Wild Colonial Boy

Saturday, January 23, AD 2016

Something for the weekend.  The Clancy Brothers singing The Wild Colonial Boy on the Ed Sullivan show.  The song is based upon the exploits of bandit Jack Donahue. Born in Dublin in 1804, Donahue, an orphan as well as a pickpocket,  was transported to Australia in 1825 after being convicted of intent to commit a felony.  After he saw his cell in Syndey, he exclaimed, “A home for life”.  Two whippings of 50 lashes could not break his rebellious spirit and he escaped into the bush with two other prisoners.  There they formed a gang that became known as “The Strippers” because of their penchant of stripping wealthy men of their money, food and clothes.  In 1827 he was captured and sentenced to death.  Escaping yet again to the bush, he became part of a gang known as “The Wild Colonial Boys.” On September 1, 1830, his criminal career and life came to an end in a shootout with authorities.  Donohue achieved earthly immortality in a play and the song “The Wild Colonial Boy“.  Condemned as seditious, the song morphed his name into several variants, the most popular being Jack Duggan.

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One Response to Wild Colonial Boy

  • and I think this song was further immortalized, applied to Trooper Thorn [John Wayne] in the movie THE QUIET MAN. All: have a fullofwonder Sunday. Guy McClung, San Antonio Texas USA.

The Rising of the Moon

Saturday, January 7, AD 2012






Something for the weekend.  I feel in the mood for a little Irish rebel music, and nothing fits the bill better than The Rising of the Moon sung by the Clancy Brothers.  The song, written around 1865, celebrates the Irish rising of 1798, when Protestant and Catholic Irishmen, with the help of a small French invasion force, launched a rebellion, probably the largest and most hard fought revolt against English rule in the history of Ireland.  Like all such Irish revolts, except for the last one, it was defeated and drowned in blood.  However, the Irish have ever celebrated their defeats even more than their victories, and the Rising of the Moon is a fitting tribute.

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5 Responses to The Rising of the Moon

  • Also, today in 1718, Israel Putnam was born in Salem, MA.

    “While Britannia’s sons with their long range guns
    Sailed in through the foggy dew.”

    Remember the heroes of Easter Monday 1916.

    My Jewish associate, a fine well-educated man, once asked me, “What’s with the Irish? The Scots and Welsh learned to live with it.” I told him, “We’re a hard-headed people.”

    In the end, freedom came to the Irish through patriots’ maximum sacrifices and sufferings.

  • Glory be!

    We have a new Cardinal in St. Patrick’s: Timothy Cardinal Dolan, God Bless him!

  • Donald,

    I love the Clancy Brothers. I discovered them quite by accident. I picked up a CD from my library because I wanted to learn more about traditional Irish folk music, and the cover had a photo of what looked like traditional Irish singers, what with their fisherman sweaters and all.

    The CD actually was a recent effort – Older But No Wiser from 1995. I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough Clancy Bros. The vocals are magical and the songs are rousing and sad at the same time.

    I even got some Cajun high school guys interested in them. I took some students backpacking in the Smokies, and on the way I “subjected” them to Irish songs of drinking and rebellion. They got to know the songs, and on the trail we would sing them. On the way back home, they were asking me to play the CD.

    Thanks for the interesting stuff you post here that keeps me coming back.

  • Thank you Nicholas! The Clancy Brothers sang their songs with complete conviction. Their voices, especially as they got older, were sometimes a bit rough around the edges, but that, to me, lends their singing a ring of authenticity that is sadly missing among many other songsters.

  • Truly a source of inspiration.
    Never, ever give up.

The Wild Colonial Boy

Saturday, May 8, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  A very spirited rendition of The Wild Colonial Boy by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on the Ed Sullivan Show on March 13, 1965.  to those of you who were not alive then, it is hard to convey the cultural impact of the Ed Sullivan Show in the America of that time.   Suffice it to say that until the late Sixties, Sullivan was the cultural gatekeeper of America.  Until a new entertainer appeared on Sullivan’s show, he or she had not yet achieved mainstream acceptance.  Today a show having that type of influence would be impossible.

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5 Responses to The Wild Colonial Boy

  • Not a lot of Black Bluesmen on that show or Commie folk singers like Woody Guthrie. There weren’t even a lot of Holy Roller gospel singers.

    The Clancy Brothers pretended it was all about carousing and drink and not dead serious revolution. Then they let them on Ed Sullivan. Shame on them.

  • Sullivan rightly despised Communism and the dopes in this country who supported it. He was a pioneer in making his show a nationwide forum for black entertainers to appear before a largely white audience. The Clancy Brothers were appearing on Ed Sullivan as entertainers and not as Irish revolutionaries.

  • I recall this song from my childhood. My Cornish grandfather had a great affinity with the Irish – celtic origins I guess – and would sing it to us, along with other Irish songs.

    In 1961 our Parish Priest (an Irishman) was away on sabatical for 6 months, and another Irish priest, Frank McHale came as relief. He was a republican through and through (but didn’t like the IRA 🙂 ). He and his brother Vince were members of the Irish Club from Auckland, and on many ocassions the Irish would come down from Auckland to Te Puke for a hooley. What great nights they were, and an Irish band would come with them and we would hire out the town hall for an Irish night – 3 or 4 times in the 6 months Fr. McHale was here. Te Puke in those days was a town of about 4,000 people. The whole town really got to know about the Irish and the Catholics in that time. There were quite a number of townsfolk with Irish ancestry in the town anyway, and the memory of Fr. Frank and the Irish form Auckland lingered for many years.
    Point of interest – Te Puke is the Kiwifruit capital of the world – my dad’s close friend Jim McLoughlin started up the industry around that time, and it has
    grown to a world wide industry today.

  • Fascinating Don. My sainted mother was pure Newfoundland Irish, so I grew up hearing all the old Irish songs with a Newfie lilt!

  • The strongest association I have with this song is one of my favorite movies, The Quiet Man … especially the scene almost at the end when John Wayne and Victor McLaglen stumble into the Thorton house, drunkenly bellowing the song all the way.

The Easter Rising 1916

Saturday, April 10, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  The Clancy Brothers pay tribute to the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin which, although completely unsuccessful, started a chain of events which led to Irish independence, the dream of Irish men and women for centuries.  The songs featured are Legion of the Rearguard, the Foggy Dew and God Bless England.  Ironically, Legion of the Rearguard has nothing to do with the battle for Irish independence.  It was written during the Irish Civil War which was fought in 1922-23.  The title of the song is from  Eamon de Valera, who led the rebels and who, ironically, would end up leading independent Ireland for most of the rest of the Twentieth Century, and who admitted defeat in the Irish Civil War with his usual purple prose:   

Soldiers of the Republic! Legion of the Rearguard! The Republic can no longer be defended successfully by your arms. Further sacrifice of life would be in vain, and continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the National interest. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.

De Valera of course was referring in his phrase to “those who have destroyed the Republic” to men like Michael Collins, who was killed in the Civil War, who were responsible for the creation of an independent Ireland.  De Valera, at the end of the Irish fight for independence, realizing that the only terms that the British would grant which would lead to an independent Ireland would be unacceptable to many hard core Irish Republicans, refused to engage in the negotiations with the British himself, sending Collins instead, over the protests of Collins.  When Collins came back with the best treaty terms possible that would be granted by the British, de Valera denounced him and the treaty and the Irish Civil War was the result.  De Valera therefore got the benefit of the treaty terms, an Irish Free State, while still able to pose as an uncompromising champion of complete independence, something which benefited him politically to no end, for over half a century after Collins died in the Civil War de Valera started after he rejected the treaty.  Very shrewd of de Valera.  The morality I will leave for the reader to judge.

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13 Responses to The Easter Rising 1916

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  • The Irish didn’t cover themselves with glory in the Second World War. Unlike the Swiss they were seperated from the Germans by a large body of water, they could have pushed the boundary a lot more without the Nazis being provoked into action. Much of the Irish behaviour can be reduced to indifference. Of course being Irish they had to cover their actions with a swarm of empty words.

  • Well Ivan, 70,000 citizens of the Republic of Ireland volunteered to serve in the British armed forces during World War II, which, considering the size of Ireland, was not an insignificant contribution. Additionally, calling to mind the “great kindness” which Great Britain has shown to the Irish over the centuries, it can be considered a tribute to the Irish that any of them were willing to fight on the same side as Great Britain at all.

  • Donald, 70,000 is a huge proportion of a small population like Ireland’s. I take back my stupid remarks.

  • No sweat Ivan. A lot of us over here still recall the debt of gratitude the entire world owes the UK, and the British Empire and Dominions, for standing alone against Hitler for a year.

  • Irish Independence is rooted in neutrality. De Valera said that small states which enter major wars risk their existence without the possibility of gaining influence on either the course of the war or the ensuing peace.

    When the 1916 Rising and developments it inspired led to the democratic assertion of Irish Independence in the 1918 Election, and Britain continued to rule Ireland by force, and the Irish resisted by force, Whitehall determined to destroy the Irish democracy to preserve its own strategic interests. Britain offered a measure of self-government under the authority of the Crown, and threatened unrestrained warfare on the democractically elected government if they refused the offer, and manipulated those who accepted the offer into making war on those who rejected it. The Army who fought the British to the negotating table were crushed with weaponary supplied from London.

    Michael Collins recognized that his acceptance of the Treaty was made under duress (which as a plenipotentiary he had no authority to do), which is why he showed no scruple in ordering the killing of Sir Henry Wilson, heavily arming the Belfast IRA (while scrupulously ensuring the weapons could not be identified as British), and infilitrating the RUC and B-specials with IRA spies after the Craig-Collins Pact. He wanted to use the machinery of the southern Irish state to destroy the northern state, which is something no southern government has since attempted. A very cunning man.

    Although their anguish and fury at the plight of northern Catholics led Collins and Mulcahy to continue supplying them with arms (albeit secretly and indirectly through the IRA) the process already described whereby they became locked ever more tightly into the treaty in the early summer of 1922 rendered enterprises jeopardising the treaty settlement increasingly foolhardy. It has been well said that ‘the Republicans had nothing to lose by attacking the North, the Free Staters everything’ and we have seen how the IRA forces in the Four Courts decided to attack the north in a last gamble to overthrow the treaty in the days before civil war began. Until then active non-cooperation remained Collins’s order of the day” (J. M. Curran, “The Birth Of The Irish Free State 1921-23”, p179).

  • I doubt if Collins was involved in the assassination of Sir Henry Wilson, for the reasons set forth in the article linked below.


  • “It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Michael Collins, and it will be recorded at my expense.”

    ~ Eamon de Valera

    Don, I won’t be as reticent about passing judgment on de Valera, but I’ll allow the words of our friend Dale Price to suffice for my own:


    “Eamonn de Valera was a grade-A certified sack of what I know from shinola… morally withered descendent of Armada boat trash.”

    Yep, that about covers it.

  • That chapter is from a controversial book The IRA and Its Enemies authored by the customary sensationalist Peter Hart. It has been heavily criticized by Cork history expert Owen Sheridan in its methodology [..the reviewer here is head of History Dept, Limerick University]

    and by Niall Meehan at Griffith College and Benedictine monk Brian Murphy :

  • I’d like to hear some application of “just war” theology to the Easter Rising. The IRB and their allies had no chance of success, and they knew it. Besides the loss of life, they created heavy damage to central Dublin, and caused serious hunger among the spouses and widows of Irish solidiers, who were living hand to mouth in Dublin at the time. Home Rule was already the law, the implementation of which was postponed due to the start of the Great War immediately after its passage. The Rising only served as an excuse, after the War, to go backwards, since “the Irish” had now stabbed their country (as the Brits saw it) in the back, with the help of the Germans.

    The Civil War was clearly an unjust war, since the anti-treaty side had lost, overwhelmingly, the referendum on approval of the treaty with Britain.

    Dev’s character was clearly manifested by his opportunistic split with the IRA, to enter the Dail as the leader of Fianna Fail, swearing allegiance to the British King. When challenged about how he could have done that, he explained that when he did so “my hand never actually touched the Bible.”

    Politicians. No matter the country or the party, you can not trust them.

  • “Home Rule was already the law, the implementation of which was postponed due to the start of the Great War immediately after its passage.”

    Actually the implementation of Home Rule caused a threatened rebellion by Protestants just before the outbreak of WWI. Segments of the Royal Army had agreed to mutiny if the British government used troops against the Protestants in Belfast. I can’t blame Irish nationalists for being skeptical as to whether Home Rule would be implemented after the War.

    “The Rising only served as an excuse, after the War, to go backwards, since “the Irish” had now stabbed their country (as the Brits saw it) in the back, with the help of the Germans.”

    The Brits already had plenty of reason to go backwards since the Protestants in Belfast had indicated prior to World War I that they would rather fight than submit to Home Rule. The huge overreaction by the British to the Easter rising played completely into the hands of the Irish Republicans.

    “The IRB and their allies had no chance of success, and they knew it.”

    Yep, it was doomed from the first. I can think of few military adventures that were less likely to succeed. It was crushed with relative ease by the British. Yet, it set in motion events which led to independence for most of Ireland. When it comes to predicting the future from what we know today, the 1916 uprising and its aftermath teaches us all humility on that score.

    “The Civil War was clearly an unjust war, since the anti-treaty side had lost, overwhelmingly, the referendum on approval of the treaty with Britain.”

    Unjust and completely futile.

    “Politicians. No matter the country or the party, you can not trust them.”

    Certainly I would agree as to the vast majority of them.

  • “The Rising only served as an excuse, after the War, to go backwards, since “the Irish” had now stabbed their country (as the Brits saw it) in the back, with the help of the Germans.”

    The 1916 Rising took place in the context of the British Government having rewarded those who had openly, ostentatiously, and remorselessly committed treason (the Ulster Unionists) by putting them in government. Formerly, in 1912, Home Rule had the backing of the vast majority of people in Ireland, including many of the 1916 rebels such as Patrick Pearse, who actually then supported the Home Rule Bill. Ulster Unionists, backed by the British Conservative Party and the Liberal Unionists threatened the Liberal Governemnt with civil war. (Fenianism by 1912 as a military force was all but dead). Andrew Bonar Law showed his utter contempt for the democratic process when he declared that: “Unionsits would be justified in resisting by all means in their power including force” and that he could “imagine no lenth of resistance to which Ulster will go in which I will not be reasy to support them”. This changed the scenario completely. The government’s backing away from the Parliamentary procedure to establish Home Rule when the Unionists threatened it with civil war allowed Republicans to demand equal treatment. If Britain was stabbed in the back (she wasn’t) it was entirely her own fault.

    RE: “the loss of life”

    The handful of people killed in the Easter Rising immediately resulted in an instant collapse in recruitment for the mass killing in the futile trench war in France – a war which had been marketed in Ireland as being undertaken for the “freedom of small nations”, a rationale now exposed as a lie. Overall the Rising saved incalculable thousands of lives.

    Patrick esteems the 1922 Election as democratic but does not refer to the 1918 election when Sinn Fein won an overwhelming electoral mandate for complete seperation. Britain’s response to that decision was to threaten the country with a brutal conquest. The 1922 Election was held under the threat that the British Empire would undertake massive force to subdue Ireland if she voted the wrong way. An election held on those terms is hardly democratic and would not be recognized as so today.

    DeValera was not being ‘opportunistic’ by taking the oath, he was being pragmatic. There was no other way to take his seat, and Fine Gael had threatened his party with proscription if he failed to do so. De Valera had widely consulted theologians and ethicists before doing so. The Bishop of Galway, Michael Browne, advised him that his course of action was perfectly permissible so long as he made it clear before hand that he was merely repeating a prescribed formula and was not actually giving it internal assent. And that was precisely what he did.

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