississippi with all that has to offer. It has seen commerce, music, and trade flourish in the past, but partly due to the receding importance of the Mississippi river as a vital vein of trade, its star is faded. Meth-Amphetamine addiction is also a big problem as it is in many another small town in the States. Helena is also a racially divided and divisive area. On the other hand Helena does host one of the south's best blues festival, the "King Biscuit Blues Festival," a harking back to Helena's hey day (in the first half of the 19th century) when it was full to the brim with juke joints, bars, businesses and beer gardens, which fed (and watered) local musicians and patrons alike. Passing through the town of 15 000 people at 9pm on a Monday night in March, not one bar could we find, though the huge Casino "The Isle of Capri" was doing steady trade -- free drinks if you play the slots.  The casino is just across the river in Mississippi. The absolute negation of imagination that abounded in that giant behemoth made me fear for Tipperary, which the Irish government has made good for a €460 million worth Las Vegas-style Casino (wait for it....) in the style of "The White House" deep in the Irish countryside. You couldn't make it up! It makes my blood boil that we in Ireland feel we constantly have to be trotting after America and the U.K.  The one thing that's for sure is that people do not come to Ireland for a Las Vegas-style fix -- many of the people who'll probably end up propping this thing up will be our own socially disadvantaged, like the poor blacks and "rednecks" crowding around slots in "The Isle of Capri" of the Mississippi. As our new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) said recently, "We're open for Business." We, being "Ireland Inc." (another God-awful homegrown expression that has recently gained prominence). "We're open for business" --  It makes me think of a "lady of the night" with her legs spread wide. They could call the Tipperary development "The Lady of the Night," perhaps.

Back to Helena! The Confederate cemetery there, high above the Mississippi, commemorates their Confederate dead, foremost of whom was General Cleburne of protestant Irish stock, born in County Cork, Ireland.

We also visited the African-American Cemetry which has fallen into disrepair, which has a sad charm of it own. As far as I can gather, it has just recently been rediscovered and is soon to be restored to its former glory - if that can be said of a graveyard!

We passed a Jewish cemetery, too. Helena had quite an active Jewish community that has only recently dwindled in importance. Helena's Jewish mayor in the 20's was challenged by a Ku Klux Klan candidate who was sorely defeated -- in a time of great popularity for the KKK in the South.
We also walked around the Catholic cemetery, which held the remains of many diverse ethnic groups, including Irish.

It's amazing what you can learn from cemeteries! Helena has a lot to draw on from in its history, but for quite a few reasons, recently it has fallen on hard times...

though it may see better days yet it seems!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Johnny Dynamite and Hy Brasil

This is a mighty photographic portrait of Johnny Dynamite O'Brien, by Pirie MacDonald.
(Pirie Macdonald in Smith, Horace, A Captain Unafraid: The strange adventures of Dynamite Johnny O'Brien, New York:, Harper, 1912, p. 11).

Above is a rough demo of a song I composed about Dynamite Johnny O'Brien. The lyrics are on my first posting about Johnny. The song will form part of an album tentatively entitled -- "Hy Brasil" -- it concerns the Irish in Latin America and Spain.

Another song from the CD entitled "Father George Montgomery" concerns the set up of an Irish Gaelic Colony, in Brazil, in the 19th century. 

Philibín Ó Súilleabháin -- a son of a son of a Chieftain, of the O' Sullivan Beara Clan -- is another subject of song. He was a child at the time of the grievous and infamous Ó Súilleabháin Beara March of 1602/1603, he marched by his fathers side. You can read more of that history herePhilibín spent his adult life in Spain and could never return to his native land, he composed an in-dept and heartfelt Encyclopedia of "The Natural History of Ireland." The book has only recently been published by Cork University Press. It painstakingly catalogs the character of the people, the birds, insects, mountains and rivers of Ireland.

Some other subjects of song in "Hy Brasil" include -- an Irish language version of my song "Pa' Los Del San Patricio", and two songs written in the 19th century by an Irishman of the Pampas of Argentina. 

Selected quotes from the first section of Johnny Dynamite's autobiography "A Captain Unafraid," ghost written by Horace Herbert Smith.
"After all what is bravery if not an inborn quality – the heritage of clean lives of fighting blood and unweakened nerves? The world is full of it. And if some portion of this heritage has been mine I am grateful, for in my warring days there were times – many of them – when, I have been afraid to die. Bravery is confined to no longitude or latitude, and knows no race. I have found brave men everywhere, as will presently be told and it was my fortune to be intimately associated with the best of them"
"The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes, as far as I can remember, was a vessel and almost the next thing the sea".
"Being of Irish parentage, I was favourably disposed to dynamite on general principal".
"People tell me I have outraged governments, this may be, but I have never knowingly wronged a fellow man".

On America's reluctance to help Cuba during  their War of Independence -- 

"Certainly it does not come with good grace from a country which prides itself on the principal that the will of the people is the law of the land to say to its neighbours that it shall not oppose tyranny and fight with every means in their power for what they believe to be their rights.
We [Americans] should not forget that we were rebels once ourselves, and warmly welcomed filibustering aid from France "

"A Captain Unafraid, the Strange Adventures of Johnny Dynamite O' Brien" is available to read on Google Books - http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=PAdLAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader

For those who have an interest I recorded the song "Johnny Dynamite" here in a bedroom in Atlanta, with a Marantz PMD 660 and an AT825 stereo mic.