In exploring songs for the Friday Session at the Hole in the Wall, several traditional versions have been unearthed that are linked to Kilkenny.
Many others could easily be referring to episodes and events that happened around the area in times past. Such songs give a very interesting insight into their era and can often be found to contain metaphors for Ireland and her troubled relationship with her neighbour.
Compared to other countries, the Irish traditional ouvre – largely collected by Colm O’ Lochlainn (grandfather of Cuffesgrange’s singer/songwriter Colm Gray) – appears to be a surprisingly large treasure with songs covering the most diverse of topics.
Who’d ever have thought that the Irish traditional song that is probably most famous across the world might well be a Kilkenny song? Phil Lynott’s Thin Lizzy made Whiskey in the Jar a rock anthem.
The Dubliner sang about ‘the Cork and Kerry mountains’. But, it looks as though the original song was about ‘the Kilmaganny Mountain’ because the highwayman (possibly Freeney) was ‘robbin Colonel Farrell on the Kilmaganny Mountain’.
After being caught, the ‘stand and deliver, bold deceiver’ was expecting that if his brother came to his aid, they would set out for Kilkenny. Both Cork and Killarney are mentioned in the song’s sixth verse and Lynott may have used Cork and Kerry to give the opening line a more recognised Irish setting?
The Captain Farrell (Colonel Farrell) might have had local origins. The name is predominant in Leinster and is linked to upper Ossory and St Virgillius (Latin translation) who was from Aghaboe and is revered as bishop of Salzburg, Austria.
An unsurpassed version of Whiskey in the Jar is being sung these days by Kilkenny’s Steve Reilly at Hole in the Wall’s Friday Session. Maybe the remarkable passion in his singing stems from the song’s local roots?
Grace, the song about the marriage of Grace Gifford and Joseph Mary Plunkett in Kilmainham gaol (1916) the night before the patriot was executed is linked to former owners of the Hole in the Wall. Fr Albert Bibby was one of the Capuchins that officiated at the last rights to the patriots and the tragic marriage.
Known as the patriot priest, Fr Bibby was the brother of Charlotte and Agnes Bibby, drapers, 17 High St, Kilkenny and his painting hung in the house (currently owned by Margaret McDermott) during the time that Patrick Glass Bibby worked for his aunts there.
Grace will no doubt be sung regularly at Hole in the Wall for visitors from abroad and elsewhere from now on. And, as the song’s link with the Hole in the Wall is explained the reason for the success of the Easter Rising will become clear.
There’s probably a song about conscription in 1914 – 1918? The executions (especially after such a heart rending marriage) and the threat of conscription (demanded of the English by the French) went some way towards activating the brave stance of the surviving patriots from 1916. Maybe a song to explain such history is required? And lessons carried forward in song? See you at Hole in the Wall – as Waltons used say ‘if you feel like singing, do sing an Irish song’.