Friday, August 1, 2008


August ’08 – Four years ago, I was in Ireland for my birthday, having been sent to Annaghmakerrig for a 6-week writing residency (if anyone from the Australia Council reads this, you might think “Oh, another grant squandered on a project that was never finished,” but I am actually working on it every day, and this afternoon, I think it’s really good!)…anyway, my lovely inmates gave me a book of 130 trad. irish songs. I never learn songs from the paper, but from singing and playing along. Words on paper have a certain effect on me: I must sunconsciously think, “They’re written down; therefore, no need to use up precious brain capacity by remembering them.” But ‘ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN’ is a song that, perhaps, can only be learnt from the paper. The Dubliners have a wonderful version of it that I used to mumble along to. The difficulty isn’t the irish accent, but the incredibly fast, tongue-twister pace. In my birthday songbook, it’s given no author credit, but it’s such an artful, ingenious song, it couldn’t possibly have organically developed from mouth to mouth like some ‘trad.’ songs. I’ll limit myself to quoting a few highlights (there are five long verses): “In the merry month of May, from me home I started, left the girls of Tuam severely broken-hearted, saluted father dear, kissed me darling mother, drank a pint of beer, me grief and tears to smother…” Later, he’s robbed of his possessions: “Something crossed me mind, then I looked behind, no bundle could I find, on my stick a wobblin’! Enquiring for the rogue, they said my Connaught brogue wasn’t much in vogue on the rocky road to Dublin.”