Press on link above to hear song, M.
Published on Aug 21, 2017
In 1991 I wrote a song called Uncle John and recorded it for the album ‘Warts and All’. The song was based on what I knew of John who left Limerick in the 50’s when I was about 7 years old. I remember his leaving because he came to say goodbye to me in O’Connor’s field. This stuck in my mind because grownups didn’t really interact with young kids unless they needed them to hold a bike they were mending or run to the local shop for a message. He never came home again and died in a flat in Shepherd’s Bush. On the night that he died, he had run the water for a bath and collapsed from a fatal heart attack…..happily, he was found immediately, because the overflowing bath leaked into the flat below.
In the song I wrote about what seemed to me to be a non-life….one devoted to weekend drinking with other unfortunates in Shepherd’s Bush, who sought solace in the company of their own. He never married and I suspect, with hindsight, that he was haunted by injustice and loneliness. The view at home was that he was cantankerous and headstrong and drank too much for his own good. This was the story I knew and I revealed it in the song…..but in truth, I short changed him because I didn’t know the full story. A couple of years ago John came up in conversation and I said it was a shame that so many people like him had to leave Ireland?
My sister said “well you know why John left? Don’t you?”
I said “He got tired of the Railway, I suppose?”
She said “Well no actually”. I then heard about the circumstances of John’s departure for the first time. And so to give John his due I wrote Uncle John#2.
All the names of the characters in the song, apart from John, are fictitious. Also I used Daggenham (A large Birmingham car factory), because the Christian Brother’s would threaten us with an imminent sojourn in Daggenham if we didn’t learn our Shakespeare? They never did threaten us with Stratford On Avon???
August 22nd, 2017 at 8:50 pm
I remember you telling a story about a song you wrote about some relation who went off to England back in the day, and you gave the song to Christy Moore, and when you contacted Christy regarding whether he liked the song, he remarked ”Wasn’t your uncle an awful bollix all the same”. I can’t remember the exact story, but I remember laughing out loud at the time, and as you can see, I still remember it as well!
August 23rd, 2017 at 11:18 am
You’re on the button Pat……That was Christy’s reaction, which was a good reading of the original effort. However, John had good reason to feel aggrieved as you can tell from Uncle John#2.