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Live at the Newfoundland Museum

Live at the Newfoundland Museum

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When the renowned folk group Ryan’s Fancy disbanded in 1983, Fergus O’Byrne and Dermot O’Reilly, two founding members of the band, pursued active solo careers. Both went on to participate in all aspects of the entertainment industry, including television and radio appearances, recording and producing albums, and touring extensively performing throughout Canada and other parts of the world.  On occasions when the two veteran performers joined forces, they presented a memorable evening of entertainment.  In 2001 Dermot and Fergus along with Gerry Strong, well-known flute and tin whistle player, and Colin Carrigan, one of the province’s finest fiddlers, recorded a live performance in the old Newfoundland Museum on Duckworth Street in St. John’s.  The show was recorded for The Performance Hour by CBC Radio, St John’s and was broadcast on March 17th, 2001 – St. Patrick’s Day.

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01 Bold Denis McCarthy (Traditional) 2:20  

There are numerous versions of this song in existence, sometimes referred to as the City of Baltimore.  I found it interesting that the version I found in an Irish collection was the only one that mentions Newfoundland.  I combined the Irish lyrics with the melody of the Newfoundland version from the Kenneth Peacock collection, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, as sung by Mrs. Clara Stevens from Bellburns on the Great Northern Peninsula.

02 Tickle Cove Pond (Mark Walker) 5:20  

Mark Walker was born in Tickle Cove, Bonavista Bay in 1846.  He was a fisherman and a boat builder, and the first postmaster of Sweet Bay in Bonavista Bay. He became became well known as a song writer and balladeer. In the early 1900s, Mr. Walker and his family moved to Massachusetts, USA. Mark Walker died in 1928. 

The song is followed by a couple of Irish Jigs, Tater Jack Walsh, and The Blackthorn Stick.

03 The Waterford Boys (Traditional) 3:48  I first heard this song performed by the Irish traditional singer, Tim Lyons,   You can imagine my surprise when many years later as I was touring the Baie Verte Peninsula with Ryan’s Fancy, I heard this song again in Fleur de Lys.  We were sitting around the morning after a gig swapping songs when one of the local singers gave us a version of The Waterford Boys.   I since found a version in the 1920’s Greenleaf and Mansfield collection of Newfoundland songs. It was collected from a Mr. and Mrs. John Noftall of Fleur de Lys.

04 Bán Chnoic Éireann Ó (Mac Conmara) 4:34  Donnacha Rua Mac Con Mara (Denis MacNamara), born in Cratloe, County Clare, wrote this song. He lived in Newfoundland during the mid-1700s for several years. He was an itinerant teacher and fluent in the Irish Language, as were many of the Irish workers here in Newfoundland at that time. In this song he laments the separation he feels from his native Ireland.   The song is in the Irish language, but from these few translated lines one can only imagine his sadness of being so far away from his homeland. 

“Bear a blessing from my heart to the land of Erin, oh the fair hills of Erin!
To those of the seed of Ir and Eibhir who still live on the fair hills of Erin.
In that place is the delightful sweet-voiced bird,

Like a pleasant and gentle harp lamenting a Gael.

 It is my fate to be a thousand miles away from the fair hills of Erin.”

05 Hornpipes: Walsh’s/Off to California (Traditional) 2:57  Two hornpipes, a form of traditional dance, that are regularly played in sessions on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

06 Kelly the Pirate (Traditional) 1:59  Kelly the Pirate, like so many other songs that have been orally transmitted has versions in Newfoundland, English and Irish collections of traditional music. The reality of pirates plundering and pillaging around the coasts of Newfoundland and Ireland is well documented in the history books.  This song probably struck a very real chord when it was first heard and performed by people on both sides of the Atlantic living through those troublesome times. 

07 Curragh of Kildare (Traditional) 4:50  This popular Irish song was in our repertoire since Dermot and I began singing together back in the late 1960s. During our research for this concert, we came across another version collected here in Newfoundland by Maud Karples in 1930 from a Mrs. Elizabeth Farrell in Beaubois, Placentia Bay. Dermot added one of the verses from Mrs. Farrell’s rendering of the song to his version.

08 Reels: Reel de la Pistroli/Virginia Reel (Benoit/Traditional) 2:15  The first tune was composed by fisherman and fiddler Émile Benoît from Black Duck Brook, Newfoundland. Pistroli was a variety show on Radio-Canada from 1978-1980 hosted by Donat Lacroix, a fisherman and a singer-songwriter from Caraquet, New Brunswick, and it is said Benoit composed the tune on the way to perform on the show.  The Virginia Reel is a popular tune in traditional sessions both here in Newfoundland and in Ireland.

09 The Green Hills of Erin (Traditional) 4:49  Here’s another example of cross pollination of our two cultures. I heard a song called the Green Shores of Fogo many years ago when I first moved to Newfoundland.  The song is in the Kenneth Peacock Collection, Songs of the Newfoundland Outports   A Mrs. John Fogarty who sang it remembers a sailor who composed the song for a girl he met on Fogo Island. 

However, many years ago my father gave me a book called   Irish Emigrant Songs and Ballads and I came across the song, The Country I’m leaving Behind in that collection.  The words describing the great loss of love by the authors are the same…. only the locations have changed.  

10 As I Was A-Walkin’ (Mac Conmara) 2:38  This macaronic verse is another composition of Donnacha Rua Mac Con Mara (Denis MacNamara). As there was no sheet music to it, I took the liberty of composing the melody.  It was written, and we believe, performed in St. John’s to an audience of Irish residents and English sailors. It  presents us with a literary device which was used by Irish poets at that time to express their political views to their Irish speaking audiences and at the same time praising their English visitors. Even though the Irish language did not survive in Newfoundland there are still certain Irish words and expressions that can still be heard today in the vernacular (Sleeveen, Amadan, Stanneen, Galore). The majority of these poets were well read and highly esteemed among the Irish population but as the song demonstrates some were also possessed with a great sense of humour and adventure.  

11 Cod Liver Oil (Traditional) 2:58  A song that is both popular here in Newfoundland and in the British Isles and is sometimes credited to the St. John’s bard of Prescott Street, Johnny Burke describes the virtues of Dr. De Jongh’s light-brown cod liver oil as a cure for consumption and diseases of the chest.  It has been published in song collections both here in the province and in Ireland and England.

12 Polkas: Bill Sullivan’s & Mussels in the Corner/Maggie in the Woods (Traditional) 1:06  These two polkas are great favourites of tune players in traditional sessions both here and in Ireland.  The second tune is called Maggie in the Woods in Ireland but is known as Mussels in the Corner on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Total running time: 52.50                                 

Recorded before a live audience at the Newfoundland Museum on Duckworth Street, St. John’s in 2001.

Colin Carrigan – vocals & fiddle

Fergus O’Byrne – lead vocals, banjo, guitar, bodhran & concertina

Dermot O’Reilly – lead vocals, guitar & mandolin

Gerry Strong – vocals & flute

Thanks to Perry Chafe & Staff at the Newfoundland Museum, Duckworth Street, St. John’s, NL

Producer of live performance: Glen Tilley, CBC St. John’s, NL

Engineer of live performance: Terry Windsor, CBC St. John’s, NL

Produced by Fergus O’Byrne

All arrangements by Carrigan, O’Byrne, O’Reilly and Strong


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