Friday, August 29, 2008

A day without crime fiction and with Ireland

Irishmen are proverbially great drinkers and great tellers of stories. After reading a bit of Irish history, I can understand why. That history may be no more violent than most (perhaps it just seems that way because so much of the violence is so recent), but it sure is confusing.

To an intelligent but inattentive and relatively ignorant North American, such as your humble blog keeper, Irish history has heretofore been simple: English = Protestant = Unionist, and Gaelic = Catholic = Nationalist. But even a short introductory history may disabuse you of some of these notions as it did me.

Start with the "English" invaders of the 12th century, whose language was French. Move on to John de Courcy, one of their number, who, in one commentator's words, "was converted into a true Irishman." This "Englishman," among other things, commissioned a life of St. Patrick. Add the great 18th-century Irish Protestant nationalists, such as Wolfe Tone, or the Act of Union of 1800 to merge the Irish and British parliaments, a move opposed by some Protestants wary of English interference, favored by some Catholics who anticipated better treatment from the English than from Irish Catholics.

Or splits between Presbyterians and the (Anglican) Church of Ireland. Or the violent divide between Irish nationalism and republicanism. Or my favorite, a historical fact that might earn anyone who cited it an arse-kicking on either side of the sectarian divide: that William of Orange was a political ally of the pope's when he fought the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. (Their common enemy was Louis XIV of France.)

This blog will return shortly to its regular programming. Until then, may the wind be always at your back except when you're coming toward me from the opposite direction.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Labels: ,

22 Comments:

Blogger 2KoP said...

Just curious as to what prompted this sudden interest in Ireland. Have you ever been or are you considering a trip? Did you enjoy this guidebook?

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been reading a fair amount of Irish crime fiction, and I am planning a trip soon.

The book, A Traveller's History of Ireland, was perfect for me. It gives a brief, readable overview of Irish history from its beginning, the basics of every period and also enough to give me an idea of what periods I might wish to read about in more detail. I recommend it for visitors or for anyone who wants introduction to a fascinating and maddening history.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

I imagine a lot of us Irish could learn a thing or two from that book as well.

gb

August 29, 2008  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Enjoy your experiences, and your upcoming trip to Ireland. You will love it! The Irish are highly hospitable and fervently patriotic. But did you know that in Manhattan, during the recent St. Patrick's Day celebration, an Irish bar owner refused to play the song "Danny Boy" which everyone associates with Ireland, because it was written by an Englishman? I dunno. In my humble opinion, a great song is a great song, and shouldn't have to split the borders.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Peter, your Montreal roots may mean you find it interesting (as I do) that Ireland's national ice hockey team is made up of players from both sides of the border.

Never thought I'd see hockey as a unifying force...

August 29, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

John

Of course hockey is a unifying force. I think we can all agree that the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks has the most embarrassing name and provenance in professional sports.

A...

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard, I can well imagine one holding to the beliefs and the history one grew up with, and it is a complex history. It would be interesting to compare how various historical events are taught in schools in the North and in the Republic.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, PM. That's an interesting bit of social history about "Danny Boy," and it fits nicely with this post. I have just read that, while the lyrics to "Danny Boy" were indeed written by an Englishman, its tune is that of the old "Londonderry Air," eminently Irish. If course, its associations are Northern Irish, which may explain your Manhattan Irish bartender's political act. But it would be interesting to know whether he knew that the tune he had barred was Irish. In any case, Irish Americans were major sources of support for the IRA in the 1970s, so a strong pro-Republican, anti-"Danny Boy" attitude may be no great shock.

By the way, Adrian McKinty, who posted a comment here, took the title of his fine novel Dead I Well May Be from "Danny Boy."

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I agree with you about the Anaheim (nee Mighty) Ducks, though names of American professional sports teams have in general been getting worse and worse. I read a list this week of possible names for the Oklahoma City NBA team (the former Seattle SuperSonics). I don't remember the names, which is a sign more of their generic nature than of any failing memory on my part. they were things like Thunder, Lightning, and the like. Utterly undistinguished stuff.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, that link mentioned the Irish hockey team's having played a game in Mexico City. A hockey team from Ireland playing a game in Mexico is not something I ever thought I'd read about.

Hockey bridges divides in Montreal, but if the city had two teams, as cities often did in the earliest days of professional hockey, I wonder if French Canadians would have followed one of them and English Canadians the other.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

PM and Peter - I remember that. But the bartender was interviewed by one of the radio stations here in Northern Ireland. In the interview he claimed he'd banned it because he liked the song, but only when it was sung by someone with a decent voice. Years of listening to it getting butchered by weepy drunks had driven him to the extreme decision to ban it.

Maybe that was spin though.

gb

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! Whatever that bartender's political persuasion, he has a sense of humor. It would make better economic sense for him to ban "Danny Boy" than to ban weepy drunks, so perhaps his act was one of clear-headed economic rationalism rather than fiery nationalism.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I've actually got a Charlotte Church album (Voice of an Angel) which has her performing "Danny Boy." She's Welsh.

Joan Baez does a medley of "Danny Boy" with "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair" on her Diamonds and Rust album, which I maintain is the best album she ever recorded.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter,

Did you know that at the Commonwealth Games, The Londonderry Air is the Northern Irish "National Anthem"?

Linkmeister,

Isnt that also the album where Church does a rendition of "Carrickfergus?"

A...

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I had read that about "The Londonderry Air," which is one reason I suspected "Danny Boy" might not be high on the playlist of a zealous Republican bartender who knows his musical history.

August 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I have had a soft spot in my heart for Joan Baez since I saw her as part of the Rolling Thunder Review at the Montreal Forum in December 1975. During a song she turned to the high seats behind the stage and said, "This verse is for all of you in the gods." That may have been the first time I heard that expression, which I find infinitely more charming than "the nosebleed seats." I was beguiled by it.

August 30, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Adrian, if she does, it's not under that name.

Peter, I've always thought Baez was well-grounded in literary history as well as musicology. I admit I have more Judy Collins albums than I do Baez's, but I've come to be fond of Joan as well. Collins was Stephen Stills' muse, Baez was Dylan's. On balance. . .;)

August 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, on balance, Baez is one up in the muse department. I always liked "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," though, despite its pretentious title, with the colon and all.

August 30, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

When I was learning to play guitar I bought a Judy Collins songbook; along with the sheet music were pictures of her acting in Peer Gynt, which to my 18-year-old brain made her remarkable. "Multi-talented," I thought. 'Course, down the road Linda Ronstadt made the same kind of switch, performing very well in "Pirates of Penzance."

August 30, 2008  
Blogger Declan Burke said...

Johnny Cash does a gut-sucking job on Danny Boy ... it doesn't help, listening to it, to know that he knew he was dying singing it. As for Irish history, Peter - all anyone needs to know about Irish history is that the first item on the agenda of any Irish political meeting is, "When is the split?" Cheers, Dec

September 01, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I am fairly sure I had never seen Judy Collins and Peer Gynt in the same sentence before.

September 01, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, the line "And dead I well may be" must have had some extra resonance when J. Cash sang it.

And isn't it interesting that all the really interesting ethnic and national groups seem to be involved in massive internal splits and arguments and squabbling?

September 01, 2008  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home