MICK: That’s mighty stuff Jack, and was that play staged in London?
JACK: It was and went down very well – and had some of Behan’s relations in the audience.
Right Mick, let’s hear another song, what are you going to sing?
MICK: The one John wrote about an old fellow being a stranger in his own village.
JACK: An old fellow can be a stranger in a city as well as a village…
JOHN: Begod don’t I know it! This is called, “Drinkin’ with Ghosts”
He sat at the bar, he was drinkin’ some beer / a vacant seat near him, I asked, can I sit here?
Hr turned around, and then said to me / if you sit there you’ll sit on her knee.
I’m drinkin’ with ghosts tonight, I’m drinkin’ with ghosts, my old friends are here / some drinkin’
whiskey, some drinkin’ beer.
I’m drinkin’ with ghost, I’m waltzing with shadows / I’m lying on a beach, I’m running through
She’s right beside me, the love of my life / I’m drinkin’ with ghosts tonight.
He said if you look around, all your friends you can see / all my friends are gone, there’s only just
I’m a blast from the past, from along ago time / and the world that you live in is different to mine.
He got of his seat, and walked to the door / I thought I saw shadows waltz ‘cross the floor,
He said, I’ll just open this door and step on to the street / it’s time now to go / I have old friends to
Repeat chorus, and add to the end. Drinkin’ with ghosts, waltzing with shadows, I’m meting my
JACK: Follow that, says the fella!
JOHN: I’ll read a piece from my book DUST COVERED MEMORIES. A piece about youth and
old age, now let’s see where to start? Ah yes here we go, this piece, Ted is reminiscing about his
youth to his young friend Jim.
Do you want tea or coffee Jim?
I’ll have coffee.
You stay here, it’s such a lovely morning I’ll make the coffee and bring it out.
I sat there waiting for Ted, hearing nothing only the sound of nature. I was reminded of a couple of
lines of a poem I read somewhere, season of colourful flowers and happy hearts, dancing singing
and seaside play / birds and bees, and other summer sounds form a choir to sing you through the
Just as Ted came with the coffee, a young couple, about nineteen or twenty passed on their way to
Ted said, how I envy them. To be that age again if only for one glorious day, to be young and free
again. To be in love, to be in Tramore on a summer’s evening having fun on the bumpers and
hurdy-gurdys, to listen to Brendan Boyer singing Kiss Me Quick. To eat chips from vinegar soaked
To walk from the Atlantic Ballroom with the one of your dreams and admire a full moon casting a
shimmering silver streak of light on the surface of the sea. To experience once more what it’s like to
be in love, and to be loved, and then spend a restless night in anticipation of another day. No need to
die to go to heaven, what could be more heavenly than a summer’s day with the one you love.
Young girl in a summer dress / her lovely face the sun caress,
Nimble of limb she walks by / I watch her pass, I heave a sigh,
Recalling days that used to be / alas those days no more for me.
Days of youth, days of bliss / days of love and tender kiss,
Those teenage years full of joy / and first love for girl and boy,
Nights of love, dance and song / those carefree days now all gone.
Gone…gone, gone forever, memories where would we be without them.
Ted handed me the coffee.
I asked, is that poem a lament for the past Ted.
It’s for the past and the present, the first line in John Keats poem “Endymion, is a thing of beauty is
a joy forever.
And so it should be Ted.
It should be, but it’s not.
What do you mean; surely you can enjoy any form of beauty you like.23
You would think so, but I’m only allowed to enjoy some forms of beauty. Young and old can gaze
upon and admire the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, young and old can gaze upon and admire a sunlit
grove of bluebells, or the golden sheen of furze on a hillside, young and old can admire a beautiful
work of art, or an old, or new piece of architecture. But if a young lady walks by, only the young are
allowed to gaze, if an old man admires her beauty, he is deemed a pervert. The world does not seem
to understand that the ability to appreciate all forms of beauty does not deteriorate with old age.
Interval if required
MICK: Maggie, come out from behind that counter and let John admire you.
MAGGIE: I’d love to Mick, but I can’t take a chance, someone might say we have pervert on the
premises and call the guards.
MICK: Or, he might collapse and we’d have to call an ambulance.
JOHN: As the Queen said to Prince Phillip when she saw what was on offer, “We are not amused”
JACK: I was just thinking the other day; we’ve just finished celebrating the anniversary of 1916,
and soon we’ll be preparing for the anniversary of the civil war.
MICK: I hope they don’t look at it through rose tinted glasses like they did with 1916; the civil war
anniversary will be complicated, for the truth was never told
JOHN: It’s going to be hard to placate the two civil war parties, a lot of questions to be answered,
for instance why was it started? Why we were never taught anything about it in national school in
the forties and fifties?
JACK: It will take a brave politician to answer your first question Mick; I’ll answer the second one
myself. The gombeen men ruled. Fianna Fail were in power for most of the forties and fifties, and
of course that meant a Fianna Fail Minister for education, it would take a brave teacher even to
mention the Civil War, never mind discuss it, remember this was a time in Ireland when the
Government and the Catholic Church were sacking female teachers who became pregnant out of
Maggie shouts at John from behind counter.
MAGGIE John I heard a lovely poem of yours last Sunday night on John O’ Shea’s programme on
WLR, It’s called “Make Love Not War” and since ye are blabbing on about war, would you read it
JOHN: Ah, Maggie, I didn’t know you cared, I’d make love to you anytime… so just for you,
here’s “Make Love, Not War.”
Make love not war and the world will be a better place to live, maybe a sign of peace and harmony
is what we all should give.
This world is oh…so small, when compared to the universe for size, but we must learn to share it,
rich and poor, the foolish and the wise.
All Christians, Jews, and Muslims, believe their god is right, and then they try to prove it with
mayhem, death, and might.
You are right to revere your God, and to believe that he’s the best, but you have no right to force
that belief on me and all the rest.
I believe our God’s are peaceful, but we put those God’s to shame, when we cause death and
carnage, and we cause it in their name.
I’m sure you must have noticed as they gather up the dead, the victims… though of different creed
and colour, all their blood ran red.
And whatever is your colour, whether it’s yellow, white or black, your skin is just the wrapping, and
you cannot give it back.
If I could find a peace dust, I’d climb a mountain high, and there I’d cast it to the wind and stand
and watch it fly.
And as it blew around the world, it would bring wars to an end, spreading peace and harmony and
turning foe to friend.
But I cannot find a peace dust; I know that’s just a dream, so peace and understanding must come
by other means.
Are our God’s that different? Or is us the human race? Who cannot accept each other’s, politics,
creed and face?
What if I told you; our God’s are from the same large tree, and sprouting from the one root, a
branch for you and me.
So make love not war and the world will be a better place to live, maybe a sign of peace and
harmony is what we all should give.
This world is oh…so small when compared to the universe for size, but we must learn to share it,
rich and poor, the foolish and the wise.
JACK: That’s powerful, John. Are you sure you’re not related to Bob Dylan?
JOHN: No Jack, but I’ll soon be a Zimmerman, when they give me a Zimmer frame, read one of
your poems, or something from “Cricklewood Cowboys.”
JACK: Follow that, he says! This is a piece about The Royal Dukes. Who remembers them? No
one, I expect
MICK: Go way or that, Jack! Seamie Brien, P J Kirwan, yerself…the Portlaw boys. Ireland’s
answer to The Beatles!25
JACK: Ah stop it now, Mick! (he reads)
For my eighteenth birthday I got a union card, a crash helmet and the news that I was
to start shift work in the rubber department in the Tannery. The rubber department was as
different from the leather-board shop as a milking parlour from a bakery. Rows of machines
lined the floor, looking, for all the world, like something out of a Marvel comic, their short,
squat bodies festooned with pulleys and handles.
In here, shoe-soles of all shapes and sizes were turned out in their thousands. Bales of
rubber were brought in, cut into thin slabs then delivered in bins to the machine operators.
The slabs were then placed in the moulds and the machines set in motion. When the
moulding process was complete, the moulds were emptied, and the filled bins carted away for
despatch to some English shoe manufacturer.
The union card was compulsory on reaching the age of eighteen. For the payment of a
shilling a week you got the privilege of voting in the shop-steward election once a year, and
going on strike with no union pay when a dispute had to be settled.
The crash helmet wasn’t compulsory, but mother said I should wear it all the same. I
did so when I remembered.
On the music front, a new era had begun. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones had broken
new ground, were changing all the rules, and we wanted to be part of it. Gone were the staid
and strait-laced days of the foxtrot and the waltz; new dances were springing up all over the
world; fashion was becoming outlandish and outrageous; Mods and Rockers were fighting
over girls in Brighton and Clacton, Beatle-mania was sweeping the world. We wanted to be
part of the revolution.
There was no apartheid in the rubber department; girls as well as boys operated the
machines, and it was clear that they, too, wanted to break the mould. Bee-hive hair-dos’
appeared, skirts began to creep upward, and it slowly dawned on us that girls did have legs
above their knees.
It was no secret that we were trying to put a band together. And when Paul Gorman
confessed that he, too, was trying to do the same, the germ of an idea was born. Why didn’t
we join forces? Kilmac and Portlaw come together in some venture? It couldn’t work, would 26
it? The only time they came together was on the sports field – when they usually kicked the
shite out of each other.
Our first meetings were exploratory, but they turned out more productive than
we expected; We all wanted a band with a brass section, and when we found that Paul played
the saxophone and David Hallissey the trumpet…well, that was the brass section taken care
of. The next problem was the drummer; they had Brendan O’Shea and we had PJ. Then we
saw Brendan perform on the drums and that was the drummer problem solved. That meant
me becoming the bass guitarist and PJ the rhythm guitarist. Neither of us minded too much; I
had been experimenting with the bass already and PJ was already an accomplished guitar
player. That only left Tony Regan. What could he play? After some discussion we decided
we would buy a trombone and he could learn to play it.
Seamie solved the problem of where to rehearse with our now-expanded group.
Michael Baron, the owner of the Rainbow Hall, also owned a joinery firm and Seamie
worked for him. When he heard of our predicament, he offered us the use of the Rainbow on
the nights it wasn’t in use, usually Tuesday and Thursday nights.
The name was less easy. Many were thought up and discarded. The Young Ones, The
Young Devils. However, when the parish priest heard this last name being mentioned he
came to see us and told us to find something more fitting. The Young Shadows was one we
all liked but there was a group in Dublin already called that. The name ‘Royal’ was very
popular with bands, and when someone came up with the word ‘Duke’, we thought it had a
certain ring to it. We became The Royal Dukes.
Practice was hard work – especially for those not too acquainted with their
instruments. I didn’t have much of an ear for music- tone deaf would be putting it mildly – so
my bass notes depended on what chords Seamie was playing at any given time. This meant
keeping one eye on his fingers, and one on my own playing – a practice from which anybody
watching would conclude that I was cross-eyed. Then we discovered a sheet-music shop in
Dungarvan. Buying the sheets at least stopped me from developing a squint, for, although I
couldn’t read music, the guitar chords were clearly indicated.
We also needed microphones and amplifiers, and here Pat Barron, Michael’s brother,
helped out. Pat was lead guitarist with the Pat Irwin band and he passed us on some
amplification they no longer used.27
Listening to ourselves in those early days was painful. We recorded some of our
efforts and then played them back. One of the first was’ Send Me The Pillow That You
Dreamed On’, a song made popular by Johnny Tillotson. We murdered it; off note, off key,
out of tune, out of time, you name it, we did it. We played it back a second time; it sounded
even worse. Seamie was tearing his hair out; never mind the same key, boys, could we all try
and play the same tune!
Gradually we got better. Slowly, the realisation dawned that we were beginning to
sound like a coherent unit. A band that now needed an audience, for a band that merely
played behind closed doors was as useful as a car without wheels.
Michael Barron proved to be our saviour once again. He booked us as relief band at a
forthcoming dance at The Rainbow. The date was a couple of months off so we had plenty of
time for preparation. Or so we thought. We weren’t half ready. We never would be. We had
to get jackets made, learn a dance routine, get ourselves better equipment. And Tony must
learn to play his trombone. He couldn’t blow a note yet.
Slowly but surely the problems sorted themselves out. We went to a tailor in
Dungarvan and he measured us up for our new jackets. We choose a broad blue-and-grey
striped material, and picked a design similar to that worn by the Beatle. We worked on the
dance routine, and found a supplier of hired amplification equipment in Town.
That only left Tony and his trombone. By now it was abundantly clear that he would
never play the trombone. His best efforts so far had resembled a couple of jackasses bawling
in unison. In the end we decided he should mime playing his instrument. This he did, moving
with the rest of us in the dance routines, blowing silent notes on the trombone. It worked a
treat; who was going to know what a trombone sounded anyhow with a saxophone and a
trumpet blasting away?
The big night drew ever nearer. Posters had gone up all over the locality; RAINBOW
HALL, SUNDAY. Music by the DAVITT BROTHERS. Supported by new local sensations
THE ROYAL DUKES. This was heady stuff, and every time I passed a poster I stopped to
read it – just to convince myself I wasn’t dreaming.
There was still no sign of our jackets. All sort of excuses were trotted out; the material
had to come from England, the machinist had flu, the buttons hadn’t yet arrived. We
intensified our practicing. As soon as a new song appeared we rushed out to get the sheet 28
music. ‘It’s Been A Hard Day’s Night’ was rehearsed over and over, trying to capture some
of the essence of the Beatles sound. But it was’ I Can Get No Satisfaction’ that was our trump
card. Tum-tum –ta-ta –da-da-da –da –tum-tum…I practiced the bass notes incessantly. ‘I can
get no – sat-is-fac-tion,’ sang Seamie in reply.
The song was causing much rage throughout the establishment. Radio Eireann was
refusing to play it; the parish priest condemned it from the pulpit, but the youngsters were
glued to their transistors, listening to it on Radio Luxemburg. Fr. Sinnott came to our
rehearsals and heard us play it. The devil’s music, he called it, and said it was a mortal sin.
What…like adultery or murder? My soul could be forever damned for singing a song?
I doubted it, somehow. By now my relationship with the church was changing. Gone were
my altar-boy fancies for the priesthood, gone my implicit belief in the all-embracing
goodness of the Catholic Church. I had now read up on historical events like the Crusades
and the Spanish Inquisition – where people were imprisoned, tortured and burnt at the stake,
all in the name of religion. It didn’t seem like a particularly religious activity to me. Oh, I still
went to Mass on a Sunday, but that was only because it was expected and not because I
wanted to. What sort of hypocrisy was that? I had begun to question our fundamental beliefs;
The Holy Trinity, The Virgin Mary, the infallibility of the Pope, even the story of Adam and
Eve. If the latter was true then Cain must have committed incest, mustn’t he?
I felt anger about the priest’s visit to our rehearsals; what right had he to tell us what
music we could play. Later that night I wrote some verse about it.
Son, the priest said, put that guitar away
And get your hair cut, right
And don’t play I Can Get No Satisfaction
It’s a sin to call yourselves
The Red Devils, he said
And in the distance
I could see mother nodding her head29
So we became The Royal Dukes
And played Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown instead
Saturday came and no jackets. We were resigned to appearing jacket-less. White
shirts and dark pants would have to do.
Shortly after six on Sunday we all met up in the Rainbow to set up our equipment
before the Davitt Brothers arrived. Seamie came direct from Town, having picked up the
amplifiers and other bits and pieces. He also brought seven jackets. The tailor had brought
them round to his house earlier that day.
Christ, they were beautiful, those jackets. You could die happy in them. There was an
old full-length mirror backstage and we strutted about in front of this for ages, admiring
ourselves from every angle. Eventually, we reluctantly took them off and got on with setting
up our gear.
The Rainbow was bursting at the seams that night. Curiosity, I suppose. The Davitt
Brothers seemed bemused by it all. They were a competent outfit who had been playing the
country venues for a number of years, and were used to sedate Macra Na Feirme and Muintir
Na Tire supporters; nothing like the high excitement that was in evidence here. As the dance
began and we listened to them play, we realised how much better than us they sounded.
It didn’t seem to matter. As they took their break and we replaced them. The crowd
went wild. You would think we were The Beatles; they solidified into one heaving mass,
packing the dance area. It was obvious there would be no dancing; they only wanted to listen
Looking out into the sea of faces I could see many I recognised; Jim Kiersey, his
black hair slicked back, a crease on one side that would split timber; Vince Power, giving me
the thumbs up; Shirley Mulcahy, on shoes so high she must have used a step-ladder; Tony
Casey, Elvis quiff dripping oil. I closed my eyes briefly and said a prayer.
I needn’t have worried. We could have banged tin cans together and they would have
cheered. ‘I Can Get No Satisfaction’ was our opening number and it nearly brought the house
down. After that it was plain sailing; a few Beatles numbers, Jim Reeves, Jumbalaya, You
Ain’t Nuthin’ But A Hound-Dog. Paul did a bit of Yakety –Sax, Seamie did ‘Apache’. We
closed with Tony singing ‘Take These Chains From My Heart.’30
Or thought we did. They wouldn’t let us finish. We had to run through several of the
songs again. It was almost an hour before the Davitts came back on stage again. The Royal
Dukes were in business!
MICK: That’s mighty stuff Jack, and was that play staged in London?