It’ll not be said in this country I slayed a naked man!

28 January 2005

You don’t get lyrics like that very often, now do you? It is from the song Little Musgrave.

You know when I was a kid listening to trad. music was very uncool. No one my age did, and if you ever heard it, it was always on some radio station that no one paid any attention to. But time passes and people grow up, tastes change.

I suppose it was in secondary school that I first really listened to any trad music. Some of the girls in my class played, but it still wasn’t really my thing.

It still isn’t something that I am very involved in. Maybe it is part of growing up in Ireland in the eighties, trad was seen as old people’s music. Riverdance, for all its ills, did change that. People began to realise that there is more to Irish traditional music than those scary Irish dancing girls[1] and whoops of “up ye bhoy”[ Which is not always a bad thing, it just often reminds me of the Late Late Show and Gay Byrne’s “Way-hoo” shouts. But in the right circumstances there is nothing like an up ye bhoy :)].

Now I listen to Planxty, Christy Moore and I have Sinead O’Connor’s Sean-Nós Nua, and love it. Of course not all of the songs are actually Irish. Many might be classed as English folk, just like my favourite song of the moment; Little Musgrave. It is on the Planxty Live 2004 album, and tells of Little Musgrave and Lord Bernard’s wife and their affair. The lady’s page tells her husband. He sets out after the pair. The moment in it where the “man in Lord Bernard’s train who loved the Little Musgrave, he blew his horn, loud and shrill; Away Musgrave Away�? and the music echoes the sound of the horn. God I love that. Think it is an uileann pipe, but not sure.

Whatever the instrument, it doesn’t work, and Musgrave and the lady sleep on, till they are disturbed by Lord Bernard. He and Musgrave duel, “And the first stroke that Little Musgrave stuck, it hurt Lord Bernard sore. But the next stroke that Lord Bernard struck, Little Musgrave ne’er struck more.�?

The music that played earlier is used again when Lord Bernard kills his wife, although on this occasion a different instrument is used. A whistle of some description, echoing the coldness of the steel.

I even have affection for the old rebel songs, I may not agree with the sentiments but they are great to sing along to. And no Ireland or Munster rugby match would be complete without a chorus of The Fields of Athenry.

I just bought Christy Moore’s Box Set 1964-2000. And its actually amazing look at the ground he covers, from the Stardust fire, to the Hunger Strike to the Dunnes Store’s worker’s strike over South African oranges, to soccer matches, as well as the more usual trad. songs about love, drink, crime and death.


  1. Irish dancing can be fiercely competitive, but the young girls look terrible, imo. They dress up, which is fine, I can handle that, but they were these horrible wigs so that they will have perfect ringlets. Not to mention the make-up *shudder

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