Viva La Quinta Brigada

There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next batch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. And everything that is not that bloody virus is a plus. At the moment we can’t meet as a group, as we are in lockdown, so I have set out a version of songs that are in our repertoire but which have not yet been recorded. With any luck (and, as three of us are north of 70, we’ll need it!) we will be able to resume our normal practice of meeting weekly and playing tunes, singing songs and generally enjoying the crack.

(Notes for VLQB taken from Wikipedia, a marvellous resource I urge everyone to support.)

Viva la Quinta Brigada  (listed as Viva la Quince Brigada in later recordings) is a Christy Moore song about the Irishmen who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco. The title was inspired by a Spanish song about the war,Viva la Quince Brigada.

Moore wrote this song choosing to focus on the Irish socialist volunteers (who in later years became known as the Connolly Column) who were a small contingent within the 15th International Brigade. The tune which he used was substantially similar to the version of Viva la Quince Brigada recorded by Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers in the early 1940s.

The song was inspired by Spanish Civil War veteran Michael O’Riordan’s book Connolly Column.

Moore said: Without Michael O’Riordan I’d never have been able to write Viva la Quince Brigada. I must have performed the song over a thousand times and every single time I sing it I think of Mick and wonder how can I ever thank him enough. In Spain in 1983 I was reading his book, Connolly Column – the story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic, and I began this song as I read on. The song was lifted entirely from his book.

Moore’s original song title – which translates as “Long live the Fifth Brigade” – was a slip due to the similarity in Spanish between “quinta” (fifth) and “quince” (fifteen). The bulk of Irish volunteers served with the XV (Fifteen) International Brigade; the “Fifth Brigade” was not one of the International Brigades. The song later appeared listed as Viva la Quince Brigada as Moore corrected the mistake in subsequent recordings. Both titles are correct however, originally there were ten brigades in the Spanish army, the five international brigades were then added to the list making the 5th International Brigade the 15th Brigade of the Spanish republic.

Robert Martin Hilliard (7 April 1904 – 22 February 1937) was an Olympic boxer, Irish republican, Church of Ireland minister and, later, communist. He was killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting in the International Brigades.

Name-checked were men from all parts of Ireland, Catholic, Protestant and of no faith, including Bob Hilliard who ended his life as an atheist. In later versions of the song, Christy amended locales of a couple of the people name-checked but I have stuck to the version I learned a quarter of a century ago.

Viva La Quinta Brigada

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