Friday, May 02, 2014

Pete St John

I had the good fortune to meet Pete St. John recently at the launch of his March for Brian Boru at Colm Lennon's talk on historical perspectives of the Battle of Clontarf.

Although he has written many songs, including the familiar Fields of Athenry, the one that always gets to me is Dublin in the Rare Oul Times. I used to sing it round the place and it was always an open question whether I would get to the end or not.

I'm not entirely sure why, but for me it is a tremendously evocative song that involves my own growing up, my parents, and more recently resonances from the wider family as I delve into my family history.

I have four generations of coopers and relations on the stage of the Theatre Royal apart altogether from my own memories of it. I photographed the Pillar before, during and after its demise. My mother's people were from the Liberties (just about) and the march of the grey unyielding concrete has continued apace.

So I'll just leave that song to speak for itself.

Raised on songs and stories,
Heroes of renown,
The passing tales and glories
That once was Dublin Town.
The hallowed halls and houses,
The haunting childrens rhymes
That once was Dublin City
In the rare ould times.

Ring a ring a rosey
As the light declines
I remember Dublin City
In the rare ould times.

My name it is Sean Dempsey,
As Dublin as can be
Born hard and late in Pimlico,
In a house that ceased to be.
By trade I was a cooper,
Lost out to redundancy.
Like my house that fell to progress,
My trade’s a memory.
And I courted Peggy Dignan,
As pretty as you please,
A rogue and child of Mary,
From the rebel Liberties.
I lost her to a student chap,
With skin as black as coal.
When he took her off to Birmingham,
She took away my soul.


The years have made me bitter,
The gargle’s dimmed me brain,
‘Cause Dublin keeps on changing,
And nothing seems the same.
The Pillar and the Met. have gone,
The Royal long since pulled down,
As the grey unyielding concrete,
Makes a city of my town.


Fare thee well sweet Anna Liffey,
I can no longer stay,
And watch the new glass cages,
That spring up along the Quay.
My mind’s too full of memories,
Too old to hear new chimes,
I’m part of what was Dublin,
In the rare ould times.


1 comment:

Póló said...

Comment from Michael Blanch, a close friend of Pete's.

My Ma RIP, I never herd her sing and on her 80th birthday In Clontarf Castle Red Hurley puts the mike to her and she breaks into the Rare Ould Times we all fell off our chairs.