Murisheen Durkin

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.

The Irish folk song “Murisheen Durkin” tells the story of an emigrant from Ireland who goes to mine for gold in California during the California Gold Rush, 1849. The song is about emigration, although atypically optimistic for the genre. The name “Muirsheen” is a good phonetic approximation to the pronunciation of “Máirtín” (Martin) in Connacht Irish; it could alternatively be construed as a diminutive of “Muiris” (Maurice). A pratie is a potato, the historical staple crop of Ireland. “America” is pronounced “Americay”, as was common among Gaelic peoples around Ireland

The air to which it is sung is “Cailíní deasa Mhuigheo” (pretty girls of Mayo), which is a popular reel dating from the 19th century. The song reached prominence when Johnny McEvoy’s recording reached no. 1 in Ireland in 1966. (notes above from Wikipedia, my favourite online resource, to which I donate periodically.) Johnny McEvoy’s version, which was on our turntables soon after its release, also spurred the showbands to make the song a staple of the music venues throughout Ireland.

It has been recorded by lots of artists since this time, including, Christy Moore, The Pogues, The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones. Into that august company, the group Banter intends to venture (if I have anything to do with it!) A couple of years ago when Jim was off to Belfast to visit relatives, Sam, Mark and I had a couple of practices where we canvassed a few songs that were blasts from the past. We never got round to including the song in any of our sets after Jim’s return; however, it might well make an appearance, if and when the venues for music re-open here in western Sydney.

Murisheen Durkin

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